PERTH: Australian English

When I told people that I was studying abroad in Australia, there were generally two reactions: “Oh my God, the bugs and animals. Ahhh….” and “That’s awesome and easy because everyone will speak English.”

I can tell now you that both of these reactions are only partially true. The animals, so far, have been really chill.  The language situation is a lot funnier because even though Australians definitely speak English, I have so much trouble understanding some people because of their accents and their slang.

I live in a residence hall that has students from all over the world. So on a daily basis, I talk to quite a few people whose first language isn’t English. Yet without fail, I always have to ask the domestic students (Aussies) and students from the UK to repeat themselves or explain what the heck they’re talking about more often than anyone else.

Last week, we had the weirdest confusion about cheesecake. Twice a week a group of students makes dinner for everyone else in the hall. On Tuesday, it was my group’s night to cook “family dinner” and being me, I made two types of cheesecake: lemon and turtle. What I didn’t know at the time is that turtle candies aka delicious bits of chocolate caramel goodness don’t exist in Europe or Australia so most people had no idea what I meant by turtle cheesecake.

What I also didn’t know was that in the U.K. “turtle” is slang term for poop. I now understand the looks of complete confusion about what the second type of cheesecake was and why they stuck to eating the lemon one. Awkward.

In other language-related craziness, I really don’t sound “Texas” enough for some people. Everyone can usually pinpoint immediately that I’m American as soon as I speak but the Texas part throws them. It gets even weirder when they ask “Texas” questions and I have to answer that horses really scare me so I don’t like riding and I don’t own a gun.

I do have to cop to being more enthusiastic about Texas than ‘Murrica, and I brought a Texas shirt here to prove it. I’m also writing a history paper about the Alamo which I think my lecturer is pretty amused by.

Anyways, there are already some aspects of Australian English that I’ve started using and that I’ll probably be using by accident when I come home. For example, saying “Ta” instead of “thank you” or asking “How ya going?” instead of “How’re you?”

Yet there are also some weird language things here that remind me that I’m not at home. For example, “Love” or “Lovie” is a pretty common way to be addressed here, and I’m always a little taken aback when someone I don’t know well calls me that in a shop.

Oh, and you don’t go to the shop and pick up a pack of gum but a pack of “chewies.” Australians, especially the guys, really call each other “mate,” and at first, I really thought the guys were just being ironic. Nope, it’s a serious thing. Australian English, and culture I’ve been told, is a lot closer to British English than American English. This is something I wasn’t really expecting. I’ll probably talk a lot more about how Australian culture is closer to Australian culture in a later post.

So stay tuned.