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Learn English: Understanding the Aussie accent and slang

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Understanding Australian English.

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The Australian accent, which is quite different from the American accent, can take some getting used to. So what can you do to become comfortable with and understand the Australian accent? We asked Amy Coutts from Monash College for some tips on how to improve your understanding when you're listening to the Australian accent.

Understanding the Australian accent

The Australian accent is non-rhotic, unlike the American accent which is rhotic. Amy points out the following rules:

  • You won't hear the /r/ in the middle of words unless it's followed by a vowel or vowel sound

E.g.: WORK = /wɜ:k/

  • You also won't hear it at the end of a word

E.g.: BROTHER = /brʌðə/ or bratha

  • When we link a word ending with /r/ to a word that starts with a vowel, like 'and', you will hear the /r/

E.g.: BROTHER AND SISTER = brotheren sister OR brother 'n' sister

Importance of slang and informal language

Amy says to become comfortable with Australian English and slang, listen to it as much as possible.

"Get as much exposure to Australian accents as you can," she says — be it through watching TV shows, listening to the radio or listening to locals.

Some members from our Learn English community, who say they have no problems understanding the American accent, asked how they can improve their understanding of the Australian accent.

"You might find that you watch a lot of American movies and things like that, so maybe move away from that for awhile and start to look at programs on television, listen to people ... on the radio and getting used to that accent as much as possible," Amy says.

"Sometimes our vowel sounds are a bit different too. So we have what's called a broader sound," she adds, referring to the way sounds are pronounced in Australian English.

Another tip from Amy is to learn as much Australian slang and informal language as you can.

Here are some examples of informal language used in Australia:

  • "What you after?" — used when you want to ask someone what they are looking for
  • "What time you here till?" — the short form for "what time are you here till?"
  • "How you going?" — means "how are you?"
  • "Not bad" — means good

Just because you know Australian slang doesn't mean you can understand slang from other parts of the world as well. Slang is usually associated with a group of people, so it's often unique to a place.

"Slang you learn in Australia compared to the UK, compared to the United States, is all going to be very different," Amy says.

Learn English Hacks is a Facebook Live series featuring Australian teachers where they discuss challenges learners face and how to overcome them. For more information, visit our Learn English Facebook page.