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When a person says they want to learn English, they usually think they are going to learn either “British “or “American” English. Sure, you can base English on those two types for academic purposes, but English is such a cool and interesting language that it’d be a pity if you only knew about these two styles. In this article, I’m going to diversify your English knowledge and understanding by teaching you 11 popular Australian terms and expressions.
What is Australian English
Because Australia was colonized by the British, the way we speak has evolved from Old English (the English people spoke around 200 years ago), to current Aussie English. Aussie English (Ausssie = Australian) has changed a lot since then. We use a lot of slang terms, our accent is totally different, we generally speak quite fast and we use a lot of cultural references when speaking.
These 11 expressions are my favorites expressions, just thinking of them makes me laugh and miss Australia. Incorporate them into your vocabulary now, you never know when you’re going to meet an Aussie!
Mate is a colloquial word for friend. This would be similar to other American terms like; man, dude, buddy. Mate is used to reference a man but you’ll even hear some Australian women using this word.
A: Hey mate, what are you gonna do tonight?
B: Ahh, one of me (my) mates is having a Barbie (barbecue). You wanna go?
A: Nah, I’m alright mate.
This is an abbreviation for “good day.” Most of the time you will hear this being used with mate. “G’day mate” has become a very stereotypical greeting and is a way to immediately spot an Aussie.
– G’day mate! Did you see the footy (football) last night?
– G’day Baz, you wanna go see a movie?
In Australian English “cheers” isn’t just used to celebrate before drinking with your mates, it is also used as a way to say thank you. Cheers can also be heard in other English speaking countries but is definitely most prominent in Australia.
A: Here’s that money I owe you.
B: Ahh, cheers mate!
You / Ya reckon?
The word reckon is a synonym for think, but is only used for asking for opinion about something. You’re going to hear a lot of Aussies using this word in every day conversation. This word is also uses in British and American English but, people often associate this word with someone who isn’t very well-educated.
A: Hey do you reckon we should have a Barbie this weekend?
B: I don’t know, it looks like it’s gonna rain.
A: You reckon??”
Cya this arvo
As you can probably see, Australians really like to abbreviate words which can be really confusing. “See you this afternoon” is abbreviated to “cya this arvo.” Australians use the expression arvo to refer to afternoon in all situations.
A: Hey Robbo, are you gonna go to the pub (bar) this arvo?
B: Yep, should do mate! (yes, I probably will go)
A: Alrighty, cya this arvo.
Be very careful when using this term. Thongs, in Australian English are rubber sandals which are more commonly called flip flops. If you were to use this expression in the United Stated they would be very confused because “a thong” in the U.S is small female underwear which we call a G-string.
A: Ahh, the beach sand is so hot here!
B: You should’ve brought your thongs.
A: Yeah, I always forget me bloody (damn) thongs.
You’ll probably hear the older generation of aussies using this term. Fair dinkum is used when someone says something and you respond with surprise. It would be the same as saying “really?!”
A: Did you see the footy last night? The kangaroos beat the Eagles. (Australian football teams)
B: Fair dinkum!
Many times I’ve said to my American friends “I gotta go to the dunny” and they just look at me with a very confused look on their face. Dunny is another word for toilet.
A: Hey, where’s Robbo?
B: He went to the dunny and hasn’t come back yet.
A: Fair dinkum, he mustn’t be feeling to good.
Spiffy / snazzy
Both of these words are alternatives to saying that something is new and in most cases of high quality.
A: Check out my snazzy new thongs!
B: Wow they look pretty spiffy mate! Where did you get them?
The slang word “piss,” is a vulgar way to say urinate. You’ll probably hear the word used this way all around the world. In Australia, to say that you are pissed means that you’re drunk. This can be confusing because in the U.S., where if you’re pissed it means you are really angry.
A: How was your night?
B: Mate, I can’t remember a thing, I was so pissed!
A: I hope you weren’t driving, it’s so dangerous to drive pissed!
A: Nah, I got a taxi home.
And lastly, an Aussie yobbo. A yobbo is a stereotypical Australian, who is always drinking a beer and talking about his old car. A yobbo is always wearing thongs and a flannel shirt, and most people consider them to be lazy. Although you’re probably thinking it has a negative connotation to be called a yobbo, surprisingly many people are very proud of it.
A: G’day mate! Howz it goin? U wanna beer? (How is it going? Do you want a beer?)
B: A beer, it’s 11 a.m.! you’re such a yobbo!
A: Ahh, cheers mate.
So there you have it, 11 expressions you can apply into your vocabulary right now. Remember all of them and really impress the next Australian you see!
Don’t forget the importance of learning English, not just British and American, but from other countries too. Learning language and learning about culture together is the most effective way to attain fluency. The good thing about learning English is that there are so many cultures that use it as their first language, you’ll never run out of cool and interesting new ways to practice.
Have you thought about South African English? I wonder how people speak in New Zealand!
Learn more about Australian English with other RLE articles:
About the author
Chad Fishwich was born in Australia and lived there until his early 20’s. From an early age he became very interested in Brazilian culture through music and Capoeira. Trying to understand the culture motivated him to learn Portuguese, and even brought him to Belo Horizonte, Brazil, where he lives today. Chad, along with his friends Josh, Justin, Trevor and Ethan, run the Real English BH community.