Talk Like A Kiwi

Now that immigrants in New Zealand have found out they need to “dumb down” their CVs (i.e. not include irrelevant little details, e.g. degrees) to find work, a charitable trust based in Auckland is also offering to help to recent arrivals – to understand the Kiwi accent and use of English.

The British Telegraph newspaper picked up the story, written by Bonnie Malkin:

The flattened vowel, which turns “fish and chips” into “fush en chups”, and a host of colourful colloquialisms can make communicating in Kiwi vastly different to speaking any other kind of English.

Now, in an attempt to make the transition easier, puzzled new arrivals are being offered a course in how to understand the “kay-weay eksent”.

The Auckland Regional Migrant Services Charitable Trust, which helps migrants settle in New Zealand and find work, has set up the classes to help foreigners “understand the Kiwi accent and use of English“.

Nazli Effendi, who created the course, said several aspects of New Zealand communication flummoxed newcomers.

“One of the things that migrants identify as being difficult is the speed at which New Zealanders speak,” she told “The way New Zealanders pronounce their vowel sounds is also very different.” (ed. Like the word “German? Bieber fans will understand)

“As well as decoding a heavy Kiwi accent, the course focuses on phrases that could be confusing to anyone coming to the country, not just non-English speakers.

“There are some English words which have a different meaning in New Zealand,” she said.

“For example, ‘crook’ in New Zealand means sick, not a thief. I’m a South African, native-English speaker and I didn’t understand that one!” (ed. in NZ it does also mean ‘thief’)

“Trust director Mary Dawson said the course was aimed at highly skilled migrants “to ensure they obtain employment relevant to their skills”.

New Zealanders are notoriously touchy about their accents, but like to poke fun at the accents of their Australian neighbours, who they accuse of sounding like the late crocodile hunter Steve Irwin.

A distinct New Zealand variant of the English language has been in existence since the last 19th century, when English novelist Frank Arthur Swinnerton described it as a “carefully modulated murmur.”

From the beginning of the British settlement on the islands, a new dialect began to form by adopting Maori words to describe the different flora and fauna of New Zealand, for which English did not have any words of its own. “

Seriously though, not being able to talk like a Kiwi can seriously damage one’s career, despite the country having a high proportion of immigrants. As student nurse, Linda Tang,  found out.

Many think that there is only one, perhaps two types of Kiwi accent, but there are many regional variations. As the country becomes more influenced by migration and international speech patterns further variations are bound to occur: For samples of recordings see Dialects and Accents of New Zealand

Here are some direct links to the 17 samples on that site:
Male, born 1977, restaurant manager, raised Christchurch
Female, European, born 1954
female, born 1956, Lower Hutt, academic assistant

2 thoughts on “Talk Like A Kiwi

  1. Lynn of Tawa.

    I heard Key on Letterman, and he sounded like he had a mouthful of marbles.

  2. John Key’s ‘Lyn-of-Tawa’ delivery required subtitles on the Letterman show.

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