What is Australian English

What is Australian English?

You have definitely heard the expression separated by a common language when it comes to the variations of the English language, mostly between British English and American English

But what about Australian English? Not a lot are aware that Australian English is another variation of the English language. 

If you want to learn more about English in the Land Down Under (Australia), please continue reading as we have gathered everything there is to know about Australian English in this article. 


History of Australian English

Although Australian English is frequently regarded as a hybrid of American and British English, this is not totally correct. Australians have a distinct dialect with many distinguishing characteristics. It is difficult to imagine it any other way, given the multiple influences of Irish, Chinese, and various Aboriginal languages.

From the late 18th century onwards, the first generation of native-born colonists in the Colony of New South Wales spoke the earliest Australian English. These children grew up hearing a variety of dialects from all throughout the British Isles. 

Following the process of dialect leveling and koineization (a standard or common language that has emerged as a result of the interaction, socializing, and simplification of two or more mutually intelligible variants of the same language), a reasonably homogeneous new variant of English emerged, which was easily understood by all. 

The dialects of South East England, particularly the classic Cockney dialect of London, had a significant impact on the formation of the new variation, forming “the dominant input of the different sounds that went into creating” Australian English. 

All of England’s other regions were represented among the first colonists. A considerable number of early convicts and colonists were Irish; and spoke Irish as their main or primary language. Other non-native English speakers from Scotland and Wales joined them.

Immigrants and linguistic influences from all over the world arrived during the gold rush. One example is the introduction of terminology from American English, which included terms like ‘bushwhacker’ and ‘squatter’, which were later deemed to be uniquely Australian. 

The popularity of American films in the early twentieth century, as well as the surge of American military soldiers during World War II, perpetuated this American impact, as evidenced by the persistent presence of such universally-accepted phrases such as ‘okay’ and ‘guys.’


Characteristics of Australian English

Australian English, being one of the many variations of the English language, has quite a few distinct features that make it unique. 

It is important to note that Australian English is more than just an accent or a few Australian words. 

Academics and Literature

Academics have discussed and written about Australian English, both in terms of its use in literature and its meaning in grammar, composition, and other contexts.

Pamela Freeman, Award-Winning Author

“Australian literature isn’t always set in Australia or directly about Australians, but it does reflect on, explore, celebrate, or lament human existence via stories shaped and impacted by profound and long-term knowledge of Australian culture, geography, scenery, and climate.”


James Bourne, Second Secretary Australian Embassy 

“Australia wants to make it obvious that we should be their first choice for English language study. We saw this competition as an excellent opportunity to show that Australia values English language instruction and is a world leader in it.”

History and Pop Culture

The history of Australian English is quite interesting, as these personalities have stated. 

Hugh Jackman, Actor

“Working on an Australian film has its own set of challenges. The crew has a distinct vibe because we’re in such a spectacular place. I definitely had a better grasp of what it meant to be an aboriginal Australian. I had a much better understanding of the indigenous people. I’d heard about it before, especially at university, but living and working with those men is a very different experience.”


Kel Richards, Australian Author

“Following the evolution of Australian English from the arrival of the First Fleet to the present day is akin to tracing the nation’s history. When you follow the history of Australian English from 1788 to the present, you’re actually following the history of the entire country.”


What are the Kinds of Australian English? 

Linguists say there are three types of Australian English are spoken: broad, general, and cultivated. They are part of a continuum that reflects accent fluctuations. 

They can, but do not always, represent the speaker’s socioeconomic position, education, and urban or rural upbringing.

Broad Australian English

This Australian English is recognized and understood by English speakers all around the world. It is widespread across the country, but it is most prominent in rural areas. 

This dialect is frequently referred to as ‘Strine’ (or “Strayan,” a contraction of the word Australian), and a speaker of the dialect is known as an ‘Ocker’

Broad speakers had a higher tendency for syllable assimilation and consonant elision were more likely to utilize weak consonants or constrained intonation, spoke more slowly, and had a higher tendency to exhibit pervasive nasality, according to tests. Diphthongs are also typically pronounced longer. 


General Australian English

The most prevalent Australian accent is general Australian English. It is particularly popular in urban areas of Australia, and it is widely utilized in Australian films, television shows, and advertising.


Cultivated Australian English

Cultivated Australian English was once thought to indicate high social status or education. 

In addition, a 1989 study found that Cultivated Australian English speakers were ranked higher in intelligence, competence, reliability, honesty, and status than Broad Australian English speakers. This dialect has certain characteristics in common with Received Pronunciation (of British English) and the Transatlantic accent. 



Differences Between Australian and American English

The English language is the world’s most widely spoken language. Learning and using Australian English or American English may be an option depending on where you reside. 

While there are a lot of resemblances between Australian and American English, there are also quite a few modifications.

Spelling

Note: Australian English uses British English in spelling. 

Australian/British EnglishAmerican English 
aeroplaneairplane
aluminiumaluminum
analyseanalyze
burntburnt
chequecheck
colourcolor
discdisk
metremeter
modelledmodeled
monologuemonolog
moustachemustache
mummom
oestrogenestrogen
offenceoffense
ploughplow

Vocabulary

Note: Australian English uses British English vocabulary as well. 

Australian/British EnglishAmerican English 
advertisementcommercial
bookingreservation
boottrunk
caretakerjanitor
carttrolley
chipsfrench fries
cotcrib
cripspotato chips
first floorground floor
grillbroiler
jumpersweater
medicinedrugs
notice boardbulletin board
receptionlobby
sentshipped

However, there are also some words in Australian English that differ from British English.  

Australian EnglishBritish English 
arvoafternoon
boozealcohol
bravegame
damperbread
diggersoldier
jumbucksheep
lollymoney
loolavatory
mozziemosquito
neddieshorses
pifflenonsense
prangaccident
rookangaroo
snagsausage
tuckerfood

Grammar

Note: Australian English follows British English grammar rules. 

Present Perfect and Past Simple Tenses

In Australian English, the present perfect is used to talk about a past activity that is relevant to the present.

Although the present perfect can be used in the same way as American English, people usually use the past simple when they believe the action is complete. The adjectives ‘already’, ‘just’, and ‘yet’ are examples of this.

Australian/British EnglishAmerican English
“I am not hungry. I have already eaten”

“Have you paid your bills already?”

“Yes, I’ve just cleaned the room.”
“I am not hungry. I already ate.”

“Did you pay your bills already?”

“Yes, I just cleaned it.”

Verb Forms with Collective Nouns

In Australian English, a singular or plural verb can be used with a noun that refers to a group of things or people (collective noun). 

They employ a plural verb when they think of the group as individuals; when the group is considered as a single unit, a singular verb is used.

A singular verb is utilized with collective nouns in American English.

Note: The noun ‘police’ is always considered plural (in both).

Australian/British EnglishAmerican English
“The tribe is/are living autonomously.”

“The class is/are having lessons outside.”

“The team is/are having a practice.”

“The police were able to reach the crime scene immediately.”
“The tribe is living autonomously.”

“The class is having lessons outside.”

“The team is having practice.”

“The police were able to reach the crime scene immediately.”

Use of ‘Got’ and ‘Gotten’

The past participle of the verb ‘get’ is ‘got’ in Australian English.

In American English, ‘gotten’ is used.

Australian/British EnglishAmerican English
“He could have got hit by the car!”

“I’ve got thinner.”

“She has got neglectful about her studies.”

“Have I got ink on my face?”

“You have got to bring all your things.”
“He could have gotten hit by the car!”

“I’ve gotten thinner.”

“She has gotten neglectful about her studies.”

“Have I got ink on my face?”NOT “Have I gotten ink on my face?”

“You have got to bring all your things.”NOT “You have gotten to bring all your things.”

Use of ‘Have’ and ‘Take

The verbs ‘have’ and ‘take’ are widely used in Australian English with nouns such as ‘bath’, ‘shower’, and ‘wash’ to talk about washing and with nouns such as ‘break’, ‘holiday’, and ‘rest’ to talk about resting.

Only the verb ‘take’ (not the verb ‘have’) is used in this context in American English.

Australian/British EnglishAmerican English
“He’s going to have/take a wash.”

“I want to have/take a break.”
“He’s going to take a wash.”

“I want to take a break.”

Use of ‘Shall’

In Australian English, people often use ‘Shall I/we …?’ to offer to do something and/or to make a suggestion.

The use of ‘shall’ is uncommon in American English. 

Alternatives include ‘Should I/Can I…?’ or ‘Do you want/Would you like…?’ as an alternative. ‘What about…?’ is also used. 

Australian/British EnglishAmerican English
“It’s late. Shall we go home now?”

“Shall we take the bus instead of the train?”

“Shall we tell her parents what happened?”
“It’s late. Can we go home now?”

“How about we take the bus instead of the train?”

“Do you want to tell her parents what happened?”


Australian/American/British English: Which One Should You Use?

It is hard to think that ‘G’day mate’, ‘You alright?’ and ‘How is it going?’ are all distinct ways to say ‘hello’ or inquire about someone’s well-being in English.

Many English language learners are perplexed by Australian, British, and American English differences. It is crucial to note that these three forms of English are more similar than dissimilar. 

Learning a language is much more than remembering vocabulary words and grammar rules. If language learners truly want to feel comfortable conversing with native speakers, they must also consider culture. 

Here are a few questions that you need to ask yourself with regards to which English you should use:

  • What is your primary motivation for studying and using English?

This is, without a doubt, the most crucial question you should ask. What is your motivation for studying and using English? You might have a few different responses here, but consider what your primary motivation is.


  • Do you intend to reside or work in any of these countries?

Another point to consider is what your current or future plans are. If you plan to work in Los Angeles or if you want to live in the United States, you should learn American English. If you want to work in London, study and use British English. If you are thinking of settling in Sydney, Australian English it is. 


  • Which English are your schoolmates and colleagues using?

This is another consideration that you have to ponder on when deciding which English to use. You do not want to be the ‘lone wolf’ using American English in a university where Australian/British English is the norm. 


  • If you are studying or taking a standardized test, which English is preferred? 

A lot of students taking international tests have this concern. While all three kinds of English are accepted in most tests, it is important to note that some favor one over the other. The key is to ask. Also, be consistent. If you use Australian/British English from the start, you have to use it all throughout. 



Tips for Using Australian English in Your Writing

Do you feel ready to take on a writing job anywhere in the world now that we have gone through the differences between Australian and American English?

Here are our top five recommendations for mastering Australian English in writing.

  • In formal writing, avoid using slang terminology. In a college paper, for example, you would not use the word ‘arvo’ instead of ‘afternoon’.
  • If you are enrolling or studying at an Australian university or working for a publication, consult your style guide for tips on how to write in Australian English.
  • You can consult an Australian dictionary, such as the Macquarie Dictionary, if you are unsure whether a word is used in Australia.
  • Set the spell checker in Microsoft Word to Australian English when writing for an Australian audience.
  • Maintain the same English, in this case, Australian English, from the start to the end of your writing. 

What are the Countries Using Australian English Spelling?

Australian English (AusE) has a brief history, spanning roughly 200 years of European settlement, and a much shorter amount of time as a national variety, with the word being coined in 1940. 

It has only been since then that characteristics of AusE have been seen as distinctly and respectably Australian, rather than as proof of colonial degradation from England’s Standard English norms. However, Australia, being under the British Commonwealth, uses British English spelling, along with some other countries as well.


Why Does Learning Australian English Matter?

Learning Australian English is just as important as learning other kinds of English. Not one language (or kind) is superior to the other. What is more important is that you keep improving your English skills and practicing speaking clearly and convincingly. Concentrate on expressing your thoughts and feelings in English as clearly as possible. 

Though the disparities between Australian, American, and British English can be difficult and challenging at times, keep in mind that these three kinds of English are more alike than they are dissimilar, and it is the small distinctions that give a language its distinct ‘flavor’. 


Additional FAQs about Australian English

Is Australian English a Different Language?

Is Australian English the Same as British English?

Partly. Australian English is based on British English.

Australian English uses British spelling as well and they have the same grammar rules. However, keep in mind that they have different accents and there are words in British English and Australian English that are different. For example, ‘trousers’ for British English is ‘strides’ for Australian English.  

Is Australian English a Different Language?

Australian English is one of the many variations of the English language; the others are British English, American English, and Canadian English. While there may be some modifications, these variations are more similar than different.

People who understand English, in general, will be able to understand anyone from these countries and just have to watch out for the difference in accents and some other terms that are only unique to a specific variation. 



Leave a Reply