I’ve spoken English all my life – at home too. In fact, that’s pretty much the only language I speak fluently. I understand Hindi and Marathi (to a large extent), but can’t speak either.
In India, people would ask me what my ‘mother tongue’ was and were shocked when I’d say English. They couldn’t fathom that I didn’t speak a regional language. I grew up listening to my dad play English music at home and we only watched English programs on TV. In school, I’d win English essay competitions, debates, speeches – I’d slay any English-related activity.
So, when I moved to Australia, an English speaking country, I found myself stumped at my inability to understand the slang. Australia likes to shorten a lot of their words, so getting used to that is a first step. They also use terms differently from the rest of the world and that may cause confusion. Here’s what happened to me.
I got my first job in Adelaide 2 months after we arrived. Until then, I was at home with little interaction with the outside world.
On day 2 of my job, my manager walked up to my desk and asked me “How ya goin’?” I look confused and replied, “How am I going where?”
We both looked super confused for a while – a new migrant and a manager as Aussie as it gets. All she wanted to know was how I was doing/progressing on my second day, and all I was thinking of was why would you use the word ‘going’ instead of ‘doing’?
Working there was tough – I was the ONLY non-Australian on that entire floor. There were references to people, TV shows, food, footy which were 100% Australian, but eventually it was the slang that would throw me off! I stopped making random conversation – it was just too tough.
I finally decided that if my colleagues spoke Aussie English, I’d ask them what it meant. They were all very polite and answered my questions.
What was amusing though was that they had no idea that their slang was unheard of in other parts of the world. They’d often ask me, “So what do you guys say?”
It was a learning experience for all of us – and what had started off as unsettling, soon became a way of life for me. IELTS is such a waste of time when you come here and realise that you need to learn a new language 😉
Here’s a snapshot of some commonly used words:
Cheers – Thank you
No worries – That’s okay
You’re right – What you’re doing is okay (for example, you bump into someone and apologise. The person responds and says “You’re right.”)
Ta – Thanks (ATTN: Advait, this one’s for you!)
Bogan – Uncouth person
Sparkie – Electrician
Garbo – Garbage man
Postie – Postman
Sickie – A sick day
I do have a favorite though!
Remember that English teacher in school who’d drill similes into our heads? Well, she’d die of a heart attack if she’d hear things like, “It was sweet as.”
I used to find myself tilting my head waiting for the person to complete that sentence, but it’s meant to end like that. The adjective i.e. sweet can be replaced by any other adjective.
I’ve been told two things about its usage:
The point is for the listener to fill in the blanks but not say it aloud, it could be anything that the listener associates ‘sweetness’ with i.e. sweet as ________.
The sentence is meant to end with a ‘not-so-good’ word and by not saying it, you are implying it.
It’s said that English is a funny language – you only realise how true that is when you live in a country that has it’s own slang. If you are a grammar freak moving to Australia, you need to relax and let go. Slang is slang – get used to hearing it and use it too! When in Rome…, remember?
It also shows how little we know of the world, how we get so involved in our lives and assume that what we know or do is the only way. It’s time to live, to be open to new things, to appreciate and embrace the differences.
Else, you simply haven’t lived.