When experiencing a new country it is important to learn to speak like the natives. This way one can acquire a form of “verbal camouflage” and avoid looking like a drongo. No idea what I’m talking about? Read on.
Lesson 1: Intonation
The first thing to change when speaking like a kiwi is your intonation: end every sentence as if you’re asking a question. Fullstops are very final in New Zealand, and often give the impression of End Of Conversation, rather than End of Sentence. Making every sentence sound like a question makes you sound cheerful and gives the chatty kiwi something to spring off.
Take the following for example:
The scene: you are Sitting in a bar (pronounced baaa) sipping on a handle of Speights. A Friendly Kiwi sits down next to you and strikes up a conversation (as they usually do):
Friendly Kiwi: Kia Ora Mate!
You: How’s it going bro?
FK: Not bad, not bad ay? That’s an interesting accent you’ve got there, where ya from cuz?
You: I’m from England/Mauritius/somewhere else?
FK: Aah yeah bro, I’ve heard of England/Mauritius/Somewhere else?
You: Yes it’s a lovely place?
FK: Yeah, my nana has been there, reckons it’s choice?
As I have mentioned, Kiwis are by nature extremely chatty people. We have come to expect long conversations where wouldn’t normally have, such as the bottle store cashier in Dunedin who spent half an hour telling us about his holiday, or the man at the dairy (corner shop) who randomly started chatting to us about the wonders of Indian weddings. I have to admit, this is one of my favourite Kiwi traits, I have never been anywhere where people are so easygoing and keen for a good yarn. And if they are so willing to make the effort to talk to you, it’s only polite to learn to understand them.
Lesson 2: Accent
Now that you have the basics of intonation, we can start to focus on your accent. Don’t be intimidated my the Kiwi accent, it’s pretty easy to pick up. The trick is in your vowels.
A becomes E: “Now thet I hev your ettention, lets get beck to the lesson, ay?”
E becomes EE: “I’ll be there in teen meenuts”
I becomes U: “Lets go get some fush and chups bro”
*UNLESS it’s pronounce ‘I’ as in ‘Ice’, the it becomes ‘OI’ as in, “Oi’ll just pop down to the dairy and puk us up some fush end chups.” I is a tricky letter mate.
O stays the same and so does U
Still struggling? This video is a perfect example of a Kiwi accent. Watch it repeatedly.
Lesson 3: Vocab
So by now you should have mastered your accent and intonation. It is important to understand the following words and phrases, so as not to come across as a wally:
Kia Ora/Gidday/Hihowareya: Hello
Sweet As: Yes, I agree with what you are saying/Great. Add “bro” at the end for extra points.
“I won’t be coming to work tomorrow because I’m off to the Wops”
“Sweet as, have a cracker!”
Cracker: Fun, great time
Choice: The best, super duper.
“That episode of Shorties last night was choice!”
Shorties: Shortland Street. Kiwi soap that is on a par with Neighbors, Coronation Street and 7ee de Laan.
Aotearoa: New Zealand, land of the long white cloud
Things you want to be called:
Bro/Cuz/Mate: Everyone’s a friend in Aotearoa
A dag: Good guy/joker/comedian
Things you don’t want to be called:
Bogan: White trash. Think mullets and bourbon and coke. For an in depth article on how to spot a bogan, see How To Spot A Bogan
Wally: Silly person.
Hoon: Hoodlum, likes black jeans and t-shirts
Boy-racer: Young hoon in fast car. Think racing stripes, flourescent lumo lighting and a very loud stereo.
Things you probably will be called whether you like it or not:
Pom (if you’re english)
Yaapie (if you’re South African – thanks to Mark from the Dunedin Casino for teaching me this one)
Jafa (if you’re from Auckland. Stands for Just Another…Aucklander)
Bro (even if you’re a girl)
L&P: Lemon & Paeroa drink. Tastes like super sweet lemonade. You need to learn this especially if you’re going to working in a bar. Or you will look dumb. Trust me (I speak from experience)
Kumura: Sweet potato.
Suck the Kumura: To kick the bucket, take a dirt nap, expire
Capsicum: Bell pepper
Fush & Chups: Fish and chips, a Kiwi staple.
Handle: Pint of beer, very important to learn this one
Hokey-Pokey: Delicious ice-cream flavour
Aioli: A kind of garlic mayo that they put on everything
Other useful words and phrases:
The Wop Wops: Out in the middle of nowhere
Cruisy: Easy, as if you are on a cruise
Whanau: Family/extended family
Treck: An extra long tramp
Chur: Thanks/Cool/Sweet As. A lovely versatile word:
“Have a chup bro”
Of course there are hundreds of kiwi words and Kiwi-isms that I haven’t been able to fit in. If you’re a kiwi, which ones do you think are the choicest? If you’re not a Kiwi, but this well-written and comprehensive guide has given you a taste and now you want MORE, head to New Zealand Slang for a full glossary of Kiwi words.
Final lesson, Lesson 4.
You’ve come a long way, and there’s not much left to teach you. Speaking like a Kiwi is a serious undertaking and can seem daunting, but if you follow my simple steps, she’ll be right mate (everything always is in En Zed). I shall leave you with these final words of wisdom:
When in doubt, abbreviate. Barbeque becomes barbie, afternoon becomes arvie. Don’t go have a meal of food, have a feed. You’re not in New Zealand after all, you’re in En Zed. Do all this and you’ll be good as gold.
So now that you’ve had a cruisy squiz at my mean-as Kiwi English lesson, you’re probably bang-on the way to becoming part of the Aotearoa Whanau. Why not reward yourself for your effort with handle, or maybe some Hokey Pokey? Good on ya mate, chur.