9 Australian English Phrases You Need to Befriend Aussies
So, have you decided to study in Australia?
Are you planning a vacation in the land down under?
You have read about Australia…the fresh food, the gorgeous beaches, the sunshine and, of course, the KILLER ANIMALS!
Killer animals? Yes, we’ve got some of those. People love to talk about how all the animals in Australia want to kill you—everything from the crocodiles and sharks to the spiders, scorpions and snakes. Even the koala bears can attack!
But it’s possible that you’re more afraid of the language (Australian English) than you are of the Australian wildlife.
Your friends have told you all about Australian slang (or at least tried to). They might say “it sounds like another language” or “it’s not even close to English!” If you aren’t an advanced learner of English, you might be feeling intimidated. Well, let me give you a brief “how to speak Australian” class.
We’ll start by learning about the accent.
How to Speak Australian English
The first and most important thing to remember when practicing your Australian accent is to be lazy. Pronounce words slowly. Make your vowel sounds extra long. Pretend to be very tired when you speak and you’ll sound like a native in no time. It’s not very hard, just give it a try!
Here are three more ways to sound like an Australian when you speak English.
1. Skip letters at the ends of words. Australians skip the letters at the ends of many words. For example “what?” becomes “wha?” Meeting, going and trying change to meetin, goin and tryin.
2. Change letters at the ends of words. You must change the letters at the ends of some words. The words super, after, dinner and order become supah, aftah, dinnah and ordah.
3. Turn “oo” sounds into “ew” sounds. When words are spelled with “oo,” then you need to change the sound you make when you pronounce these words. The best examples of this are pool, school and cool. Australians change these words to pewl, skewl and kewl.
Want to hear how all of this sounds when a native Australian is speaking English? Watch this fun video clip for a great demonstration.
For more examples of Australian English and other regional kinds of English, try FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and more—and turns them into personalized language lessons, so you can learn to understand the language the way people actually speak it.
9 Australian English Phrases You Need to Survive the Outback
This word means many things. It can translate to “Hello” or “How are you?” Some people just say it when they make eye contact with another person on the street.
This is the most common Australian slang word you will hear while visiting.
The problem with this word is the pronunciation. It isn’t “good day” or “geh-day.” You have to cut the “g” sound short and emphasize the “day.” Make sure that “day” is drawn out. It sounds similar to “daaey.”
If you master this word, it’s guaranteed that you’ll make many friends!
This is simply a synonym for friend. We usually add this to the word “G’day.”
For example, “G’day mate” means “Hello, friend.” However, you can use “mate” in many other ways. If someone asks you how your weekend was, the typical reply from (male) Australians is “Maaaate.” Used in this way, it means, “OMG! I can’t even start to describe how awesome it was.”
You can also use “mate” when you pass people on the street. If you make eye contact with a stranger, simply nod your head and say “mate” as a simple, casual greeting. This is a friendly way to acknowledge them.
3. How ya going?
This simply means, “How are you?”
“Ya” means “you” and “going” simply refers to how you are: good, sad, angry, excited. “Going” in this context means the act of being alive or existing. So, the person is actually asking how you’re feeling or how your day is/was.
Let’s try using the above three vocabulary words and phrases in a sentence together. They’re often used together as a friendly greeting! For example:
“G’day mate! How ya’ going?”
This word is an interjection. An interjection (also called an exclamation), as you know, may have no grammatical connection to a sentence. An interjection is sometimes followed by an exclamation mark (!). “Crikey,” being an interjection, is almost always followed by an exclamation mark.
Most Australians grow up hearing this word. The word is used as an exclamation of surprise or bewilderment. It can also mean “wow!” For example:
“Crikey! Did you see the size of that snake?”
“Crikey” is mainly used by older generations but became popular again when the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, became famous.
There’s another Australian word that’s a synonym for “crikey.” If you forgot, a synonym is a word or phrase that means the same or nearly the same as another word or phrase. For example, “shut” is a synonym for “close.” In the same way, “streuth” is a synonym for “crikey,” so we can use either one to express the same thing.
“Streuth” has a particular pronunciation, so you need to pay attention to this. It’s pronounced like “Strooooth.”
There’s an emphasis on the “ooo” sound and it must be drawn out (or in other words, pronounce the word in the laziest way you can!). Like the word “crikey,” it’s an exclamation of shock. For example:
“Streuth! You were nearly attacked by a shark?!”
6. Fair dinkum
The word “dinkum” began in the Australian goldfields. “Dinkum” originally came from a Chinese dialect and can be translated to mean “true gold” or “good gold.” There were many Chinese people searching for gold in Australia in the 1800s. Isn’t it interesting to find out that some Australia English has Chinese origins?
It’s an important piece of Australian English so you must be able to use it in the correct way. You say “fair dinkum” when you want to state a fact or truth. For example:
“It’s true mate! Fair dinkum.”
“Fair dinkum! That is a lot of gold.”
7. Heaps good
Young Australians like to replace the word “very” with “heaps.” So, this phrase literally means “very good.”
It shows that something you have done, eaten or achieved is very, very, very good.
Australians are used to hearing teachers say, “very good work, Emma” or parents state “you have been very good today, here is your reward.” Because of this, young Australians became so sick and tired of hearing “very good” that we simply created our own version of the phrase. Adults and seniors understand this phrase, but it’s most commonly used by Australians aged 10-20.
Anne: How was your vacation?
Bob: It was heaps good.
8. Fully sick
If you like the beach, then this word is for you! Use the adverb “fully” and add “sick” to it.
The word “fully” means “completely” or “entirely.” Used alone in a sentence we would say “I fully understand the math equation.” So, we know that this phrase is describing something as “sick” to the fullest extent.
But why sick? Isn’t it bad to be sick? Well, when we say “fully sick,” it doesn’t mean that a person is really sick. It means the opposite!
“Fully sick” means “This is great!” or “very good quality.” Most surfers use this phrase when they talk about the ocean. For example:
Adam: The surf were fully sick today!
Julie: Fully sick!? How big were they?
Adam: They were at least 4 foot. Man, I caught so many fully sick waves!
We can also use this word to describe parties, cars and things that you like.
Adam: Check out my fully sick ride!
Julie: Wow, nice car! Fully sick!
9. True Blue
This is the last phrase and probably the most important one in the Australian vocabulary. This means “the real thing.” The color blue represents loyalty and truth. So the phrase “true blue” describes something as genuine, real and honest.
Watch this video clip by John Williamson. The man is standing and singing in a shed. He’s in the Outback (out in the rural part of Australia). The music video shows many types of Australians: firefighters, business owners, plumbers, electricians and aboriginals. These people are “true blue.” They’re all real, honest Australians.
See if you can pick out any other words that you don’t know. There’s even more Australian slang out there to learn!
To make it easier to understand how you’ll use your new Australian English, here are all the words and phrases you just learned in a sample conversation:
Adam: G’day mate! How ya going? How was your weekend?
John: G’day. Yeah, my weekend was heaps good. I went to the beach and had a barbecue with my mates. It was a true blue weekend.
Adam: Sounds great! How was the beach?
John: The beach was fully sick! Fair dinkum, I caught 5 waves and then took a break. But crikey! I was nearly bitten by a shark!
Adam: Streuth mate! Are you okay? I wished I had come with you, but now I’m glad I didn’t. I’m afraid of sharks.
John: True blue! Next time…see you later!
If you master these Australian English phrases and words, you’ll have no problem speaking to any true blue Australian.
Also, they’ll be so happy and excited that you studied their culture and their unusual language—they’ll definitely invite you to their next barbecue and introduce you to their mates!