Australian English accent and dialect

Dr Debbie Loakes
Dr Debbie Loakes

If you want to learn to speak with an Australian accent and use English in a local manner, you need trainers with up-to-date knowledge of the local dialect. Other services just use reference books or websites for their “local” knowledge. We are actively involved in linguistic analysis and research into Australian English and other dialects. We can give you accurate feedback about what is acceptable and on-target for Australian English in your age and social group immediately.

Going local

You live in Australia, but you don’t sound Australian?

You listen to locally-born English speakers and can’t catch the meaning?

You speak English well, but everyone notices that you express yourself differently?

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There’s nothing unusual about not sounding local if you’ve come from somewhere else.

And there’s certainly no shame to be felt about having difficulty adapting to an unfamiliar dialect.

But if you want to reduce the challenges or fell like you “fit in” better, Ear & Speak is sensitive to your goals and previous experience as we train you to improve the local flavour of your accent and spoken English skills.

What is “local”?

Every community has an idea of what sounds “average” or “neutral” within that community. Sometimes there’s a lot of flexibility in that “average” form (and sometimes there isn’t).

Australian English is well known for having quite a lot of flexibility, which can make life a little easier for many people, but can also make it harder for you to work out what changes you should make to sound more local.

Confused? Although there is flexibility, you have to learn to use the right elements together. It’s the same in every language: if you want to sound local in one place, you can’t speak like a southerner for two vowels, but like a northerner for three other vowels, can you?

Let us help you.          

  • You’ll find many websites claiming that Australian English has three accents: Broad, General, and Educated. This is based on one major study done well over fifty years ago! Anyone trained to listen and analyse language (i.e. academic linguists) knows that Australian pronunciation has changed markedly in that time (and that the original analysis was also imperfect).
  • You’ll also find people making claims about the origins of Australian English (the silliest being that the settlers were drunk so were speaking differently), and lots of claims that the language is in a state of decay, “turning into American English”, or being affected by “all these migrants”. The fact is that English has always changed (as does every language), and will always be influenced by current trends in society.
  • If you want to sound more local, you need a trainer who knows what’s “normal” right now in Australian English, not five decades ago.
  • See our article: In-depth: Australian English.

Sayings, slang, swearing

Part of the character of every dialect is the special words and phrases that locals use to show that they belong. Swearing can also form a strong part of that in some communities.

Much of the non-expert information about Australian English on the internet focuses on old-fashioned hyper-Australian vocabulary like “dinky-di” or “bunyip”, or tells readers to adopt the words “mate” and “g’day” as quickly as possible. Be careful about taking that advice!

An essential part of adapting to a new environment is authenticity. If you try too hard, people might react negatively.

  • We strongly advise clients not to use “mate” or “g’day” until their general pattern of speech is fluent and a bit local. Otherwise it seems fake.
  • If your accent shows no local adaptation, people might laugh if you use phrases like “She’ll be right” or “Fair squeeze of the sauce bottle”.
  • At the same time, listeners will feel less positive towards you if, after five years in Australia, you’re still calling a mobile phone a “cell phone” or “hand phone”.
  • Our relevant, up-to-date training and advice helps clients avoid embarrassing cultural mistakes.
  • And if you want to “swear like a trooper”, we can teach you that too.

We work on everything from tiny little subtleties to major communicative issues.