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Thread: Learning Kiwi accent

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
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    Default Learning Kiwi accent

    Moving to New Zealand on Saturday. Just wondering about the English language in NZ. I know Kiwi accent is different and time is needed to get used to it. How do I drop American accent and learn to speak English as New Zealanders do without sounding too awkward. Should I just stick with American accent and hopefully locals will understand me??? Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    Don't try to fake anything. People would notice, and some might be offended, thinking you're mocking them.

    Almost certainly, Kiwis will understand you quite readily, as American accents are familiar from films and TV. Your ear will soon tune in to how people around you are speaking, but don't be afraid to tell them you haven't been there very long, and ask for a repeat or more explanation, if you get stuck. Over time and probably without your noticing, it may happen that your speech alters - on the other hand, some people live in NZ for years and keep their original accent. The important thing is to go with what happens naturally for you.

    The exception I can think of for the rule of 'being yourself' is if there are words or expressions necessary for your work, that you find are pronounced totally differently. Use the official version for those, so there's no chance of misunderstanding that might mess up a work project.

  3. #3
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    Jul 2007
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    Christchurch, New Zealand
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    I've read that it takes an incredible amount of effort to change one's accent permanently. I envy those who can switch between multiple accents at will.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpjK5TUaqXQ

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by edwin5_9 View Post
    Should I just stick with American accent and hopefully locals will understand me??? Thanks.
    Don't worry - it's only Americans and the English who have problems understanding English language accents different from their own.

  5. #5
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    I've been here 7 years and a fellow expat was surprised to learn I was originally from 20 miles down the road from him. He's not lost his accent whereas I have apparently.

    I am surrounded by kiwis but this guy came here with his British family.

    My husband believes my accent changes when I'm on the phone to my parents but they think it's a strong New Zealand accent. I can't win either way!

    But yes, be yourself, any change will come naturally. It's more a case of using new phrases rather than changing your dialect.

  6. #6
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    Don't worry about the accent - Kiwis will understand you and you should, mostly, be able to figure out what they are saying.

    The main things to look out for are that, especially when talking to women, many sentences will sound like questions due to a rise in intonation at the end (it is true too with guys but not as pronounced - apparently women are responsible for the development and evolution of accents - men follow behind).

    Also there is often what I call irritable vowel syndrome where vowels in words get mixed up (so pen becomes pin, and fish becomes fush).

    The main thing that you may need to learn, depending on your job, is the correct way of spelling things as New Zealand words are written in English rather than American. Mostly a matter of putting in extra u's when words end with "or" in American (colour, harbour etc); and replacing z's with s's in words that end in "ize" (summarise etc).

  7. #7
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    Most accent changes are in the vowels rather than the consonants. I never try accents as I always sound Welsh....

    I'd say it's more helpful to pick up some of the terms than worrying about accents.

    Not sure of the Americanisms but some of the major UK ones are:

    flip flops - jandals
    crisps - chippies
    swimming costume - togs
    sweets - lollies

    There are probably loads more that you change over to, over time.

    Cheers

    Tia

  8. #8
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    Jun 2010
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    Quote Originally Posted by edwin5_9 View Post
    How do I drop American accent ...
    Don't worry at all! I only can underline what has already been written.

    BTW, there is actually nothing like an American accent, isn't it? Or do you deem accents from California, New England and Texas as the same? And would you really consider consciously changing your accent relocating from one these states to another? The unconscious adaptation in the new environment is really enough!

  9. #9
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    Jan 2010
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    Don't change a thing. Also remember that six in New Zealand sounds like sex so be careful!

  10. #10
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    May 2010
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    Oamaru, Otago
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    You could ask Madonna for some tips when it comes to learning how to change your accent... To my ear, nothing sounds cornier than someone trying to change his accent artificially. With time you may find that your accent modulates on its own, if only from learning how to adjust your vowels so that your conversational partners can understand you more readily.

    BTW, love the "irritable vowel syndrome" mentioned by one of the earlier respondents!

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