If you have ever conversed with an American or an Australian, you know that the two accents are very different. Although both nations base their language on British English, details about accents and vocabulary are vital to know, especially if you plan to learn both accents.
Many students wonder what the difference is between Australian and American English, and how they are different from the English spoken in Great Britain. Indigenous and historical elements helped to create the languages we know today.
A Brief Look at How the Languages Evolved
- British English evolved into one of the most difficult and complex languages in part as a way to differentiate classes. The complicated rules were to showcase the French influence on English; at the time, France was the epitome of a high-class society in Europe. As well as this, England was conquered over the centuries by various other peoples whose original languages influenced English.
- The British colonized North America in the early 1600s, and the colonists maintained British English until after the American Revolution ended in 1783. The former colonists sought to standardize their language constructs to depart from Great Britain’s influence. The General American accent as we know it today, is also a result of the influence of the major migrant groups that settled in America.
- Australia was colonized by Great Britain starting in 1788. While British English strongly influenced the bulk of the language and accent, the indigenous people’s influence has also shaped the language.
Six Ways American and Australian English Differ-
One of the first differences one notices between American and Australian accents is how certain words are pronounced. One prominent example is how Americans pronounce the letter “r” very clearly and distinctly. On the other hand, Australians often drop the “r” sound entirely if there’s a vowel before the “r”. So, the words bar, bear, jar, form, and bird, sound very different depending on which accent you are hearing.
Another good example of pronunciation differences is the “o” vowel sound. American speakers tend to pronounce the “o” sound as “ah” as in “father.” Australians use a more round-lipped “o” sound similar to the British “o” sound.
Another key variation is in the intonation patterns of the two accents. American English speakers tend to have a more “sing-song” quality to their phrases. You will likely notice the rising and falling intonations that can make statements sound more like questions. This is often a tricky point with non-native speakers. On the other hand, Australian English has a flatter intonation pattern with less variation in pitch.
The differences in spelling between American and Australian English are relatively minor. For example, the use of the letters “s” and “z” is very different. Americans use the letter “z” in words like “stabilize” or “analyze”. However, Australians will spell these words “stabilise” and “analyse”. The same is true for using the letter “u” in some words. Americans tend to use the spelling “color” while Australians use “colour.” Australians and Americans diverge on the use of “er” as in the American spelling “center,” while Australians use “centre.”
4. Regional Variations
It is important to note that both American and Australian English have regional variations within their respective countries, though the regional variations in Australian English are small. In a previous post, we discussed American regional accents and the differences between the Northeast, South, and Midwest parts of the United States.
In Australian English the accent difference is more whether the accent is more broad or less broad- whether the vowels are stretched out more or not.
5. Pop Culture Influence
It is easy to see that American English has had a significant impact on global pop culture. The influence is seen across all types of media, including music, video games, sports broadcasts, movies, and television. This has resulted in a significant familiarity with American accents around the world. Whereas, the Australian accent is not as easily recognized across the globe due to less saturation. However, the Australian accent is pleasantly unique and is beloved by many.
American and Australian English are based on British English, yet there are a large number of vocabulary differences between the two accents. The differences can impede communication occasionally, but speakers of the languages tend to sort out various meanings easily. For example, Americans tend to use the word “trunk” to refer to the storage compartment in the back of a car, while Australians use the word “boot”. Americans also use the word “gasoline” to refer to the fuel for cars, while Australians use the word “petrol”.
Glossary of Australian Words and American Equivalents
While by no means comprehensive, here is a substantial list to give you an idea of the differences between Australian and American English. The word on the left is the Australian word.
Ace = Excellent
Ahmachizit=How much is it
Ambo = Ambulance Officer or a Paramedic
Ang on = wait a moment
Anklebiters = Little children
Arvo = Afternoon
Average = Below average, subpar, actually pretty bad
Avo = Avocado
Barney = Argument
Bodgy = Also of poor or low quality
Bonnet = Front hood
Boot = Trunk
Cab Sav = Cabernet Sauvignon
Cark it = to die
Carpark = Parking lot or parking garage
Chardy = Chardonnay
Chewy = Chewing gum
Chook = Chicken
Crust (as in makes a good crust) = Earns a good living
Cuppa = Cup of tea or coffee
Dill = Someone not very bright
Esky = Ice cooler
Footpath = Sidewalk
Fossick = to search for something
Good Onya = Good for you
Hairdryer = Stationery police radar gun
Ooray = Goodbye
Hooroo = Goodbye
Hubby = Husband
Juice = Fuel, petrol
Jumper = Sweater
K’s = Kilometers
Lippy = Lipstick
Loo = Toilet
Missus = Wife
Pelmet = Window valance
Postie = Postman
Preggas = Pregnant
Ratbag = Troublemaker
S’arvo = This afternoon
Sanga = Sandwich
Shopping trolley = Shopping cart
Speedo = Speedometer
Straya = Short for Australia
Strewth = An Aussie exclamation, meaning “it’s the truth.”
Stubby = Bottle of beer
Ta = Thank you
Tar = Asphalt
Too Right Mate = That’s right
Top Drop = Good beer or wine
True Blue = Original or authentic
Ute = Open-backed utility vehicle like a pickup truck
Winge = To complain
Yank = American
Yonks ago = A long time ago