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Tasks: English Down Under


Below is a short quiz about Australian English and Australia in general. You will find some of the answers in the text that you have just read, but not all of them ...

Listen and discuss:

Linguists often divide the Australian accent into three: Broad, General and Cultivated accents. However, it is important to remember that this is a continuum and not fixed categories, and you will find great variations within each category.

Illustration: Australian English. We see a blue arrow pointing both left and right. Above the arrow, on the left-hand side we read the text ‘Broad English’, in the middle ‘General English’ and to the right ‘Cultivated English’. Illustration.
Åpne bilde i et nytt vindu

Below, you will find links to videos of five Australians with different Australian accents. Listen to the accents and try to point out their differences and similarities.

  1. Where would you place these accents on the Australian English continuum, ranging from Broad to Cultivated?

  2. What are the main differences between the accents? Pay attention to the use of vowels and diphthongs. Do any of them use any slang or diminutives?

  3. Australian English is often described as having very distinct and pronounced diphthongs. Listen to how Hugh Jackman pronounces 'Australia' and 'Australian'. How would his pronunciation differ from someone from England, for example?

  4. Imagine that Steve Irwin and Cate Blanchett switched accents. Would it change the way you view them? Can an accent express more than just the words that are used in a conversation?

Key to question 1:

Cultivated accent: Geoffrey Rush and Cate Blanchett

General accent: Hugh Jackman

Broad accent: Julia Gilliard and Steve Irwin, with the latter being the broadest.

Find out:

Just like other variants of English, Australian English has its fair share of idiomatic expressions. Below you will find a list of idioms. Discuss with a partner what you think the idioms mean, then use the internet to look up the meaning.

  1. to have a Captain Cook

  2. a few sandwiches short of a picnic

  3. a fair crack of the whip

  4. wrap your laughing gear 'round that

  5. go off like a frog in a sock

  6. a few kangaroos loose in the top paddock

  7. mad as a cut snake

  8. I could eat a horse and chase the rider

  9. face like a smashed crab

  10. going off like a bucket of prawns in the sun


Would you understand it if someone told you that "S'arvo me and my mates from Brissy are gettin’ together to have a barbie and watch the footy" or "For brekkie I had an avo, a sanga and a couple of bikkies"?

Diminutives are an important part of Australian English and are used by practically every Australian on a regular basis. These are not words you would include in a formal text, but if you ever visit Australia, knowing a few of them would be useful.

It's time to practice your diminutives:

  1. Individual work: Write 10 sentences using as many Australian diminutives as you can. If you are able to, make your sentences into a coherent text.
    The websites below have lists of Australian diminutives:

    Link to Wikipedia: Diminutives in Australian English
    Link to Wikiwand: Diminutives in Australian English

  2. In pairs or small groups: read the sentences aloud and have the others guess the meaning of the sentences.

  3. If you were to visit Australia, which of these diminutives do you think it would be useful to know?

Relatert innhold

CC BY-SASkrevet av Karin Søvik.
Sist faglig oppdatert 20.03.2021


Varieties of English