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January 27, 2006 7:56 PM   Subscribe

How do I do a convincing New Zealander accent? And how do I do a convincing Australian accent? And how do I manage to not make them sound the same?
posted by Big Fat Tycoon to Grab Bag (22 answers total)
by doing them correctly?

The "i" and "a" sound is different in Australian and NZ English.
posted by dydecker at 8:27 PM on January 27, 2006

Try listening to these. Unfortunately, there's only one speaker from NZ represented...but it might help anyway.
posted by feathermeat at 8:30 PM on January 27, 2006, especially

It's quite funky resource, and it should get you started.
posted by Sparx at 8:30 PM on January 27, 2006

Kiwi a's are very nasal. It's hard to describe. Try listening to movies. Once you hear the difference you will never every confuse them.

(I am not a very good phonologist. Kiwis have fewer distinctive vowel sounds than any other group of native English speakers).
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:30 PM on January 27, 2006

posted by Sparx at 8:32 PM on January 27, 2006

Also this and this.
posted by feathermeat at 8:32 PM on January 27, 2006

As an aussie, I would imagine that this is kind of like the difficulty I once had in telling apart english and south african accents. I got over that only through becoming familiar with speakers of both. Without that kind of immersion, I would suggest that you start by learning phonetics, to the point where you can read the dictionary guides, and then find descriptions of the differences that you will be able to understand.

Here is a guy talking about his NZ-> US accent, and here is a phonetic guide to australian english. I couldn't see one for NZ in the first page of my google resuts, but I'm sure there's something out there.

If it's just for a party trick, this might be too much effort.
posted by jacalata at 8:45 PM on January 27, 2006

More examples "">here
posted by dydecker at 8:46 PM on January 27, 2006

uh, here
posted by dydecker at 8:47 PM on January 27, 2006

The Kiwi accents at the Otago Uni site are very broad Kiwi accents - the female one, especially. To my ear it sounded almost exaggerated ... much like Fred Dagg's accent, which may be what you're after anyway.
posted by malpractice at 9:15 PM on January 27, 2006

Pray tell, Big Fat Tycoon, what do you need to learn the accent for? Faking out a native (whoa, hard), faking out a foreigner (easy), etc?
posted by barnacles at 10:03 PM on January 27, 2006

Like the USA and the UK, there is not one accent, but many. Fortunately, not very many. :-)
With that in mind, maybe this visualization will help, ('cos I'm not going to try to describe the actual sounds :)

Draw a line. At one end is Urban New Zealand, at the other end is Urban Australia, and in the middle where they blend, is Rural New Zealand/Rural Australia.

Professional/educated Kiwi's tend to sound quite British (especially to Americans), your more average urbanite sounds typical-Kiwi, and the more rural you go, the more you get the stereotype accent ("Gidday mate").

Rural is where the kiwi and Aus accents meet - very rural kiwi is very similar to rural Aus ("Gidday mate" :-). Then as you progress back to urban (but this time Australian urban) you get the accents that are distinctively Australian.

That Crocadile Hunter guy obviously provides heaps of material for theSydney accent. Not sure where you'd turn for the rest.

I'm completely ignoring native ethnic/stereotype accents (ie the Maori and Aborigini) since it doesn't sound like that's what you're after.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:45 PM on January 27, 2006

Make a Brit accent slightly Aus for New Zealand, and go fully Aus for Australia?

Movie suggestions:

Peter Jackson's "Brain Dead" or "Dead Alive" for strong NZ accents (halfway between rural and urban)

"Strictly Ballroom" for Australia, note the accent difference between the older generation and young. The young generation is (from memory) closer sounding to NZ but still Aus.

"Whale Rider" for Maori.

And as Barnacles asks., what is the purpose? Because if the purpose allows you to drop in a few pre-rehersed terms, just putting in a bunch of local slang and phrases will get you a long way with making it recognizeable and distinctive (which is not the same as convincing :)

For totally over the top Aus slang and catchphrases, check out this animated short film: Cane Toad - What happened to Baz?, too over the top to be convincing, but clearly identifiable. So, err... maybe don't do that :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 10:58 PM on January 27, 2006

I met a Kiwi a few weeks ago who jokingly said that the key to the NZ accent is that Kiwis don't move their mouths when they talk.
posted by Robot Johnny at 11:57 PM on January 27, 2006

Response by poster: The purpose here isn't really for any specific reason, mostly curiosity. I used to go out with a girl from NZ and I can do fair British and Scottish accents, but whenever I tried to do my impression of a NZ accent, it would totally fall apart or sound like Crocodile-Dundee-stereotype-Australian unless I was actively trying to mimic something she just said.

As well, I'm looking more for verbal descriptions of the distinctions, hallmarks to look for in speech that distinguish the two accents, rather than actually trying to hear the distinctions myself. Obviously, I haven't really been able to figure out the distinctions just by my own listening, so I don't know if those links to native speakers would really help anymore than the exposure I've already had to real, live native speakers.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 12:36 AM on January 28, 2006


There are other differences, but the standard test phrase is "fish and chips" - kiwis say "fush and chups", aussies "feesh and cheeps". Google those spellings and you'll find a fair bit has been written on this question.

Other than those short i's I (a kiwi living in oz) really notice the way (most) australians pronounce their long a'a (as in "dance") the way americans do, while kiwis pronounce them like the english.


An Australian couple once told me about their experience at a NZ airport - a would be passenger rushed up to them in a panic and asked in an urgent and perfectly serious tone "where's the chicken counter". They were not able to assist him.

posted by Canard de Vasco at 1:42 AM on January 28, 2006

Differences between accents in English are all about the vowels, for the most part. Start from there, work up to rhythm and intonation, top it off with regional idiom.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:56 AM on January 28, 2006

Note that the Australian accent generally falls into three types: the "Broad" Australian accent (think Steve Irwin) is a slowly disappearing species -- as urban and younger Australians generally all switch to the "Standard" or "General" form; the "Cultivated" (English-sounding) form is slowly disappearing too. If you've seen/heard Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman or Russell Crowe (even though he's a Kiwi) interviewed, they're pretty good examples of the Standard accent.

Also note that there's very little regional variation in the Australian accent, or at least nothing remotely comparable to the variation across the UK or US.

For more info, see this FPP on the blue from a couple of years back (my post and a post from a Kiwi), this article on the decline of the Broad accent, a very handy table showing the major vowel identifiers of the Broad accent, and an excellent academic article covering all of the above (including Australians' tendency to modify their accent depending on to whom they are speaking).

Best source of examples of current Australian accents would be any of ABC Radio's streams. Pick Local Radio or News Radio for more talking than music.
posted by bright cold day at 5:02 AM on January 28, 2006

"...there's very little regional variation in the Australian accent..."

I'd have to agree; having moved to Canberra (where most people are from someplace else) I've discovered that there's more difference in what's said (names for things) than how it's said.

One exception would have to be South Australians, as some can sound very British. Upon meeting his now wife, a good mate of mine asked her how long she'd been in Australia; she was from Adelaide.
posted by d-no at 3:14 PM on January 28, 2006

Another thing to keep in mind is that kiwis tend to talk fast, amongst themselves at least. Faster than Aussies, definitnaly faster than Canadians. Which can be pretty impressive given the non-moving lips thing that can accompany a broad kiwi accent.

Australian voices are often higher pitched, both male and female. I was over there recently and was very surprised at how light in tone many of the male voices were, particularly compared to what I'm used to in NZ (and yes, I was amused by it). NZ has the exagerrated masculine rugby culture going on where a deep growl (maaaaate) isn't unusual.

Both countries are also notorious for being good at the rising inflection, that making it into a question thing (going up at the end of sentances). I don't hear it a lot myself but I could be immune.

The Otago Uni site liked above is great. I'm now tempted to make my own recording to add variety to the voices.

Lastly: I've heard it said Anthony Hopkins' kiwi accent in The World's Fastest Indian is great. It isn't. It really isn't.
posted by shelleycat at 6:13 PM on January 28, 2006

If TV and movies are any sort of guide, you won't be able to do a convincing version of either accent.

(For bad examples of Australian accents, see Lost. Jesus they're bad.)
posted by The Monkey at 4:12 AM on January 29, 2006

I second the rising inflection?

BTW: Don't say anything about putting a shrimp on the barbie. It's lame and boring and Australians don't really say it.
posted by azuma at 2:52 AM on July 3, 2006

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