Australians speak in an accent unique from that of Americans, Canadians, and even adjacent New Zealanders.
Here’s how to write an Australian accent:
You write an Australian accent by inferring an accent rather than excessively using slang terms or phonetic spelling. Less is more. Occasionally include an Australian expression and drop the “ING” from the end of words. Avoid Australian stereotypes that might confuse or irritate readers.
In this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know to write an Australian accent in your short story, fanfiction, novel, or screenplay.
How To Describe an Australian Accent? (Answered)
Let’s first look at how to describe an Australian accent in writing.
To do so, it’s helpful to know the three main types of Australian accents.
Linguists regard Australian accents and varieties to be a societal phenomenon rather than a regional phenomenon. For a very long time, the “Middle Australian” accent was the most common in the country.
By the mid-twentieth century, however, Middle Australian had been replaced by three distinct accents: broad, general, and cultivated.
The broad Australian English accent is most familiar to people outside of Australia.
This strong Australian accent is distinguished by slow communication, a much more nasopharyngeal pitch, and longer phonetic symbols.
For immigrants, this wide accent is perhaps the most recognizable one, yet it is not the most common dialect. Most Australians live in rural and isolated areas of the country.
The most frequent accent in Australia is general Australian English. This accent can be heard in most of the country’s suburbs. In addition, for most Australian media, television, and cinema, General Australian English is the mainstream accent.
This accent isn’t as strong as Broad Australian’s, but nasality and different pronunciations are still there.
Therefore, when writing Australian characters, think about where they come from and how their background might influence their accent.
Cultivated Australian English is similar to England’s Received Pronunciation in many aspects.
It does, however, preserve several characteristics that are distinctive to the Australian dialect.
Cultured Australian written form developed from the diction trend as a way to adhere to Conventional Modern English, albeit it is not generally used across the country.
Higher social classes are typically connected with cultured Australian English.
This is helpful to know when writing Australian characters. You can show their social class and contrast their written language with their spoken accent.
How To Write an Australian Accent (Expert Tips With Examples)
Although there are three different varieties of Australian dialects, most experts agree that they exist on a spectrum, with Broad Australian being on one extreme and Cultivated Australian being on the other.
We’ll look at how different letters and sounds are pronounced to provide a kind of “middle ground” between Broad and Cultivated Australian accents.
Master Australian Consonants
In general, consonants in Australian English are pronounced the same as they are in American English.
There are, however, some exceptions.
For example, Australian English is (usually) a non-rhotic language, similar to British English. This indicates that if the letter “R” appears in the last syllable of a word, it is normally silent. (For instance, “car” becomes “cah”)
The letter “T” in Australian English incorporates a softer sound, kind of like the Yankee “D.” The letter “T” is softened or deleted entirely.
As an example, the word “matter,” may sound a lot like “mehdduh” in Broad or General Australian.
Australian Vowels and Tone
When including an Australian character in your story, you’ll also want to learn to use diphthongs and nasality.
- Diphthongs—The syllables in the Australian accent grow broader as the accent expands. In fact, the vowels in Broad Australian are longer than in almost any other version of English. Diphthongs (the combination of two vowel sounds) are the most obvious example of this concept. The first sound in Australian English is usually significantly greater than the last.
- Nasality—Though it may not appear to have anything to do with pronunciation, nasality has a significant impact on how words sound. In Australian English, words have what experts refer to as a a higher nasal tone (which is different than oral resonance). The word “right,” for instance, has a different sound in US and Aussie English. This is because sound waves mainly occur in the nostril passageways.
Make an “aye” sound with your hard “a”. The strong A in “way” sounds almost like “eye.”
It’s a compound sound in the sense that we take start with an “A” and slip our tone into an “I”. When you get it correctly, your lips may migrate outward a little, flattening the “o”-shape your face produces for an “A”.
Here are some more examples:
- “Date” becomes “D-aye-t”
- “Hat” becomes “H-eht”=
- “That” becomes “Th-eht”
- “Cat” becomes “Ca-eht”
The Aussie accent frequently shortens words.
Words that end in an “ING” are chopped off, thus “catching” becomes “cat-chn.” This makes Australian English similar to casual American English in many aspects, a parallel that will help you write dialogue for your Australian characters.
- “Running” into “Runnin”
- “Eating” into “Eatin”
- “Ringing” into “Ringin”
How To Describe a Believable Australian Accent
When you write fiction, you want the reader to believe in your characters.
If readers don’t believe, they will get distracted, which takes them out of your story.
You write a believable Australian accent by dropping in slang terms and expressions, not overdoing the accent, and avoiding stereotypes.
Slang Terms and Expressions to Know
There are many slang terms and expressions used in Australian English, but only a few of them will be needed for your characters. For example, you might have a character say something like this: “Crikey! That bugger is heavy.”
Here are some common expressions:
- Crikey—Crikey is an expression that Australians use to mean “Wow!”, “Good grief!”, or “Oh no!”
- Bugger—Bugger is a word that Australians use for a close friend. It’s also used sometimes in place of the word, “Damn.” For example, you could write, “Bugger! I forgot my wallet.”
- Mate—Mate means friend. A person might say to another, “G’day, mate.”
- Heavy—Heavy means large or big. Your character might say, “Gee whiz! This thing is heavy.”
- Bloody—Bloody is an adjective that Australians use in place of the word “very”. For example, they might say, “Bloody cold out today.”
- Beaut—Beaut is a shortened form of the word “beautiful”, and it’s often used in place of the word, “great”. For example, someone might say, “Beaut! It’s not raining.”
- Bodgy—Bodgy is a slang way to say “sick or bad.” If someone doesn’t feel well, they might say, “I’ve got a bodgy cold.”
- Boozer—Boozer is a word Australians use to talk about a bar or pub, similar to the way that Americans use “bar” or “pub”.
- Corker—Corker is a word Australians use to mean something that’s really good. For example, they might say, “That was a real corker!”
For even more, check out this “heavy” list of Australian words and phrases.
Avoid Over Doing the Accent
Overdoing accents can be very distracting for readers.
It’s possible to write an Australian accent without overdoing it. Just include a few slang terms and expressions, but keep it subtle.
Here are two examples of an Australian accent that is over the top:
“G’day, mate! How are ya goin’? I’ve got this here heavy thing.”
“What’s ‘at? Where’s me boozer?”
It’s probably unnecessary to stuff Australian expressions into every line of dialogue. No one really talks like that—and even if they do, it’s rare.
Let the reader know the character is Australian, then sprinkle in an expression here and there.
Your reader’s imagination will take care of the rest.
When writing dialogue for your characters with Australian accents, avoid typing all their words as if you were typing them in an Australian accent.
You want to write Australian characters, not caricatures.
Avoid “over the top” characters who don’t exist in real life. Not every Australian lives in the outback and wrestles alligators for dinner.
The Best Way To Write an Australian Accent
The best way to learn how to write an Australian accent is to listen to Australians talk.
You can watch authentic Aussie videos, shows, movies.
Shows to watch:
- The Footy Show
- Home and Away
You can also watch YouTube videos about Australian accents. Here is a good video about the broad Australian accent:
Australian Accent App
You can also use websites and apps to help you write an Australian accent.
For example, you can use:
- Aussie Accenterator—This website automatically translates a small snippet of text into an Austrailian accent.
- Aussie English App—Learn Aussie English right from your phone.
- Accent Practice App—You can get this one from the Google play store.
You can also take more formal online training through websites like Berlitz.
Final Thoughts: How To Write an Australian Accent
The biggest mistake in writing any accent is to use too many expressions or phonetic spellings. One, two, or maybe three times is generally enough to get the accent across to your reader.
After that, you can “remind” your reader of the accent when they meet someone new.
Otherwise, you’re almost always better off leaving the accent up to your reader’s imagination.
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