Taking a closer look down under

31-Jan-2013

When we think about teaching English, I’m sure a lot of teachers would turn to Britain or the US as their focus points for language, dialect and culture. It’s sometimes easy to forget that English is also the daily language in countries like Canada, South Africa and dozens of islands in the Pacific and the Caribbean. One place that is often left off the agenda in English teaching is one of world’s most popular destinations – the world’s sixth largest country, which celebrated its national holiday on Saturday – Australia, mate!

Some of your students might be interested in spending some time studying or working in Australia to improve their English, and even if they aren’t, using the Antipodes as a basis for a class might be a refreshing change. (This goes without saying for those of you who are actually teaching in Australia!)

Despite its enormity and its deserts, coral reefs, beautiful beaches and exotic wildlife, Australia still has close links to the UK both culturally and linguistically. Queen Elizabeth II might still be the Head of State, but with Canberra’s situated 17,000km away from her London home, Australia definitely has striking differences to the rainy plains of England and its reserved population.

The “land down under” is also associated with cricket, cork hats, Foster’s beer, shrimps on the barbie and kangaroos and koalas. Why not have a look at this BBC article on common misconceptions people have about Australia, which is in fact a complex country with cosmopolitan cities and its own distinct ways of life. There’s even a web project on Macmillan English Campus, Culture and Recreation in Australia to get students used to doing research on the internet in English and then presenting it.

And it’s not just the culture. Australian is an officially recognised strain of English, despite its similarities to British English, and has its own distinctive pronunciation and vocabulary. Its relatively informal style means that Australians use a range of slang words which could be fun to introduce to your students.

Some of my favourites taken from Australian soaps, films and comedies that are popular in the UK as well as snippets of conversation overheard from the thousands of Australian who’ve come to settle in London include:

  • Ripper – great
  • Bogan –a pejorative word to describe someone of a lower class
  • Flaming galah – ‘You fool.’ I was told recently that this isn’t actually used all that often but it’s very satisfying to say.

The Australian government even has a nice e-book and the University of Tasmania a website dedicated to helping newcomers get used to asking “How are you going?” and talking about blokes, grog and squizzes with their new mates. These could be very nice introductions to a different type of English for your students and a reminder that English isn’t restricted to the US and the UK.

Peter

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