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  • My Adventures As A Pinoy Mom Learning To Speak Australian English

    I learned that you have to speak like a local so they would understand you.
    by Tess B. Angala .
My Adventures As A Pinoy Mom Learning To Speak Australian English
PHOTO BY Pixabay, @Kritchanut/iStock
  • Unlike other Pinoy families on the verge of moving to non-English-speaking countries, I was pretty confident before my family of four migrated to Australia 12 years ago. There was no language barrier to fear because Australians speak English, too – although I later learned that they have a unique way of saying things.

    In the beginning, whenever I would try speaking Australian English, I would always slip back to my Filipino-American accent. Eventually, I learned you have to speak like a local so they would understand you. I’ve had to learn the local slang and get used to it. I knew there was a learning curve so I prepared myself to know some useful words other than greeting them, “G’day mie-t” (Good day, mate). 

    When I moved to ‘Straya (Australia), I thought I’d read enough. One of the first things I’ve had to learn was how to pronounce the names of places correctly: Mel-bin (Melbourne), Bris-bin (Brisbane), Can-bra (Canberra), and Cans (Cairns), to name a few. Aussies (Australians) mostly skip their R’s if it’s in the middle. Some werds (words) are replaced with h, like Mah-k (Mark) or Mah-vel (Marvel). But you will not hear it at the end of the word, as with wo-tah (water), fo (for/four) or din-nah (dinner).

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    One time, I had to drop off my kids at skewl (school), my daughter at primary (elementary) and my son at kindy (kindergarten), before doing my groceries. The kindy tee-cha (teacher) greeted “How ah you doin?” (How are you doing?) 

    Me: I’m good. Yourself? 

    T: Not bad. Thanks.

    Me: Ok. See ya lay-tah (See you later)!

    Locals are generally friendly and appreciate small talk.

    Then I went to Woolies (Woolworths) and started shopping. I needed some milk, eggs, bread, bikkies (biscuits), chockies (chocolates) and yowe-ghut (yoghurt) for the kids. I gathered some disposable plates, serviettes (napkins) and cutlery (forks and knives) because I had some mums (mothers, not the flower) and bubs (babies), coming over that arvo (afternoon).

    Got everything I needed and went to check out. The lady said “How waz yaw daaey bean (How has your day been)?”

    Me: Not so bad. How about you?


    L: Good. Thanks.

    Me: Do you know where I can get some ice?

    L: Eyes?

    Me: Yes. Ice.

    L: Oh you mean oise. Ovah theya (Over there).

    Me: Noise (nice). Thanks heaps.

    L: No worries. 

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    I put all my shopping in the boot (trunk) and the oise in the esky (plastic insulated container). I was supposed to go to the servo (service station) to get petrol (fuel) for my cah (car), but my mobile rang and one of my mum friends said “Hi Tess. Do you wanna meet up for cuppa?”

    Me: Er, sho (sure).

    Her: Ok, I’ll meet you at Maccas at half past ten (10:30).

    Me: Ok. See ya.

    I googled quickly for cuppa and Maccas – which turned out to be coffee and McDonald’s. Ok, that was easy peasy (very simple).

    At the McCafe register: “Can I get a long black (black coffee) please? Plus one shoo-gah (sugar). Ta (Thank you).”


    Girl: Iz dat ohl you’re having? (Is that all you’re having?)

    Me: Yes. I had a big brekky (breakfast).

    Wow. I could get the hang of this. 

    My friend was waiting for me. We chatted for a while and I got an invite.

    Her: So let’s meet for barbie?

    Me: Sorry, I don’t know any Barbie.

    Her: No, I mean barbeque.

    Me: Oh that. Sho. We’ll be theya (there).

    Her: Great. See ya.

    Now, I have to remember that locals love a barbie over the weekend. It will be overflowing with amber fluid (beer) and steaks. I started to enjoy lamb and kangaroo — for steaks of course.

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    Got home. I chucked (threw) all my bags on the flo (floor) and turned on the telly (television). I tried to be organised (Aussies change the spelling from z to s) and prepare my kids’ stuff for swim class: bathers (swimsuit), thongs (sandals), tow’l (towel), goggles, and a change of clothes. That’s all set for tomorrow. 


    Cleared all my washing (laundry) and cluh-ta (clutter), lest people might reckon (think) I’m messy or a bogan (uncool/unrefined). Just had to keep things in order. 

    Then the time came to pick up the kids. Kindy first. My son just showed me his aht-werk (artwork). Me: Good on ya, mate. High five! Then we were off to my daughter’s school. I got everybody on board by now and needed to get ready before the guests arrive. 

    I love the sight of little kids all mucking around (playing games/being foolish) and I was surprised I’m extra chatty (talkative) today. It’s a lovely get-together after all. No whinging (complaining) heeya (here). Everybody seemed to be having a bluhst (blast).

    I’m stuffed (exhausted) by the end of the day, but my kids are still hungry even if they stuffed themselves with meat pies and snags (sausages) earlier. So I took the chook (chicken) out of the fridge and got it ready for baking.


    I am fascinated that my daughter can switch from Australian accent at school to American accent at home seamlessly. Either way, our little family can figure out everything we say to each other. They even indulge me in my humor and my Filipino English. 

    Mum, what’s for dinner? 

    Me: Roast Cheee-ken

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    Some more Aussie slangs

    Fair dinkum - express genuineness or truth of something

    Budgies - swimming trunks

    Sunnies - sunglasses

    Uni - university

    Veggies - vegetables

    Wonky - something unstable

    Dodgy - something not quite right

    Bloke - male

    Sheila - female

    Ace - excellent 

    Buggered - tired

    Barrack - support a sports team

    Fair go - give someone an equal chance

    Jumper - sweater

    Rip off - to cheat

    Yakka - work

    Take a sickie - take a day off work

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