Two Nations Divided by a Common Language

In Communicating, The Art of Travel Spring 2015, Sydney by Megan Cutaran1 Comment

I once heard that the US and Australia are “two nations divided by a common language.” I figured that could not be true. It had to be easier than going to Spain or China. I mean, we do speak the same language after all! After the time I have spent here, though, I do stand corrected.

Before I left, my dad asked if they even speak English in Australia. Okay, yes, that was a dumb question, but they do speak a very different form. They have funny sayings that are hard to determine the meaning of. For example: the dunnie is the toilet, the next shout means the next round of drinks, and having a root is not something that is PG-13 rated, if you can get what I am saying. If you ask for a “to go” box, they stare at you blankly. It is called a take away box here. The check is the bill, coffee is a flat white, and so on. I actually do find it a bit difficult to communicate with others. They have such different terms that if I ask for something specific, I find myself talking slower and more descriptively, as if I was trying to speak English in a country with a different language.

I have to admit, I probably have it easy compared to the students studying in Shanghai, Florence, or any of the other NYU sites. In fact, I really do not have any complaints because the people here sound so much cooler than the people at home! Australian accents really are the best sounding accents, in my opinion. It is funny though, because after discussing the accents with Australians, they do not like their accents. They think they sound lazy when they talk, and they appreciate the crisp sounds of the British and American accents. It really is all about perspective. People like what is different, so I have to remember that just how I value the Australian accent, people value the American accent. It is actually a great conversation starter. People hear my friends and I chatting, and they say oh Americans! Where are you from? It is a perfect way to connect with others and learn more about the new home I am living in.

I definitely want to further engage with the culture here and test out using more of the Australian slang used commonly here. I think it will be interesting to come back and use their figures of speech with my friends and get their take on it. It will also be interesting to further see what figures of speech we have in common. I am enjoying the comparison and contrast between the similar yet very different versions of the English language.


  1. Hi, Megan! I really enjoyed reading your post and gaining a small insight into Australian slang, which I’ve always found interesting. I think that when most people think about Australia, a language barrier is definitely not the first thing that jumps to mind. Sure, we’re aware that Australians and Americans have wildly different accents, but a lot of people–myself included–probably underestimate how difficult it can be to communicate with people who supposedly speak the same language as we do. I’d be interested to see if Australian phrases start slipping unnoticed into your everyday vernacular.

    P.S. Australian accents are my favorite, too!

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