You've read a few articles about New Zealand being one of the best country in the world to visit (written by a New Zealander of course) and you want to check it out. You know is it is somewhere near the bottom of planet, close to the Island of the Kangaroos, and that our accents sound like a weird mix of English and Australian. Well here is some more information on what you might hear when you're visiting New Zealand.
There are three official languages in New Zealand; English, Maori and NZ Sign language. If you know how to speak English, then you’re in luck as almost all of us speak it. The problem is sometimes you'll understand the words we're using but still wont have a clue what we're saying. No doubt you will encounter some local phrases which may prove rather confusing. We share many with Australia, however I am not about to start a Trans-Tasman argument over who used them first.
Related somewhat and worthy of mention is our sense of humour. If you want to visit New Zealand, then be aware New Zealanders speak quite casually and have a good natured, cheeky charm. We use humour to defuse situations and to make people feel welcome. We generally tease the people we like more than anyone else!
Here is a list of expressions you may hear as you are travelling through New Zealand (and possibly Australia). Give some of them a try!
New Zealand has integrated a lot of Maori into its every day language. While fluent Maori is not commonly spoken, most New Zealanders understand a few common phrases, though may be uncomfortable responding.
A Note on Pronunciation
People commonly butcher the pronunciation of Maori words, so here's a few pointers.
- 5 vowels, 8 consonants, 2 digraphs. That's it.
- The vowels are similar to Spanish.
- Vowels can be combined to form diphthongs, where the sounds merge into one.
- 'R' is rolled, again similar to Spanish, though softer. More like the letter 'D' than the long rolled 'R' in Spanish.
- There are long and short vowel sounds, similar to Latin. I'm sure everyone reading this has studied Latin, so you'll all know the long vowel sound is indicated by a macron over the letter. Emphasis is usually on this vowel and syllable.
- 'Wh' has different sounds depending on which dialect you are using. I pronounce it as 'Ff'. Others pronounce it as a 'W'.
- 'Ng' is pronounced as it is in English, like at the end of Sing.
There you go. You are armed with some knowledge, ready to chat to Kiwis.