They’ll tell you it’s English. Some words will even sound familiar.
But make no mistake about it, there’s an art to understanding what New Zillunders are saying. From the unique, yet hard-to-pronounce towns that dot this gorgeous country to the everyday words and phrases, a locum tenens here is an adventure in many things, including Kiwi-speak.
Always incredibly friendly folks, New Zillunders will greet you with a smile, but don’t expect a hello; rather, you’re likely to get a Kia Ora or a Gidday! Both expressions are good. Kia Ora is a Maori greeting that literally means be well or healthy or simply hello. Gidday, well it speaks for itself Down Under (yes, even in New Zillund).
Some simple pronunciation and oral comprehension tips will go a long way toward making your locum adventure a great one. Allow us
to share a few basics.
#1 - End your sentences with high-rising intonation
Listen closely to the friendly New Zillunder: When Kiwis speak, nearly everything they say sounds like a question. That’s right, nearly everything they say sounds like a question? And if you don't use the same inflection, you risk sounding a bit bossy! Or bored...Kiwi-speak merely suggests someone think about it?
#2 - It’s all in learning the lilt
The best way to explain this one is to give you a few expressions to try out. Read each word aloud as we’ve spelled them here; with some repetition you’ll be speaking like New Zillunder in no time.
Fear hear - Blonde
Pits - Domestic animals like cats and dogs
Ear - What we breathe
Duffy cult - Not easy
Brudge - A structure built over water
Fush - Creatures that live in water
Min - Opposite of a woman
Lift - Departed
Bun button - What you exclaim when an insect just struck (I’ve bun button!)
#3 - The “Wha” in Kiwi-speak is usually (but not always) the “Fha” sound
As you travel throughout the North Island in search of skydiving, bungee jump-offs, or Zorbing adventures you’re likely to pass towns with some rather funny names like Whakatane and Whangarei. Remember the Wha = Fha rule and soon you’ll be asking a Kiwi to point you in the direction of Fha-ka-tau-nē and Fhaung-a-ray. Other cities like Whangamata and Whangaparoa are a little more challenging, but apply this rule and you’ll be a pro in no time.
#4 - The long and short of things makes a difference
Knowing when your a’s are aaaaa’s, and when your i’s are eeee’s will go a long way to making you a fluent New Zillunder. For instance, let’s make a couple of stops on the South Island.
Dunedin: Here, it’s all a matter of syllables. Elongate uuu and stretch the eee, until you’ve taken what you thought was a two syllable word, Dun-din, and made it into the correct Kiwi three, Duuu-neee-den.
Oamaru: Whereas you might be tempted to elongate this word into four syllables and say, O-aam-a-roo, you’re invited to spit the word out in under two: Ohmroo.
Try your new skills on these town names:
Te Awamutu (Te-awa-muta)
Te Puke (Tay-poo-kay)
#5 - Beware the expression: Somewhere Near Taupo
When you ask for directions from Kiwi locals, you’ll quickly learn that nearly everything is just down the road, just over the hill or (even worse) just next door. DO NOT BELIEVE THEM. Kiwis figure that anywhere you go in their tiny country is a short distance — compared to places on large continents like America or Australia — or Somewhere Near Taupo. You’ll hear these three words a lot. We suggest you consult a GPS to calculate real distances.
One last challenge: Most Kiwis refer to this town near Southern Hawke’s Bay as Taumata, but its real name is also reputedly the longest place name in the world and goes something like this: Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu. According to legend and The Guiness Book of World Records, Taumata is "the place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid,climbed, and swallowed mountains, known as landeater, played his flute to his loved one."
Nice legend, but even with Kiwi-speak down pat, the town's 85-character name is quite a handful to call, not to mention spell. If you return from a locum with this one in your repertoire, congratulations, you know Kiwi-speak. Pat yourself on the back, New Zillunder.
Have a Kiwi-speak tip or story of your own? Let us hear 'em.
*Watch how to pronounce Taupo now; if you think New Zillunder pronunciation is difficult, you’re not alone!