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Non-English speaking migrants catch on quickly to Aussie lingo

A report finds non-English speaking migrants adapt quickly to Australia idioms. Source: AAP

The unique Australian lexicon can be confusing for the uninitiated, but new research has actually found non-English speaking migrants pick up the local dialect quicker than their English-speaking counterparts.

Fair shake of the sauce bottle. Blow the froth off a few. Carrying on like a pork chop.

They are turns-of-phrase that can be baffling for many - not least of all those who are freshly-arrived in the country.

The origins of such curious terms have been lost to most in the mists of time.

But it appears those without an English-speaking background are not at all scared to jump into this linguistic melting pot.

Researchers at the Australian National University's School of Literature, Language and Linguistics have found migrants learning English as their second language use these Aussie words and phrases at the same rate as Australian-born people.

Lead study author Dr Ksenia Gnevsheva said participants were shown 50 items that have distinctly Australian or American references. 

"All of these objects have different names in Australian and English and American-English - For instance the ice cooler - you would call it 'esky' in Australia and Americans would probably call it a cooler. Or lollies and candy, flip-flops versus thongs, and so on and so forth, " she told SBS News.

The study involved testing four groups of people living in Australia: native Russian speakers whose first working exposure to the English language was here, American migrants who experienced Australian English as their second English dialect, native Russian speakers who had lived in America before coming to Australia; and native Australian speakers.

While the American group adopted the Australian descriptor for the object just 20 per cent of the time, according to Dr Gnevsheva, as many as 8 out of 10 Russians speaking English as their second language opted for the Australianisms.

"Their language was actually more malleable than that of native speakers of English - the American English speakers - because they acquired and used more Australian English words, " she said.

"There is no such an emotional connection to words for the second language speakers. It's all about communication. They use the words that first come to mind."

In a second test, the same four groups listened to words spoken in Australian and American accents and were asked if they were real or not. 

Once again, the group with English as a second language was best at identifying them correctly - more evidence of their ability to adapt.

And what of Dr Gnevsheva's own linguistic preferences when it comes to the local dialect?

"My favourite Australianism, I think it's 'lollies'," she laughs. "I like the word  'lollies'. I like the way it sounds."

 

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