Immigration New Zealand has recently posted some new articles on their website which are dedicated to “Keeping it Clear”, tips for those assisting migrants and students when providing information to an audience that is new to New Zealand. The articles point out that many newcomers to New Zealand are English speakers but the fastest growing groups come from countries that are not. The articles note that Kiwi English is often different to the English that newcomers know.

The Immigration New Zealand articles encourages speakers of Kiwi English to “get to the point”, to “use short sentences”, “use short words”, “reduce redundancies”, “stay consistent”, “junk the jargon”, “avoid contractions” and avoid “too much negativity”. Interesting advice!

The articles also remind readers of “the Kiwi context” and types of Kiwi slang which one should be aware of when speaking to those who are new to New Zealand. The articles remind readers that many words in common usage locally are derived from the Maori language, which would be completely foreign to newcomers. For example, “powhiri” and “haka”. The article also points out some other common “Kiwi-isms” to be aware of, namely:

  • “Yeah, nah” (a yes statement followed immediately by a no statement)
  • “Bach” (a Kiwi holiday home)
  • “Chilly bin” (a portable freezer)
  • “Dairy” (a convenience store)
  • “Getting off on the wrong foot” (starting a relationship badly)
  • “Throwing in the towel” (giving up on something)
  • … I could go on .

The fact that Kiwi English – and the Kiwi accent included – differs from the English spoken in many other countries is something that, yes, I can vouch for personally. Personally I have grown up and always lived in Auckland. Locally, people have no trouble knowing what I am talking about. But even in English speaking countries like Singapore, which I have visited, often people would find it difficult to understand my accent and “Kiwi-isms”. It was often important to speak more clearly and slowly than usual, otherwise I would be greeted with a confused look. I sometimes wondered if people thought I was a bit odd. For reasons such as this, on a work-related trip I did to Jakarta in Indonesia once I remember sitting in a departure lounge at Terminal 2 of Changi International Airport in Singapore and feeling a very long way from home. I must say it is not a space I particularly enjoyed or would want to go back to tomorrow or next week.

I can therefore confirm the relevance and importance of bearing in mind one’s own speaking background when communicating with newcomers to New Zealand. New Zealanders do have a reputation for being friendly and this suggests that on the whole we are reasonably good at making those from other parts of the world feel welcome. We can proud of ourselves for this.