Strewth! They don't talk Strine

August 11, 2006

Foreign students arriving in Australia are struggling with "Strine". They fail to understand the truncated words that render sentences meaningless to outsiders.

A survey of foreign students found that many were initially mystified by the way Australians speak. An Australian student might say to a friend from India: "Goodonya mite, owyergoinalright? Did you have brekkie before you came to uni? I couldn't make it yesterday cos I took a sickie but that was because of all the booze I drank at the footie."

Words such as, "brekkie" for breakfast, "sickie" for sick day and "footie"

for football are part of the truncation that international students find confusing, according to Peter Kell and Gillian Vogl of the University of Wollongong.

The researchers surveyed Arabic, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese and Taiwanese students. They noted that foreign students who learn a more formal English were unaware of the way local accents, fast speech and Australian colloquialisms would limit their understanding.

One student said she was once the only Asian in a group and did not understand a word of what was said because everyone talked slang.

"It is not only English language that prevents students from speaking and mixing with local students but also knowing what to speak about," the researchers say. "They also have more difficulty adjusting to the independent learning required in the West."

The prohibition on alcohol also makes it harder for students from Muslim backgrounds to mix with local students for whom drinking alcohol is part of campus culture.

The researchers conclude that foreign students often need less academic preparation and more help with developing cultural and lifestyle connections to help them understand Australian English.

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