One of the things many people find difficult when they visit New Zealand is understanding the accent and pronunciation of the locals. English is the universally spoken language, and one of the three official languages (the other two are Maori and sign language). However, New Zealanders certainly have a unique accent that can be challenging to those who aren't familiar with it.
The New Zealand Accent
One gratifying aspect of "kiwi" English is that there are no regional dialects.
Apart from the people in the far south of the South Island rolling their r's a bit more, the accent is pretty much consistent throughout the country. Accents can be a little broader in rural areas (sounding a bit more like the Australians) but in general, it's all recognizable as being from New Zealand.
A Basic Pronunciation Guide
Mixing with the locals is something you definitely want to do when you are in New Zealand. Here are some guidelines on understanding the accent and pronunciation of specific words and phrases.
- The letter "o" can sometimes sound like "oi." For instance, "hello" can sound like "helloi" and "I know" sound like "I noi."
- The letter "e" can sound very broad. "Yes" can sound like "yeees" and "again" can sound like "ageen."
- On the other hand, the letter "e" can often sound like an "i."
- The letter "i" can sound like "u" (as in cup). For example, "fish and chips" can sound like "fush and chups."
If you want to get some practice on the New Zealand accent before you arrive, watch the comedy show, Flight of the Conchords. It's the story of kiwis in New York who make their mark on the Big Apple with their charming New Zealand accents (and remember that "Brit's" name is actually "Bret").
For more practice, take our New Zealand Language Quiz below.
Have fun meeting the locals!
Kiwi Pronunciation Quiz
What is the meaning of the following words typically spoken by New Zealanders? (Answers at the bottom).
- A geen
- Ah Noi
- Differ Cult
- Noi Zulland
(Quiz Answers: 1. again; 2. I know; 3. chicken; 4. kids; 5. difficult; 6. air; 7. left; 8. New Zealand; 9. six; 10. true)