Australia Through its Languages

When Barack Obama goes abroad, he has a knack of disarming the locals by quoting from the local language. Even if the locals speak English. In Australia, he won laughs for his (slightly off) rendering of expressions like spot on, chinwag and ear bashing.

So, what better time to consider Australia’s languages, and its use of English? Australia is, of course, home to a great diversity (though not so great these days) of Aboriginal languages. For decades,  white Australians either ignored these languages or actively tried to eliminate them. Only recently have Australians begun to embrace these languages as a central part of the country’s culture.

On the pod, three Australians talk about this and other language-related issues: novelist and historian Thomas Keneally, opera singer and composer Deborah Cheetham and historical novelist Kate Grenville. As well as the discussion of the history and  fate of Aboriginal languages,  bush ranger Ned Kelly is remembered for a choice turn of phrase ( “a parcel of big ugly fat-necked wombat-headed big-bellied, magpied-legged, narrow-hipped, splay-footed sons of Irish bailiffs or English landlords”).

This discussion was first broadcast on the BBC’s Start the Week. There’s a podcast version here. It’s always a must-listen.

For some more Aussie English, curated of the great Australian poet Les Murray, check out this previous pod/post.

Listen via iTunes or here.


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1 Comment

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One response to “Australia Through its Languages

  1. Karla P.

    Karla A. Perez-paz
    NVCC
    CST 229 Intercultural Communications

    After reading the article on Australia and listening to the pod, I found out that the world is now putting more value on culture. A decade ago it was a must to learn the English language and to understand how to communicate with other nations that don’t have English as their first or second language. I find it very interesting that Australia is now trying to regain its cultural richness by restoring their native language. This shows that Australia does have a multicultural background besides being known for the Kangaroos, sunny skies and funny accents. I would sure hope to see that countries like Australia where English is the primary language, show the world ancestral culture.

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