Language is an interesting animal. You think that you speak English, understand it well, and can communicate fluently. That is until you arrive in another part of the world. I thought I had a good grasp on accents. I could understand most Caribbean accents, British, Irish, and some ESL accents such as Indian and Chinese.
Then I moved here and it’s a whole new ball game. New Zealanders can’t understand North American slang and you can’t even understand some regular words.
It’s not only the kids. I once had a co-worker talk to me about “Neets.” I had no idea what she was saying, even in context. I finally figured out she was talking about “nits” and sharing hats by trying to reply to her. Also some words that are a no-no in North America are quite common here.
You don’t say bathroom or washroom. You say toilet, otherwise you get funny looks. Restroom is borderline as some shops (not stores) have restroom signs. Of course I once said I’m going to the toilet on a visit to Indiana and got told that it was a bit rude (I’ll never win). The word rubber means eraser. You really do have to get used to hearing the children say “Pass me the rubber please.” Some other common changes in school land are:
- It’s not recess; it is morning tea.
- It’s not Gym but P.E.
- We aren’t substitutes or subs; we’re relievers
- Vice Principals are Deputy Principals.
And the most annoying to me personally? Maths. Now the long word in both countries is Mathematics as you are learning more than one type, but in North America we shorten the word by removing the rest of the word. So you get Math. I’ve been saying Math all through going to school myself as well as when teaching so I naturally say Math, not Maths. But here in New Zealand they shorten the word by removing most of the word but keep the fact that it is plural so you get Maths. The first time I had a child put up their hand to correct me, I didn’t think anything of it. I thought it would be something that I could remember easily, but let me tell you, it’s hard, I’ve been “corrected” a number of times. And sometimes I think they just want to get away from doing the work. One time I told the kids that it doesn’t matter how it’s pronounced they still have to do it! And it doesn’t help that my husband, the New Zealander, says, “Well you know honey, they’re right.” Grrrr. The new funny word I say to date? Inquiry.