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.