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7 Specifics of English in New Zealand Visitors Should Know

English is nearly universally spoken in New Zealand and is its primary national languages, but due to the variations in meanings and unique acronyms, expressions and phrases, foreign visitors especially those from the US tend often to be confused by these linguistic challenges. This article aims to help them ensure a smoother travel.


Since the late 18th century, New Zealand had been visited by American as well as European fishing, whaling and trading ships. While sailors and explorers from Europe and America also settled here too, the first batch of settlers were former convicts or escaped convicts hailing from Australia. The variation of the UK English spoken in New Zealand is called New Zild. And as far as American English is concerned, there is no uniform thing as American English as it varies from region to region. For instance, the New England accent is different from that of Michigan. Research writers from Usessaywriters share some points on the uniqueness of the English in New Zealand and how it differs from the US and that of the UK:

  • Ethnic interchange An important factor that makes the English in New Zealand  different from that of other places is the numerous words that were borrowed from the Polynesian Maori tribes which had which had settled in New Zealand nearly a thousand years prior to the Europeans and American settlers. In fact, hundreds of places in New Zealand have been named in Maori. Some of the well-known Maori words are: wai (water), haka (dance), pakeha (European), tapu (sacred; it’s the root word for the English word ‘taboo’), whare (house), and utu (revenge).
  • Some New Zealanders will often speak with an HRI (High Rising Terminal) which make their statements and answers to your questions sound like another question. This kind of a terminal is often added to the sentence in order to lay an added emphasis. The terminals ‘eh’ and ‘aye’ are compulsory additions. For instance: “Last night was fun, eh?” Linguistic research shows the usage of ‘eh’ is more amongst youth and working class Pakeha (a half-European and half-Polynesian person).
  • New Zealanders have a penchant for shortening words, which is evident from some of the words like ta (thanks), Macca’s (MacDonald’s), nek minute (next minute), chur bro (cheers bro), faa (means ‘far out’ but is usually used to express a moment of excitement or disappointment, either depending on how long you pull the ‘faa’), shot (one of its meanings being ‘thanks’), sweet as (ok), gizza (give us a…/give me a…)
  • Differences in certain words associated with travelling, food and daily household items are visible between English in New Zealand and U.S. American English. For example, lobster (USA) = crayfish (NZ); cookies (USA)= biscuits (NZ); cotton candy (USA) = candy floss (NZ); bell pepper (USA) = capsicum (NZ); apartment (USA) = flat (NZ); eraser (USA) = rubber (NZ); faucet (USA) = tap (NZ); crosswalk (USA) = pedestrian crossing (NZ); elevator (USA) = lift (NZ); hiking (USA) = tramping (NZ).
  • An advice to the travellers, be cautious as to how you might be using the word Kiwi (slang for New Zealander) as some may take it to be racially offensive.
  • New Zealanders tend to put a stress on the vowel which makes it sound as if they are swallowing the words. As a result, words like pegs, really, chips, head tend to sound like ‘pigs’, ‘rarely’, ‘chups’ and ‘hid’.
  • Holiday homes are the cheaper than hotels and hostels. To ‘book a bach’ (pronounced ‘batch’) is the New Zealand English you will find the locals using to mean ‘book a holiday home’.


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