How are you going? Learning Kiwi English: Rhonda’s Eisenhower Fellowship

At SLLIS we hold the belief that no language or culture is monolithic. Native and heritage speakers often ask which Spanish/French we teach and we explain why our students will be exposed to vocabulary from multiple countries/regions throughout their education with us. During my Eisenhower Fellowship, the linguist in me was very attentive to learning patterns, constructions, and polite greetings in Dutch, Finnish, Swedish, Māori and Sa’moan. Imagine my delight to have the opportunity to add Kiwi English to my language learnings! The European settlers to New Zealand in the mid-1800s came from a host of countries and most New Zealanders can trace their family lineage back to England, Ireland, Scotland or the Netherlands. Below are a few phrases of Kiwi English that stood out to me:

Morning tea: At school, this is snack and recess. Outside of school tea is accompanied by light sandwiches and cookies/pastries for a mid-morning snack.

How are you going? One of the 2nd grade student leaders at Richmond Road came to chat me up at morning tea. When he asked how I was going, I took his question quite literally and responded, “How am I going where?” He must have thought I was a little daft. With no other adult around to translate, we both walked away a bit confused.

Good on you! Used liberally when someone is impressed with your accomplishments and/or wants to encourage you. Good for you! Go for it! Way to go!

Rubbish bin. I finished my fish and chips in Paihia and couldn’t find a trash can anywhere. I went to the counter and asked the lone worker if he had one. He replied that he did not have a trash can, but that he did have a rubbish bin. We had a good laugh about that one!

Car park. Did you get a park? This one took me a while. Car park is used for parking lot and parking space. Parks can be reserved at hotels, paid for on the street, and generally difficult to find.

Mmh. This is my favorite expression and the one that I’ve worked the hardest to master. It’s a short, one-syllable, deep-throated utterance. When I first heard it, I thought it was one person’s language tick. Then I noticed that everyone I spoke with used it as well. While someone is listening and processing, they “mmh.” It generally feels like an agreement, an OK. People may also use it to emphasize something that they’ve just said or as an affirmative response to a question.


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