Accents are very much derived from the lifestyles of the people using them—and to get it right you have to first find the shape of the way they speak. In Australia, there is a great deal of sunlight, and the people are generally good-natured and happy. Life is good here, and they seem to know that. And so they all grin like Cheshire cats.
Think of Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban, Hugh Jackman or Simon Baker when they are being interviewed. Even cranky Russell Crowe grins.
So to speak the way they do, start by grinning broadly, letting your upper lip form a straight line across your face. Keep that line firm and throw out your bottom lip. This is all you have to form the words, and don’t move it much. If your lips are dry, even better.
Now squint just a bit—not too much or you’ll sound like a Kiwi. Keep your tongue forward against the back of your teeth as you speak, and you’ll get the flat intonation we are so used to hearing.
And for a little more instruction, here’s a local comedian with some notes:
Now it’s your turn…say anything, as long as it’s not “G-day mate!” That’s a sure way to demonstrate your need to update your video collection and get satellite TV. After 10 days in Sydney I haven’t heard a single utterance of that phrase we have so come to expect. Maybe they say it in the real Outback, but only a very small percentage of people live in the Outback. The rest of the denizens live in cities—really gorgeous cities like Sydney (see my previous post for more on that). And what they do say—all the time—is “no worries,’” which comes out as “now waries.” I have been very concerned by this, since I wasn’t worried until they brought it up. It makes me wonder if something is about to happen or might happen or already did happen that I should, in fact, be worried about.
But the sun breaks through the winter clouds and it’s time to squint and I find I am sinking quickly into that broad Aussie sound where I’m just too lazy to move my lips. Ah, now waries.
© Arts Enclave, 2013.