One of the big differences I’ve noticed since being in America is the language barrier. Not the same barrier the other exchange students’ experience – I’m hopeless with languages and so impressed with their bilingual abilities! The language barrier I’m experiencing is the different words and terminology. To illustrate, here’s a list of Australian words (and abbreviations) I say, and the American words I’m learning to say. I’ve also put the words in a conversation, just to hopefully illustrate the confusion.
Corridor/Hallway or Hall – “My friend Rhiannon lives down the Corridor.” “You mean down the hallway?”
Lift/Elevator – “Why are you catching the elevator, you live on the second floor.” “I’m not catching the elevator, I’m catching the lift…”
Ground Floor/First Floor – “The mailboxes are on the Ground Floor right?” “Uhh, they’re on the first floor?”
Bin/Trash – “Throw the leftovers in the Bin” “The bin? I was thinking of just putting them in the trash?”
Runners/Sneakers – “Let me just pull my runners on and then I’m ready for the gym.” “Okay…oh, you mean your sneakers!”
Jumper/Sweater – “I need to buy a new jumper, it’s freezing here.” “Why would a dress help” “I mean a sweater!”
Keen/Interested or excited – “I’m keen to go for Sweet Green for lunch, are you?” “Keen? Oh, you mean excited! Sure, that sounds good”
Sunnies/Sunglasses – “My sunnies have broken!”
Arvo/Afternoon – “Want to go to Bourbon for a coffee in the Arvo?” “The arvo? When’s that?”
Kilometers/Miles – “The airport is about 20 miles away.” “…how many kilometers is that?”
Grams/Ounces – “The recipe says I need 125 grams of butter…but this is in ounces…I’m going to need to Google this!”
Centimeters and Meters/Inches and Feet – “The mail box is around 15 meters away” “…and in feet that is?”
Celsius/Fahrenheit – “It’s 2 degrees outside!” “Oh my gosh that’s freezing…wait, you’re speaking in Celsius right?” ”It’s still freezing in Celsius!”
Arvo isn’t the only word I shorten. It’s become highly amusing to my roommates when they hear a new word in my laziness I’ve decided to shorten. My roommate Jesse is now Jess, and the Library is the Libs. Luckily DC and GW are full of acronyms, so my abbreviations aren’t too out of place amongst the FoBoGro and HelWel nicknames thrown around.
The other language nuance that I find amusing is the spelling. Aluminium is spelt Aluminum here, whereas I would write standardise, here it’s standardize. Not to mention the colour/color spelling discrepancy thanks to Noah Webster (of the dictionary fame). He was a proponent spelling reform, and some of his advocated changes caught on, like removing the u from –our spellings, and the aforementioned Aluminium/Aluminum difference.
Luckily, so far the different terminology and nuances of language have caused amusement rather than confusion, but it’s only a matter of time before there’s a real cultural clash!