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Spotlight on New Zealand

By Christina Rosa (Ziggurat Teacher)
20/10/2008
Spotlight on New Zealand

Located on the continent of Oceania is New Zealand, a country rather isolated geographically; its “big sister” and “neighboring” former British colony Australia, is 2000 km away!

There are, however, ties between these two nations. When the British claimed sovereignty over New Zealand they first annexed it to New South Wales, which is Australia’s oldest and most populous state. Shortly afterwards, in 1840, it was separated from Australia and given autonomy. By 1912 a distinctive form of New Zealand English was already noticeable.

Most New Zealanders are of British and Irish ancestry, but as is the case with other former British colonies, there has been a lot of immigration, undoubtedly contributing to the development of the language and culture of the country. English is the official language of New Zealand and since 1987, so is Maori. Maori is the language spoken by the descendants of the first settlers of these islands, who were probably of Eastern Polynesian ancestry. It is estimated that about 98% of the population speaks English and approximately 4% speaks Maori. A curious fact is that in 2006 a third official language was recognized: New Zealand Sign Language.

The “kiwis”, as New Zealanders call themselves colloquially, speak a type of English that is almost indistinguishable from Australian English, especially to the ear of someone who is not from either country; a phenomenon similar to that of Canadian and U.S. English, both of which simply sound “North American.”

New Zealand English, like Australian English, follows the grammatical and spelling rules of British English. The influence of the Maori language is seen mostly in place names and names for local flora and fauna.

The most differentiating factor between any of the variants of spoken English is the pronunciation of vowels, which varies widely. New Zealanders are known for their short, clipped vowel sounds, and many say their accent is less nasal than Australians’.

GLOSSARY
Rather- bastante
Former- antigua; ex
Ties- lazos; vínculos
Sovereignty- soberanía
Noticeable- perceptible; apreciable
Ancestry- ascendencia
Settlers- colonos
Sign language- lengua de signos (para sordomudos)
Widely - mucho; ampliamente
Clipped - cortadas