5 Important Sounds in Mainstream Australian English

Learn 5 top sounds that our team recommend you get right if you want to learn about Mainstream Australian English.

Mainstream Australian English

Australia is at a crossroads these days.

We are one foot in Modern Multi-lingual Australia and one foot in old fashioned, Australia where apparently everyone speaks the same type of English. It’s this reason that many of our clients worry about the impact of their speaking on their ability to push forward in their career or event orientate themselves socially. We hear that a lot.

It is not necessary for comprehension for everyone to have the same Mainstream Australian English accent.

Can I tell you that in 100 years time English will sound very different to now?

The native English speaker is actually the minority globally. Yep, there are more non-native speakers of English than natives. So don’t let the monolinguals boss you around too much. Promise?

Not many people are going to sound like our team in 100 years time. But until then, what can we do about your English speaking? Here are 5 top sounds that our team recommend you get right if you are aiming to move your speaking closer to Mainstream Australian English.

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This is a short introduction to things to consider if you wish to change your pronunciation. Get more by visiting us in person or online for an assessment.

Mainstream Australian English

Mainstream Australian English has a multitude of specific consonants and vowels. This particular accent can feel overwhelmingly hard to produce if you didn’t hear it as a kid. Deciding which sounds you absolutely need to learn is also be a challenge. This is because adults have a hard time hearing the contrast between sounds.

We are speech pathologists who do English pronunciation classes in Melbourne. So let’s take the leg work out for you to get you thinking about the foundations of English speaking.

mainstream australian english

It was tough for us to choose which sounds you can definitely learn in Mainstream Australian English. But our expertise and experience in accent reduction training helps. See, we have worked with clients from all over the world. Every day in our office we hear different accents. Trust us, these 5 sounds give value and clarity to your English speaking when you get them right.

Let’s get into it.

Everyone’s speaking will need different things. We couldn’t add every sound to this list. In our eyes all sounds are important but this is a list of the 5 top sounds. This list is like the top shelf of your spice rack. Miss one or more of these ingredients and your speaking won’t have that Aussie flavour 😉

#1 The Diphthong /oʊ/

The diphthongs of Mainstream Australian English are unique to say the least. If there is any vowel that needs tailored instruction it will be this little beast. It keeps us busy at Voice Science!

Cracking the code on this vowel is like a multi-level online game tournament. Except the players are your mouth, lips, jaw & tongue! Ouch!

First you must be able to spot it easier. English spelling is unpredictable but there are a few cases where you can second guess. Get your hands on this resource to learn 1 way to spot the /oʊ/ vowel.

You probably know your enemies well. You can find this sound on common words like: no, won’t hope, go, soap, wrote, old, coat, though. 

You will have problems on this vowel if you can not differentiate between:

Cot ≠ Coat, Sock ≠ Soak, Bought≠ boat, Cock≠ Coke and many more.

#2 The Consonant /t/

Ah, the English /t/. One of the sounds I love. And Hate. And Love.

As an opera singer, this sound really got in the way for me. Why? Well Mainstream Australian English accent in opera sounds terrible. I had to learn to remove an Australian /t/ when singing Russian, Italian, French & Spanish. Most languages throughout the world do not have a /t/ sound that is quite like the English /t/, especially at the front of words.

So what’s there to love about this sound?

In the clinic at Voice Science, there’s a lot to love if you produce it correctly. If you get this sound working well after tailored instruction you can dazzle us! Mastery of the rules of /t/ mechanically will really level up your English speaking. This sounds needs a different position of the tongue that what you may be used to using. Instruction is all relative depending on your first language so we don’t want to give specific tips as it may do more harm than good.

You have to be able to combine /t/ with other consonants. If it is deleted it can be a nightmare total amigos. The grammar structure correct all the time very important is. Before you panic that we don’t know our grammar, this blog was proofread. See you pay a lot of attention to getting your written grammar correct? But did you know that pronunciation errors on /t/ can undo all your hard work?

Most of the time you see the letter “t” you will need to say this sound.

Watch out for words that have it,

At the front: take, time, together

In the middle: acting, factory, into

At the end: it, that, what, get. There are some special rules about “t” at the end of words for Aussie Accent. You can check a little info here

In blends: Too many blends to mention them all here, but to get you thinking watch out for these kinds of combinations: /nt/ can’t, /pt/ kept, /skt/ asked, /ft/ coughed, /st/ last and many more!

#3 The Consonant /θ/

Oh ho! Here we go. Flashbacks to High School Theatre Classes. Do you know that it’s not uncommon to be given crazy tongue twisters if you are heading for performing as a kidlet?

I have nightmare flashbacks to reading little excerpts littered with /θ/ on every second word.

Try this:

They thankfully think this thing is the best thing that they can throw the three times they need to throw a thing.

For the record the previous must not sound like this:

Day fankfully fink dis fing is de best fing dat dey can frow de free times dey need to frow a fing.

Now before you ask whether you need to do this to get better, chill out! These kinds of sentences are not usually functional unless if you are an Anaesthetist looking for your stethoscope on Thursday afternoon at 3pm for a Thyroidectomy procedure. It’s rare for sentences have such a high volume of the /θ/sound. But take care. There are many common words with it. Like with, three, through, throat, think, thanks… It pays to get it right.

Listen to this /θ/ Tongue Twister

by Voice Science™

#4 The Consonant /ð/

Which brings us to /ð/, not to be confused with /d/ or /z/.

Or simply put:

That is a word and dat isn’t.

This is a word and zis isn’t.

Don’t think you can let this one slip. It stands out when it does. Errors on this sound will be like the flat tire on your Mainstream Australian Accent bike. Now, no one is saying that’s the best bike to ride, but if that’s the one you wanna be on, get this sound right.

Fixing /ð/ could in fact make the singular most profound impact on your speaking quality. This is because it is a sound that happens all the time. See the previous sentence. I’ve shaded each time you needed it. That was 8.8% of the time, out of all the sounds spoken. It occurs on most connecting phrases like: this is, there are, at the, for the, although it and many more.

#5 The Consonant /r/

The consonant /r/ is like the cheese topping of English speaking. They way you use it will drastically change the flavour. In American English, /r/ is everywhere. Like a heavy dose of mozzarella on a good pizza. Everytime you see the letter /r/ you need to get it out of your mouth and make it!

In Mainstream Australian English accent, we use it less. In fact we delete it often.

Which is why you might now realise why you may need to learn to delete sounds when you work with us. A lot of people don’t expect to be told this! So get ready. Some of your sounds are going to have to go. And /r/ in certain word positions is one of them. Not everywhere though. Alight? Oops, Alright? 

Personalised Pronunciation Audit

If you’re wondering at this point, ‘how do I know exactly when and where to use the Schwa in English words and sentences?’, our Speech Pathologists have done that work for you!

We use evidence-based methods to systematically equip you with practical pronunciation tools and strategies to identify these in your English speaking. We offer online pronunciation training that is tailored to your specific needs and goals. 

Is Your Accent Getting In The Way?

It might be…

It’s easy to feel frustrated with your communication when your speaking is unclear. It’s also much harder to express yourself well and move forward in your career if you are still bogged down by getting all the sounds out!

We need to tell you, we all have an accent and we are here to advocate for our internationals and polyglots.

So listen very carefully…

No accent is superior to another. In fact our clinicians hold the view that if your speaking shows you speak another language, that is actually a good position to be in.

There is so much current research about the benefits of bilingualism. Bilinguals are more tolerant, empathetic, creative… Just google “benefits of bilinguals.” There is a lot to be said for speaking more than another language.

We hate to break it to you…

There is also a lot of research about the impact of unclear speaking. Sometimes your listener just can’t be bothered to decode, othertimes you may be pretty unclear to the non clinic ear.

The important thing is not to lose your accent. It’s time to be realistic here. As an adult, you’ve missed the boat for total speech change. Your brain, as good as it is, can not mimic new languages like a kids brain.

Accent reduction takes time and practice. It is not uncommon to still have an accent even after years of expatriate life. An accent can be an asset that sets you ahead. Listeners soon realise you are multi-lingual. Sometimes an accent can interfere with your message. Speech breakdowns can occur and it can be harder to express thoughts clearly to your listener. Don’t give up! Work on your pronunciation weaknesses strategically and practice daily to improve your English.

So what can be done about your English pronunciation as an adult?

We hate to break it to you, but chances are you will need a lot of work to get these 5 sounds working all the time. And this pronunciation party is not going to end any time soon. You will have to cover more sounds than this to upscale your English pronunciation. Start with a Diagnostic Accent & Communication Assessment and commence your pronunciation training. This is a great chance for us to uncover what parts of your English speaking can be fine tuned so you message has more bang for buck. This assessment is a chance for you to sit with someone qualified in speech assessment and therapy who will leave no stone unturned.

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