The Kiwi context Choose your words

Those new to New Zealand can have difficulty understanding phrases and expressions that are unique to New Zealand or English.

Te reo Māori

Māori words and phrases are a common part of New Zealand English. It is likely that most newcomers will not know what they mean. If you use a Māori word or phrase, remember to give an English translation or include a glossary.

Confusing:

After the pōwhiri, we will head back to the office for some kai.


Clear:

After the pōwhiri (welcome ceremony), we will go back to the office for some kai (food).

 

Yeah, nah

While it is tempting to introduce them to some of our Kiwi words, this will make your information less clear for your migrant audience.

Keeping things simple means you need to try to eliminate Kiwi slang or colloquialisms. Check for words, phrases and expressions that may confuse newcomers.

Confusing:

In New Zealand workplaces, small talk with workmates in the smoko room is an important way of establishing and maintaining good team relationships.


Clear:

In New Zealand workplaces, talking to your workmates during breaks is an important way for you to get to know your team.

An example of Kiwi slang:

Summer in New Zealand means going to the bach, having a barbie, and wearing shorts and jandals. But it is important to remember that in New Zealand our strong sun means that you need to be careful. If you are spending time outside this summer, make sure to use sun protection. Wear sunnies, rub on SPF 30+ sunscreen and put on a long-sleeved shirt. You can also get dehydrated, so if you go to the beach or on a long car trip it is a good idea to bring along drinks, and maybe
a chilly bin, because you might not see a dairy on the way. Enjoy yourself and remember to be 'sun smart'.

 

Idiomatic language

Idioms are so commonly used that we are often unaware they are idioms at all. After all, there are over 25,000 idioms in the English language. Many relate to our culture, meaning that they may not translate well across other cultures or languages. This means that migrants can find some idioms difficult to understand.

It is a good idea to get someone else to check your writing for idioms. If you have a migrant in your organisation they would be best suited for this.

Here are some examples of job interview questions containing idioms. Think about how confusing these phrases may be for those from other cultures.

Confusing:

Have you ever got off on the wrong foot with someone?


Clear:

Have you ever started a relationship badly with someone?

Confusing:

Can you tell me about a time when you had to throw in the towel because you couldn’t achieve something?


Clear:

Can you tell me about a time when you had to quit because you couldn't achieve something?

 

Hidden metaphors

In English, metaphor is very common and can be much less visible than idiom. It is important to be aware of this when writing for newcomers because they may struggle with understanding them. This is because the meaning of metaphors is not always obvious.

If a word has another more literal meaning than the sense you are using it in, then it is most likely a metaphor.

Confusing:

The project has a lot of obstacles in its way.


Clear:

The project will have many difficulties.

Confusing:

The situation is looking up.


Clear:

The situation is improving.

Confusing:

She fought hard to get that result.


Clear:

She worked hard to get that result.

 

Clichés

Clichés are phrases or expressions that are overused. Idioms and metaphors can also be clichés. It is best for you to avoid these entirely.

Confusing:

At the end of the day, this problem has been dealt with. If it happens again I think it’s best to turn the other cheek. Still, every cloud has a silver lining!


Clear:

We have dealt with the problem. If it happens again, I think it is best to ignore it. We have learned something from this experience.

Confusing:

You’ll feel more involved and more part of the organisation, rather than being just one small cog in a giant machine.


Clear:

You will feel more involved and more part of the organisation, rather than feeling unimportant to the business.

Confusing:

Use this handy pre-departure checklist so you can hit the ground running on arrival.


Clear:

Use this handy pre-departure checklist so you are fully prepared when you arrive.