New Zealand is literally a melting pot of different cultures, so the Kiwi accent is still developing. There are people from all over the world living here, so you will hear all sorts of accents and languages being spoken. This means that you definitely don’t need to adopt the Kiwi accent in order to fit in or be understood in New Zealand. Not learning the accent however will mean that you will always be seen as an immigrant. The choice is yours whether you decide to change your accent or not.
We have met South Africans that have been here for over 10 years and still sound as South African as ever. We have also met folks we thought were Kiwis, but as soon as they hear your South African accent, they reveal their true origins by either saying something to you in Afrikaans or changing their accent back to the South African one. Others you will never know they used to be South Africans because they sound just like Kiwis and will never reveal they were originally from South Africa.
Whichever route you decide to take is a personal decision. Either way you will find that with time your South African accent will soften and when you meet fellow Saffer that have just landed, you will actually find their accent sounds quite strong.
If you do decide to change your accent to adopt the Kiwi one, then the best advice we can give is to not force it. A forced, fake accent stands out like a sore thumb.
Here are some tips to learn a natural Kiwi accent:
1) Let your accent change gradually. There is nothing more weird than an immigrant walking into the office one day with a brand new accent. Remember nobody is expecting you to change your accent. Rather let it happen over a period of months or even years. Even the Kiwi accent itself is changing. Just listen to what the Kiwi accent sounded like in the mid 80′s :
now listen to the current Kiwi accent:
2) Start by using the Kiwi sayings like the ones we discussed in the previous article HERE. Initially do this without trying to change your accent.
3) Then change the way you say things and not the actual accent itself. For example, Kiwis will say Summa instead of Summer. They will drop the r at the end of the word. Do this initially without changing your accent.
4) Take your lead from your kids. Although they will adopt the Kiwi accent faster than you can blink, take note of the things they are saying differently and emulate that.
5) There are many subtle changes to the way Kiwis say things compared to South Africans. Choose one of those differences and for the next month only change that one single sound / inflection when you speak. That way you only have to concentrate on saying one thing different at a time. By the end of the month it should be a habit which sounds natural.
3) Choose a TV or radio personality whose accent you like. Record as much of their speech as what you can get your hands on. Play a sentence at a time back to yourself. Listen carefully to how that person pronounces each word and figure out what the differences are to the way you normally say it. You can even record yourself saying the same sentence if that makes it easier. Then repeat the sentence adding in the inflections into your voice. Record yourself so that you can play it back and see if it sounds natural.
Here are some lighthearted videos to get you going :