Kiwis face language barrier to get British passport
23 August 2004
By KERI WELHAM
Kiwis may not speak the Queen's English with a plum in their mouths but you'd reckon we'd be easy to understand, eh?
Not on your nelly, British bureaucrats have decreed.
The Home Office has decided that New Zealanders, Australians, Americans, South Africans and Canadians will all need to prove sufficient English language knowledge before they can get a British passport.
Expat Kiwis, who will have lived in Britain for five years prior to applying for naturalisation, are now being forced to prove their English prowess by having a chat with one of the Home Office's "designated judges". They are being asked to describe events, hopes and ambitions.
You could understand them not understanding our trans-Tasman neighbours; strewth, they can hardly understand themselves. And those Yanks and Yaapies can be dreadfully confusing, but us? Fair suck of the sav, mate.
Kiwis being interviewed may have to turn their backs on a rich vernacular, leaving out the bros, dairies, hoons, long-drops, and cases of the bot. Forget memories of summers with cuzzies at the bach, or jandals that matched a favourite jersey.
Margaret Maclagan, senior lecturer in The Department of Communication Disorders at Canterbury University, says New Zealand English is further from the mother tongue than comparable dialects, such as Australian. Which raises the possibility that the Aussies could be better understood than us.
Might as well make "five minutes chatting" an Olympic event and be done with it.
Maclagan says young New Zealanders fail to distinguish between cheer and chair, beer and bear, ear and air. And all Kiwis raise their tone at the end of a statement, in a questioning way, which foreigners often mistake as a show of uncertainty.
So, what if we don't do so well and the Poms are reluctant to cut us some slack?
Presumably, our Kiwi expats will tell them their system is a crock, and a balls-up.
And perhaps to keep our linguistic mana, there could be some utu – a reciprocal test for former British citizens here. That will sort out the real blokes and sheilas.