Travel Information - L

Australia is officially an English-speaking country though many people in the tourism industry have a second language. Being a multi-cultural society, a significant percentage of the population has a mother tongue other than English. Many children learn a second language at school, generally a mainstream European one such as Italian or a major Asian language such as Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese and Malay or Indonesian. Many countries have consular representatives who can help you find an interpreter or give you information in your own language and many hotels have multi-lingual staff.

Australians tend to speak quite quickly and use a lot of jargon, much of which stems from Cockney English rhyming slang. Many "Americanisms" have come into the language as well. Australians have a habit of cutting off ends of words and adding `ie'. Football becomes 'footie', television 'tellie', barbecue, 'barbie', breakfast, 'brekkie', Christmas, 'Chrissie', present, 'pressie' and so on.

They also sometimes use quite coarse language (predominantly in the country) in jest or as a mark of affection. You will know by the body language and intonation if they mean offence or not. Words like 'bastard' or 'bugger' can be both mild and affectionate. Being a politically correct society, it is actually against the law to denigrate another person on the basis of race, religion and ethic background but old habits die hard and terms such as 'Yank' and 'Pom' are still widely used, but are never intended to offend.

Accents vary throughout the country. The further north, the slower the drawl and many Queenslanders have a habit of punctuating each sentence with an audible full stop (period). For example - "I've just been down to the beach, eh." Or "That's a nice car, eh." The Australian idiom is known as Strine (the word itself a 'strine' version of 'Australian'). A couple of examples; in any given street you may find Gloria Soames (pronunciation for 'glorious homes') or you may enter a shop to ask Emma Chisset ('How much is it?'). There are several amusing books which explain and translate the language as spoken by `dinkum (real) Aussies'. The definitive book on Strine is penned by professor Afferbeck Lauder ('Alphabetical Order'). Good fun for dinner parties when you get back home.

Beaches are patrolled by volunteer lifesavers (lifeguards) who are young, fit and highly trained in surf rescue and resuscitation. 'Surfing' is part of the Australian tradition and the work done by these members of the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia is legendary. They save literally hundreds of lives every year.

Many local councils employ professional lifeguards to patrol beaches during the week when volunteer lifesavers are at work or studying. Major beaches are patrolled from 8am to 6pm year round. Lifesavers and lifeguards have outboard-powered inflatable boats and buoyancy aids to help swimmers who get into trouble.

Their presence on the beaches is essential. Not only is the surf one of Australia's main attractions, treated carelessly, it can also be one of its most dangerous. Many of the problems swimmers encounter come from ignorance or, sadly, a foolish disregard of simple rules like 'swim between the flags'.

Lyrebirds are large, beautiful, ground dwelling birds known for their fine loud voices, powers of mimicry and spectacular, long, lyre-shaped tails. They are mostly found in south-east Australia and allowed to roam 'free' in most zoos and wildlife sanctuaries.