Learn everyday Australian English in this vlog episode of Aussie English where I give you might thoughts on Australia’s capital city, Canberra. Is it the worst Australian city?
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AE 430 – Vlog: Is Canberra the Worst Australian City?
What has my view of Canberra been so far? So, this is actually pretty rare for there to be clouds, strangely enough. I was expecting Canberra to always be overcast. Canberra kind of has this reputation for being cold in Australia. So, I assumed that meant it was always overcast, lots of rain and just cold temperatures, but it’s actually been really hot. I mean, not you know not 30, 40 degrees, but every single day has been mid 20s and as soon as you walk outside and the sun hits you, because usually there are no clouds, you heat up really quickly, and the sun burns. So, Canberra is actually out about seven 700 meters elevation and I’m used to living at about zero, right at the sea level, and so you’re actually closer to the sun, higher up in the atmosphere. So, I don’t know if it has something to do with it. And the reason that Canberra is cold, even though it’s elevated, I guess, that’s part of the reason, but it’s in sort of a basin shape of mountains. So, there’s sort of a circular thing of mountains that go up higher, you might be able to see them here behind me, right over there. That set of mountains kind of rings the whole way around Canberra, you know? And so, that prevents a lot of their movement.
It traps the cold air that occurs here overnight, and that’s why Canberra apparently gets really cold in the evenings. So, hasn’t been too bad, though, to be honest, I’ve been actually quite warm at night time and I have had to actually open the window quite a bit and let the air in, and only sort of three or four in the morning do I start getting cold close the window and put my blankets on. So, Canberra, climate wise, is better than I expected. But at the same time, it’s almost too sunny. I kind of enjoy days like this where, right now, it’s about 12 p.m. It’s lunchtime and I come out and go walking, but usually, at least more recently, these clouds haven’t been here and it’s just been just brutal sunlight coming down and there no shade and, you know, kind of worried about getting sunburnt and everything. I put sunscreen on today, but yeah… So, that’s been fun.
Another interesting fact I guess about Canberra is the fact that on weekends the place empties out, you go into the city on the weekend and there’s just no one there. It’s really bizarre. I guess, because Canberra are sort of fly in, fly out location, and I’m just looking at the kangaroo tracks on the ground here. I’m not sure if you’ll be able to see, but you can see these tracks on the ground here on this dirt road, where the kangaroos have obviously come up from down here and they go up into this field, and then we keep seeing them up here at night eating the grass.
So, during the day the kangaroos, while it’s really, really sunny, will actually be sitting under these trees in the shade just chilling out and they tend to be more active in the mornings when the sun’s not yet all the way up, and then in the evenings when the sun’s come down quite a bit, and that’s when you’ll see them out in the fields here, just eating grass. And the crazy thing is, you know, we live about a kilometre that way, currently, if these trees weren’t here, you’d be able to see the house that we’re staying in.
So, anyway, back to Canberra. What was I saying? What was I saying? Losing my track (train*) of thought. Anyway, yeah, so, it’s cold, it’s not too bad, but the sun is really bright, the city’s emptied out on the weekends, which is nice. When you cruise around, it’s not really busy. Like, Melbourne, on weekends, seems to be as busy as it is during the week. There seems to be no real difference. And so, I was sort of expecting that, but that does not happen because everyone flies in, they work here in Parliament, usually in the government, and then on weekends they go home. They fly in, they go home, they fly in, they go home. That tends to be the pattern.
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So, it hasn’t been too bad. The only downside, I guess, for me is that it is not close to the beach. It’s about two and a half hours drive to get to the beach, two hours? Two and a half hours? The vegetation type, if I want to be really picky… this is all artificial forest, that’s pine. These aren’t native. These’ve been planted here as a pine farm, I guess, and they’ll chop them down for wood at some point. And most of the surroundings tend to be pretty barren, tend to be pretty bare. Like, this behind me here. There is no real trees in this field. It’s just low grass, and it’s very dry out here. It’s not very wet.
When we went to Bateman’s Bay recently, you can actually see as you drive through the landscape, we drove through the forests and the farms and everything, you can see the gradual change from really sort of… I guess sort of arid-ish, it’s not really desert or anything like that, but dry country land, and the closer to the coast you get the wetter it gets, and I think too the Great Dividing Range is there. So, we go but that. There’s a lot of rainfall, a lot of water, and that’s the kind of country that I really like in Australia. I really love the wet forests, a lot of rain, I love the beach, and so… yeah, I might just turn around here and start heading back.
So, that’s my opinion of Canberra so far. It’s not too bad. Another thing that I noticed, the birds are the same species here. So, we have things like currawongs, crows here, we have the magpie, the black and white magpie, I’m not sure if you can see them, see if I can point it out. There’s one over here in the grass. There’s a few of them. There’s three or four of them over here hunting for food. But one thing that I did notice, and I don’t know if this is because I’m a bit of a biology nerd, they have different calls here which is, you know, it’s unsurprising and the magpies are a different subspecies of Magpie here, they have… again, they’re nowhere near close enough for me to show you, but the magpies in this part of Australia have this black over their back, where down south in Victoria they have a white patch there. So, you can see them and they tend to be… just to have a slightly different patterning. But they have different calls. The crows have a different call. The currawongs have a different call. The magpies definitely have different calls. And so, I guess it’s like anything with languages, right? They have different languages, different languages. So, just something that I noticed when listening out and hearing these birds call in the mornings and during the day and in the afternoon. I know what birds they are, but they have different calls from the ones that I’m used to down south.
So, that’s probably long enough, guys? We’ve been chatting here for about 22 and half minutes.
Oh, one more funny thing to tell you. So, there’re these… these bushes everywhere, right? This is blackberries, these are blackberries, these are blackberry bushes, I don’t know if there’s any fruit that I can show you, but they’re an introduced pest. So, you can probably see down here, they kind of go all the way down the back here. They’re really, really spiky. Let’s see if you can see this. So, this is some right here that’s been… that’s dyed off, I don’t know it’s been sprayed or not, but you can see those spikes. So, they’re really nasty, and these things were introduced when the British got here. I mean, I assume probably 100 or so years after the British got here, but they were introduced as a food source for people who wanted to go hiking. So, I’m just trying to find… and, you know, they’re called blackberries for obvious reasons. They have these beautiful berries on them that are black, that are really tasty. And Quel and I were walking along here and we saw this big thicket of these blackberries and I was like, “Oh my God! Yes! Food”, and picked a whole bunch and ate it, only to walk out and see a sign saying that they’ve been poisoned and don’t eat it. So, fortunately, though, there had been a lot of rain recently, and I’ll give you look down here. And so, I think the poison and everything like that was washed well and truly off the berries themselves. So, nothing happened. We’re all good, we’re all good.
I think… I think I can see some here. Let’s see if I can come down and show you what some of these berries look like. But, again, they’ve been… yeah they’ve all been poisoned and died off. Anyway, so, more blackberries here in the bushes, but they’re another introduced pest species that some, you know, colonialist British idiot brought into Australia thinking he is doing everyone a favour by putting this noxious weed along tracks like this so that people could just pick and eat it, but now you see these weeds everywhere in Australia and they are a big issue, and you’ll see also over here all of these plants are a pest species. There’re all weeds.
Anyway, yeah… so, oh! And I can give you a good look at this. This is why it’s a big problem, right? This is why it’s a big problem. You’ll see behind me, this is just or dense blackberry bushes. So, you can’t even walk through there, because there’s about two metres high of these blackberry bushes that are so prickly and horrible to get near that, you know, and all of this grey stuff here is dead blackberry bushes.
Anyway, guys, I hope you enjoy this sort of Walking with Pete episode where I just got to chill out with you, go for a walk and give you a sort of review of Canberra in our experience here so far. I’m sure you’ll hear more about it in the future. And yeah, thanks for joining me and I will chat you, guys, soon.
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About the AuthorI learn languages, teach Australian English, and love all things science and nature!
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By pete — 10 months ago
AE 420 – Interview: Bird & Bush Photography in Australia with Ian Smissen
G’day, guys! Welcome to this episode of Aussie English. I’m Pete, your host, and this is Aussie English, The Aussie English Podcast, the number one podcast for anyone and everyone wanting to learn Australian English. Whether you want to learn to understand Australian English and the various accents that you’ll hear Down Under here in Australia or whether you actually want to sound like an Australian, this is the podcast for you, guys. Okay.
And today, is another interview episode. And the whole point of these interview episodes is to expose you to different Aussies using different accents, different vocab, different expressions, talking about all kinds of different topics, life experiences, all that sort of stuff, to give you something interesting to listen to whilst also hearing different accents. That’s the whole point of these interview episodes.
And today is no exception. So, today, I have the pleasure again of interviewing my dad, Ian Smissen. He was kind enough to come on the podcast whilst we were driving home from, I believe it was the station. So, I think when this was recorded, I had got a train from Melbourne down to Geelong, and dad had picked me up from the Geelong Station, and then driven me home to Ocean Grove where we live, and I decided maybe I can interview him on the trip home. So, he was kind enough to say yes.
And, today’s a really awesome interview where we chat all about photography. So, my dad is an avid photographer. He loves his photography. He’s been doing it for years now as a hobby, and his… I guess, the main two passions when it comes to photography are landscape photography and birdwatching photography. So, he loves to get out there and take photos of the scenery around him wherever he is in the world, and he also loves to take photos of birds.
So, anyway, we’ll get into this in the interview, chat a bit about his experiences doing this, how he got into it, how many birds he’s photographed in Australia, and some spots that he recommends that you go, especially, if you’re down in Victoria.
So, remember guys, before we get into this interview too, if you want to study this interview in depth, make sure that you sign up to the Aussie English Classroom. It’s a dollar for your first month. And there are all of the more recent interviews in there with a special listening comprehension quiz, we go through vocab in depth, we go through the expressions that are used in a 5-10-minute excerpt from each of these interviews. So, this is the best way to really get down and dig in, study these interviews in depth, particularly, if you’re wanting to better understand Australian accents. Remember, to give that a go.
Anyway guys, let’s get into it. Thanks again dad for being on the podcast. It was an absolute pleasure. I give you my dad, Ian Smissen, chatting about bird and bush photography in Australia. Let’s go.
Let’s give this a go. Back again. Welcome to the podcast, Dad.
Hey, welcome back, everyone. Good to be here.
This time I’m giving a different mic set up a go. So, I don’t have to hold the mic and move it back and forth. So, we’ll see how it goes. Fingers crossed, fingers crossed!
But I thought we could chat a little bit about bird photography and just the wildlife in Australia, the bird wildlife in Australia. So, I guess, first, you were talking about in the previous podcast getting into landscape photography. How did you get into landscape photography and bird photography? Was it one before the other? And what are the main differences between the two?
Yeah, well, there’s a few questions to start with. Look, I started… obviously, when I started off with… in photography as a kid with a little sort of instamatic camera. You couldn’t really go photographing birds with those, unless you could get right up close to seagull on the beach or something, but most birds you couldn’t get anywhere near and they’re wide angle or poor quality lenses. So, I really just started photographing whatever I saw when I was a kid. I didn’t think of myself as a landscape photographer, or a cityscape, or a street photographer, or whatever, I’d just point and click.
I think we’ve all gone through that stage at some point.
Exactly! But once I started to take photography more seriously, and bought myself an SLR camera back in the 1970s, I really did it mostly because I was working as a research marine biologist at the time and I wanted to be photographing the things that I was doing and the things I was seeing.
What were you studying, though?
I was studying the invertebrate life on rocky shores. So, mussels, barnacles, little snails, those sort of things.
So, they’re obviously tie in pretty closely with birds.
Well, something birds eat them.
That’s fair. That’s fair.
Some birds do.
And so, then… And so, that was really just, yeah, with the standard lens and taking, you know, shots of what I could see and the places that I was at. So, that was really sort of location photography, rather than landscape photography. And then, that sort of moulded into it. And then, I was also interested in birds, as a bird watcher, and as a biologist, I started to get more interested in birds and spent more time watching those.
So, I bought a long lens, pretty crappy one at the time, but it was all I could afford and sort of worked, at least it would… you could… It was really just like a telescope. (It) didn’t have any complex lenses in it. It was really just a big lens on the end of a long tube. But that enabled me to start to photograph birds, at least be able to identify them. So, they weren’t great artistic photographs of the birds.
So, why is it that birds are such a big thing to be photographed? You don’t have people really going out there being like, “I am a lizard photographer!” or “I’m a whale photographer!” as much.
I do know… “as much”… I do know a guy, and you probably know him too, he used to work for the CSIRO and did some work with the museum and things as a reptile and amphibian photographer. That’s what he specialised in. It wasn’t everything he shot. But you’re right, birds seem to be the thing that attract people, and again…
And it seems funny, though, because birds are the ones that it seems like everyone can do, but everything else like lizards or any kind of frog or whales that’s a lot more niche, despite them being, you know, just another group of animals that you would think would be as appealing or not as birds.
Yeah, I think it probably comes from… I don’t think people start off being bird photographers. I think people start off as bird watchers and start to photograph them so that they can identify them and record what they were seeing, and then start to get more interested in the photographic side of it. That’s certainly where I came from, and a lot of my friends in the sort of bird photography and the bird watching world seem to tie those two things together.
Is it also that they’re just the most conspicuous animals?
You don’t find, as you say, you don’t find people, you know, who came as their hobby as being a lizard watcher or a mammal watcher, and go out, you know, looking for mammals or lizards or so on.
Because there’s so much more cryptic and hard to find.
They’re cryptic, they’re hard to find, and there aren’t as many of them. There’s only a couple of hundred mammals species in Australia and most of those are small and nocturnal and they’re hard to find.
But to be fair there’s a shit load of reptiles.
There are shit loads of reptiles, but again, they’re hard to find as well. And look, most of the lizards are hard to identify. You actually have to get them in the hand often and start identifying them with a different scale patterns and all sort of things.
Whereas most birds, not all, but most birds are identifiable just by sight. You can look at something 50 metres away and identify what species it is. And they’re also pretty. A lot of birds are pretty, and so they’re attractive. There’s a lot of different species. There’s more than 800 species in Australia. Nearly 10 thousand species around the world.
Yeah, that’s pretty crazy.
And they fly! And so, there are around, you know, they fly around, most of them fly. So…
So, what, of that Australia has 10 percent or close to 10 percent, eight percent…?
I think it’s about 8-9 percent of the world’s bird species.
I think about 50 percent of the world’s bird species occur in Central-South America, Central and South America, because of the jungles on the Amazon side and the rainforests, cloud forests and things, up in the Andes are just so diverse.
Well, they’re such a complex environment.
Yeah, I think Ecuador, which is about a third of the size of the state of Victoria, has a thousand bird species, and about 200 or 300 of those are indigenous. They’re only found in tiny little places.
So, they obviously have a really, really small pockets where their population exists.
And, you know, if you’re going searching for birds in forests, then that’s actually quite hard, but most places in Australia, you can find birds just by walking down the street. You know, if you sit in your backyard, and you go and sit in our backyard when we get home, if you sat there for two or three hours, you’d see 15-20 species of birds.
And so that’s what makes it, I think, seductive as a hobby.
Yeah. You can’t just sit there and see that many whales, or lizards. (….) bugs, right? You’d notice.
Exactly. Yes, that’s right. So, yeah and look the other one that people, you know, used to do, not many people are now, is that people used to look at butterflies.
Yeah, it’s true.
For the same reason, yeah, yeah in season you go out somewhere where there’s lots of flowering plants, there’ll be butterflies around, and they’re easy to see, they’re obviously different colours, they’re entertaining and they fly.
So, that was one of those weird things that I noticed when we were in… I was in Indonesia in 2012 doing field work and I think we were on Sulawesi, and I think the weird thing was when we heard there were some Japanese people hunting butterflies in the rainforest there. And you were just like… that was just the last thing I was expecting hear. You know, I could imagine anything else about, you know bird, photography or fishing, but it was some Japanese guys looking for butterflies for their collection.
Butterflies seems to be one of those things, yeah. You know, people also collect beetles, but there are probably a million species of beetles in the world, half of which have been unfound, undescribed.
That’s almost like starting like a stamp collector today, right?
Yeah, exactly. So, that’s a…that’s a sort of hyper challenge when you think of that.
That’s life on hard mode. Just to make things easy.
There are people who have seen eight thousand species of birds in the world.
Yeah, it’s crazy.
How do they get to that point, though?
Well, they spend their life travelling around going to various places in the world where there are high densities of birds, and, usually, hiring specialist guides who can find 100 species in a day, or more, and they just go through and check them off.
So, it’s a bit of an ego trip by that point, is it?
I think some of it is, and there’ve been some… some interesting books and movies and things made around that whole sort of culture of bird watching and twitching, rather than bird watching. That sort of…
What’s the difference between those two?
Well, so that… “twitching” is really where… you know, and it’s a nickname given to… and often somewhat pejoratively.
Yeah, ’cause see I know this, I’ve heard this term, but I don’t get the distinction between that and bird watching.
Really, well, if you look at it and say, alright, generally, a bird watcher is somebody who enjoys going out and watching birds.
Actually watching them or taking photos?
Actually watching them, maybe taking photographs of them, but just going out and going for a walk in the bush and watching or photographing birds.
It’s the experience, it’s the vibe.
Exactly, right. As a wildlife photographer who I followed online for a long time says, “it’s not all about the photography, it’s about the wildlife experience”.
Fishing with a camera.
Yeah, exactly. Whereas, twitching is much more around ticking off species that you’ve seen. And so, there are some fanatical people who… and there’s a species of bird that has arrived on the central coast of New South Wales in the last couple of weeks, the Aleutian tern.
That’s right, I think I heard this.
The Aleutian Tern.
It’s only, I think, the second time it’s ever been recorded in Australia.
Where does it come from?
It comes from the Aleutian Islands up near… in Alaska.
So, it’s an Alaskan species, but what they do…
Yeah, they do… Well, not necessarily migratory. They do migrate up and down the coast of North America, but they tend to be trans-Pacific as well. They’ll fly in these sort of big circles and figure eights around the Pacific, and obviously a few of them end up coming a lot further south.
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Is that by accident or they’re actively trying…?
Maybe by accident it may just be that they get a little bit off course and then just decide, “Oh, I’m going to keep going until I hit land.”. Who knows how to actually navigate? And particularly if they get caught in a storm, the storm blows them off course. How do they get back on track or those sort of things?
I mean this is a process of colonisation speciation, guys.
This is how new species are created, but those terns, get stuck in Australia…
…the next million years.
They probably won’t in this case because these birds are highly mobile and they are migratory, they’ll be here maybe for a few days, a few weeks, maybe the summer, but certainly by the end of summer, they’ll be gone. They’ll have flown back to Alaska.
It’s easy to avoid being lost when you’ve got your own onboard GPS, right?
Your own onboard GPS and your own inboard flight system. You can just take off and fly, providing you’ve got enough food on board or you can stop in enough places.
And you can get that in the ocean, right?
And terns are fishing birds so they can catch fish wherever they like.
So, yeah. So these birds have arrived in central New South Wales in the last few days, or few weeks, and there’s several people I know who have flown to Sydney and picked up a car and driven to the place where they’ve been, just so they can see them, so I can tick them off.
I can understand that to some extent, if it’s that kind of a rare thing.
It’s a collecting thing. It’s that, you know, if I’d seen 800 species of birds in Australia and there was another one that I hadn’t seen, I’d be off to get it. Sometimes, you could think of it as ego, you know, how many have I seen? and, you know, what’s your bird list like? I’ve already seen six hundred. Oh, I’ve seen seven hundred!
So, what is your bird list like, dad?
My bird list isn’t even six hundred in Australia.
“Isn’t even”, guys. Isn’t even six hundred.
It’s over five hundred.
About four hundred of those have been photographed, but…
So, you’ve seen or you’ve photograph potentially more than half of the bird species that exist in all of Australia.
That’s pretty crazy. Well, yeah, but again, I haven’t deliberately gone out to try and do that. I just go to a range of different…
So, it could be easier if you’re putting more effort, huh?
I go to a range of different places and locations and go out and photograph, and I often photograph birds.
Almost by accident, rather than intent, I will start to pick up new species. So… but you know, there’s a friend, acquaintance of mine who did a drive around Australia one year, took him about, I think it was eight or nine months, just to see how many bird species he could photograph in one trip around Australia, and he got over five hundred.
Just in eight months, just driving around Australia.
So, when does it start getting difficult, though? Because I imagine that as you get to four, five, six hundred that’s relatively easy related to the last portion, it must get exponentially harder with the last hundred or fifty or something…
It obviously does, and at five hundred, all I really have to do is go to Northern Australia, and I… you know, North Queensland…
The Northern Territory, Western Australia.
…Where I have been and I’ve seen a lot, but Northern Territory, Western Australia, do more travels around the Outback of Australia and I’d pick up more, but it gets to be challenging once you’ve ticked off all the common ones, or the ones that are relatively easy to find.
And then you get the rare ones, but also the vagrants, the things that come once every 10 years to Australia. They’re not here on a regular basis.
So, they’re still included, though, as Australian birds?
Anything that has ever been seen on Australian territory is included on that, The Great List. Some people exclude the offshore islands. They’ll include things like, obviously, Tasmania, it’s a state, but they’ll include things like the coral islands around the Great Barrier Reef and things.
What about The Torres Strait Islands or…?
But not go out to The Torres Strait Islands or to Christmas Island or the Cocos and Keeling Islands, The Abrolhos Islands off Western Australia, and so on. So, it’s more mainland stuff, but ultimately, the Cocos and Keeling Islands are a territory of Australia. So, if a bird is seen there, and they have a number of birds there that are indigenous, you can’t see them anywhere else. So, and certainly nowhere else in Australia.
So, what makes a difficult bird to photograph? What are those species that are really difficult and why are they difficult? Is it that they have really small areas or populations, sort of, distributions?
Well, it depends on…difficult to find is one thing.
Difficult to see, when you do find them, so in forests, for instance, it’s actually quite difficult to see birds. You know that they’re there, you can hear them, and I can see flashes of them in the trees, but often they’re high up in the leaves so that you can’t see them. Now, if you want to take your photography seriously, people end up building platforms in trees with great long ladders or ropes and sitting on the platform for three days waiting to get a, you know, photograph of the bird at their level, rather than trying to shoot up through the trees with the sun lit behind you.
Getting a photo of their bum.
Getting a photograph… yeah, here’s a, you know, a bird’s bum flying in the other direction, and all it is is a silhouette of a blur.
Yeah, but then there are birds that are just hard to photograph, because of other forms of the environment, there’s lots of seabirds. Small sea birds are quite difficult to photograph. First, because they’re small, but secondly, you’ve got to be in a moving boat to get out there. So, you get on a small boat, you go 30, 40, 50 kilometres offshore, and you’re sitting there in a rocking boat in the swell, and you’re trying to handhold the camera and photograph a tiny little bird that’s 20, 30, 40 metres away.
And the lens is big enough to kill a bear.
Yeah, yeah exactly. So, that becomes quite a bit of a challenge, but it’s quite entertaining. It’s entertaining because you can see them and identify them just by eye, but actually pointing a camera at them and going click and getting them in focus and in your frame.
If you managed to get a good photo. Otherwise, it’s just frustrating.
Well, it’s entertaining while you do it. It’s more entertaining when you get back and put them on the computer.
It’s kind of like… It’s entertaining to go fishing. assuming you can get the fish that you catch onto the boat. If it escapes, that tends to be pretty frustrating.
Or you don’t catch anything at all.
Yeah. Crazy, crazy.
So, what about what are the most difficult birds to photograph in Australia? I remember hearing that the previously thought to be extinct Night Parrot was recently rediscovered, and the person who rediscovered them has not released where he’s seen them for the obvious reason of not wanting them to be hunted down or something.
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So, yeah, there are obviously the rare species are very difficult because, firstly, you’ve got to be able to find them, and there’s things like the Night Parrot that was believed to be extinct.
And the crazy thing about them, to just add, is the fact that they’re this beautiful green parrot that is not only nocturnal, so only is found out active at night, it is found on the ground. It doesn’t fly around.
It’s a grass parrot and it’s green and it lives in grass and comes out at night and nobody knows where they are.
That’s Australia’s version of looking for a polar bear in a snow storm.
Exactly, at least polar bears will open their mouth when they get close to you.
So, yeah, that can be… obviously, there’s that rarity challenge, but then there are the ones that are relatively common, but lots of little small Passerine birds, perching birds, songbirds, even if they’re common, they’re often in shrubs, in the brush, that’s difficult to actually get to see. You can… by eye you can identify them, because you can see them flitting around and you can hear the calling things, but getting a camera to focus through the branches of the shrubs on a tiny little brown bird that’s, you know, smaller than the size of your fist.
And it only smiles for like a second, right?
Exactly, and they’re usually looking the other way.
So, yeah. What got you, I guess, into bird photography over landscape photography? Or are you shifting back now?
I’m probably spending more time on landscape photography now.
But you did originally start with birds, or at least more actively on…
I was doing a lot more actively on birds for a while when I was, you know… it’s sort of just a different… just speaking of birds with geese in the pond there.
Geese out here in the pond, non-native birds, though, they’re pretty boring to photograph.
Yes, they’re domestic geese.
And they’d probably attack you if you went there.
Probably. They derive from the Greylag goose, which is a European goose common in Britain, or it used to be common, but not that common anymore.
I don’t know, I’ve never eaten goose.
You can eat it, but it’ll taste like shit.
Yeah, exactly. Just like goannas.
So, what… I guess, what’s it like too, if you are a photographer listening to this podcast, what are the kinds of equipment you need, and is there a way of being able to do both with the same equipment, or do you really have to get kitted out with a crap load of unique stuff landscape and a crap load of unique stuff bird photography?
Well, you can… depending on what type of landscape photography you want to do, you can do it with any lens you like. Obviously, if you’re using the same lens that using the bird photography, a long lens, a 400, 500, 600 mil lens, then you’re going to be taking pictures of very little bits of the landscape, but, you know, any lens you can take landscape photographs with. Bird photography, though, if you want to be shooting birds, not full frame necessarily, but in frame, so they’re the obvious subject, you need long lenses, because you can’t get close enough to them. And the irony is that the smaller the bird, the closer that you can actually get, but relatively, they’re still small in the frame.
They’re still the same size in the frame.
Exactly, you know, so there’s something about… you know, very large birds will have a much longer flight distance, it’s called, where if you’re approaching a bird, they’ll be perfectly happy if you are within 50 metres of them, but you get to 40 metres of them and they’ll take off.
And so, you know, large birds tend to have longer flight distances. Who knows why, but they tend to. You’re not going to find too many… other than eagles that are eating carrion it on the side of a road. You’re not going to get very close to a Wedged-tail eagle, for instance. You know, even if it’s sitting in a tree, you get within 50 metres of it it’ll fly away. Whereas, some little wrens and things, you can get to within five metres, just walk up and get within five metres, and they seem to care less.
So, what makes a good photo of a bird and what makes a good photo of a landscape? What are you looking for as you’re looking down the barrel or the lens rather of the camera? What makes a good bird photo to start?
Well, bird photos… it depends what you’re trying to do. If you’re trying to get a good identification shot, that is, you know, it’s a clearly identifiable as a particular species, then you often want it, you know, side-on with the light in the right place, so that you’re showing off all of the key features, the feathers, the different colour in the plumage, all that sort of stuff. If you want a more artistic shot, that is you’re not taking a photograph to say, “hey, this is a rainbow lorikeet”, but you want a picture of a rainbow lorikeet in its natural habitat, then it’s more about getting that balance between showing the habitat it’s in, showing, you know, the leaves and the trees, or the flowers that it’s eating from, and those sort of things, rather than just… you know, people often criticise bird photography as being another bird on a stick, you know, where you’ve just got, you know, it’s a pretty photograph, it’s a pretty bird, but it’s just another photograph of a bird sitting on a branch. Whereas, if you get a bird that’s actually doing something, if it’s active, if it’s preening or you’ve got two birds and they’re interacting.
So, you’re bringing the biology into the photos.
Exactly, you’re trying to show how and where the bird lives. I think that can make a much more interesting photograph. But there are some times where, for instance, I’ve actually just been going through some photographs of hummingbirds that I took a couple of years ago in Ecuador, and hummingbirds, you can forget trying to frame where they are in the environment everything else, you just try to keep them in the frame and hope that you can go click at the right time and you focus on.
It’s like trying to photograph a bee, right?
Yeah, exactly. They’re quick and they’re tiny and they’re usually in forests so it’s dark. But, for those, mostly what you’re trying to do is just to show off how pretty the birds are. And so, it really doesn’t matter, you know, whether you’ve got it in there. But again, the background… and the thing that a lot of people don’t take much notice of when they’re photographing either close-ups, things like flowers or then they’re photographing birds, they don’t take much notice of the background, ’cause they’re so concentrated on what they’re actually photographing, the subject, and when they look at the photograph later they get it back and go, “That’s crappy. There’s a stink coming out of its head” or “The background is not blurred enough”, you know, “There’s bright sunshine in the background”, and those sort of things. So, often you really have to spend time trying to move around to get the photographs so that you’ve got a good background, whether it’s a background that you’re deliberately showing some detail, like flowers and leaves and those sort of things, to show where the bird lives, or whether you want to completely blur it out so that you have no distraction and all you’re looking at is the bird.
Do you want just to keep going down and we keep talking for a bit, if that alright?
Oh, I’ll go this way.
What about landscape photography Dad? What makes a good photo of a landscape shot? I guess it depends on what you’re taking a photograph of? Are there certain rules that you try to apply?
No rules so much, I mean… any photograph, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a photograph of a bird or a photograph or a landscape or photograph of your child or your dog playing in the backyard, it’s about capturing the moment. So, that’s about light. What’s the light doing on the subject and in the background? Is there a moment? That, you know, if you’re photographing birds or children or pets or those sort of things, you want to catch them doing something interesting, not just posing for a shot.
Because then you’re human twitcher.
He was here, tick!
Yeah, tick! I’ve got another person. Six and a half billion to go.
Dad, you’re 500 million of them down. That’s pretty impressive.
And the other… and then, the next thing is actually a composition that works so that the aesthetic appeal of the photograph is going to work independently of the subject so that when you’re looking at it, you go, “Alright, that’s nice”, your eye gets… sort of moves around the image nicely and doesn’t get distracted by things on the edge or, you know, really bright objects that aren’t really supposed to be there, but you can get them out of the photograph, and those sort of things. So, it’s all about that.
So, where are the best places for people listening to this podcast who are travelling around Australia or who live here and the interest in photography of birds or of landscape or both, where are some places that you would suggest they must visit if you had to give them, you know, one or two vacations in Australia?
Yeah, well, look, you know…. bird photography is a challenging one, because there are lots and lots of different places, but they all have their own challenges. So, the best thing to do, if you’re looking for places to photograph birds in Australia, is to contact the local Birdlife Australia groups who will tell you, you know, people will tell you where the best places are locally. There’s lots of websites out there with really good spots to find birds and those sort of things, and there’s books that aren’t terribly expensive about where to find birds, and that way you can find A. where you’re going so you don’t have to travel halfway across the country to get to a little particular place that somebody said is the best place to go to shoot Night Parrots, but you never going to see it not parrot, as opposed to going up to, you know, somewhere in a rainforest that you’re going to see 50 species in an hour.
And then, from a landscape point of view, it really… you know, I always used the line when I’m talking to people about landscape photographs is that “You can take a good photograph wherever you are”.
But if you’re looking for…rather than taking an image, an artistic landscape image, which you can take anywhere, if you’re looking to take images of beautiful places, then again, it depends where you are. If you’re in Victoria, where we live, I’d thoroughly recommend the Great Ocean Road. There’s a whole lot of places to stop off and take photographs wherever you are. And there’s also, in addition to the seascapes that you can shoot, there’s also Otway Ranges, so the mountain range just inland from the Great Ocean Road that has lots of forest and waterfalls all over the place.
They’re always worth looking for a place to shoot.
I think you’ve spent a lot of time there over the years.
I have spent a lot of time there over the years. But either, obviously as an intertidal marine biologist a long time ago, I’m a bit biased towards coastlines and seascapes. But there’re also lots of places up in the mountains where there’s good alpine views and you can get those really sort of long shots of eucalypt covered mountain ranges that just couldn’t to get bluer and bluer as they get off into the distance.
If you’re in Sydney, then the Sydney beaches are really good, but the Blue Mountains, you know, just a couple of hours travel out of the city of Sydney. The Blue Mountains are one of the most spectacular places in Australia, you know, easy to photograph, easy to see, and lots of places are easily accessible for a tourist, but if you want to walk, you can go on sort of all day bush walks through, you know, valleys and things, and get some really interesting shots there too.
Brilliant. Well, thanks so much for coming on the podcast, Dad. You’ve got a blog and a YouTube channel for both bird photography and landscape photography respectively. How can people find those?
Well, look the easiest place is, and, you know, ironic that you ask that, because I’ve spent most of today doing the final preparation on a photography website. So, look for IanSmissenPhotography.com and that should be up sometime the next few days, hopefully before Christmas Day, which is only three days away now.
Brilliant! Thanks, Dad! See you, guys!
Alright guys, so that was the interview for today. (A) big thanks to my dad again. Remember that you can check him out at IanSmissenPhotography.com . There will be a link in the transcript. If you want to get the free downloads for this episode, remember to go over to TheAussieEnglishPodcast.com . I’m sure you’ll find a link wherever it is that you’re listening to this, whether it’s on the website or via your podcast app. There should be a link there, you click it, go across to the website, and you can download the transcript and the MP3 for this episode for free, and you can also read it on the website whilst you’re listening.
And remember, also if you want to study this interview in depth, make sure that you sign up to The Aussie English Classroom. Get in there, get into the Interviews In Depth course. Complete this course lesson by lesson with all the different guests that we’ve had. Go through the quizzes, learn the vocab, learn the expressions, and also most importantly, learn to understand these different Aussie accents.
Anyway, as usual guys, it has been an absolute pleasure to be here chatting to you today. I hope you have an amazing day and I look forward to bringing you more or some interviews in the near future. See ya guys!
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By pete — 2 years ago
Learn Australian English in this Aussie English video where I show you how you can learn English faster with The 80/20 Rule!
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Learn English Faster With The 80/20 Rule
Here I am today out in the park.
I thought I would do a little episode for you during sunset. You’ve got the city in the background there and I’m playing with the Osmo again, trying to get this all working.
But today I wanted to talk to you about how to apply The 80/20 Rule to learn English faster.
So, today I wanted to chat to you guys about The 80/20 Rule and how it applies to learning English, and how you guys can implement this rule, The 80/20 Rule, in order to learn English faster.
What’s The 80/20 Rule?
So, what is The 80/20 Rule?
The 80/20 Rule is The Pareto Principle, which is that:
“20% of actions produce 80% of the results.”
So, 80% of the effects in life, in many different realms of life, come from 20% of the causes.
Who was Pareto?
So, who was Pareto?
Pareto was Victor Pareto and he was an Italian economist from the 20th century, and he first noticed when he was in his garden that 20% of the peapods in his garden contained 80% of the peas.
So, 20% of the peapods had 80% of the peas that he could then obviously eat from his garden. So, 20% were doing 80% of the work.
And he also further noticed that when he went out into the street 20% of the streets in the town that he lived in had 80% of the traffic.
And he also took this another step further and noticed that in Italy 20% of people owned 80% of the land.
So, it really comes back to that idea of the 20/80 split or the 80/20 rule where 20% of actions lead to 80% of the results, or 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
So, what are some other examples of The 80/20 Rule in modern day life?
- In economics, 80% of the wealth is owned by 20% of the population
- In business, 80% of a business’s profits tend to come from 20% of that businesses customers, and
- In sports 20% of sportsmen participate in 80% of big competitions, and of those sportsmen 20% of them tend to win 80% of the awards, of the medals.
What else can this apply to?
So, you can apply this to literally anything in life, guys.
- 20% of your friends probably give 80% of your happiness
- 20% of the clothes that you own is (are*) probably what you wear 80% of the time
- and, 20% of the time spent at the gym is probably 80% of what gets you your results, your gains at the gym
- in school, for example, you could say 80% of your grade, of the marks that you get in school, probably come from 20% of the assignments or 20% of the tests
- and on YouTube, as another example, 20% of the videos get most channels 80% of their views.
Let’s Recap Quickly
So, clearly in terms of productivity, guys, it makes sense to focus on the 20% of your actions that get you 80% of your results, that gain you that 80%. It’s much better to be spending most of your time on the really efficient stuff that gets you the majority of your results than (on) the inefficient stuff that gets you barely any results.
So, take that 80% of your time, that 80% of your action, that 80% of your efforts and focus it back in on the 20% that is most effective for you.
How Does This Apply To Learning English?
So, how can you apply The 80/20 Rule to learning English?
1. Examine Past Experiences
Examine your past experiences. Think back to when you were learning at school or when you were learning in a different country. When you first started learning English which tasks did you like the most? Which tasks were the ones that you got the most out of, and can you replicate that today? Can you do those today and get more out of your English learning?
2. Study Habits
Study habits. Examine your study habits, guys. What balance of time do you spend speaking, listening, reading and writing? And are any of those tasks worse than any of the others? Would you gain a lot more from spending the majority of your time focusing on say your speaking to meet all of the other tasks that you’re already good at, for example?
3. What’re You Afraid Of?
Is there anything you’re afraid of? Is there anything that you really don’t like? So, what aspects of learning English are you currently finding the scariest or the least interesting, but from which you would really benefit if you put a bit of time into? So, for instance, maybe speaking with strangers, public speaking, writing well, understanding different accents like the Australian accent, and how can you spend time efficiently to overcome these fears and improve on these skills if it is something that is important to you, that you could tomorrow, today, yesterday, spend time on improving?
Some Actionable Tasks
So, now I want to give you some actionable tasks that you guys could do to improve your English learning, and to apply The 80/20 Rule directly to learning English.
1. Not All Words Are Equal
Not all words are created equal.
So, obviously we all sort of learn when we first start learning a language that words occur at different frequencies, and we often use frequency dictionaries to learn which words are most commonly used and thus the most important to learn.
So, the 2000 most common words tend to make up 80% of the written and spoken language whether it’s English, whether it’s Russian, whether it’s Portuguese.
And so, I really recommend that you guys get a word frequency list and go through that list and look for the words that you don’t know.
And again, allocate them different importance based on where they are in that list.
Obviously, if they’re in the top 100 words it’s incredibly important that you learn those words that you don’t know or can’t use confidently that are higher up on that list.
So, work down that list. That’s one thing that you could do today to fill in the blanks, to fill in the holes.
Go through a word frequency list and actively look for the words that you don’t know or that you can’t use confidently and spend the majority of your time learning those words.
2. Learning Vocab
Again, sort of like the word frequency list, not all vocab is created equal. What 20% of English vocab can you focus on today that you’re going to be using 80% of the time?
This is going to be different for everyone and you kind of have to analyse this yourself.
For instance, if you’re an engineer you’re going to need to learn words like “fulcrum”, “pressure”, “density”, those kinds of words that are related to engineering because you’re going to be using those at a higher frequency in your spoken English, if it’s your job that you’re doing in English, than for instance myself who is not an engineer.
If you’re a doctor, obviously you need to know all of the vocab related to body parts and disease.
If you’re a pilot, obviously you need to know the vocab related to flying, related to planes and helicopters.
So, focus in on the 20% of vocab that you could be learning that you’re going to be using 80% of the time, and just keep doing that.
Keep recycling that process. Keep doing that. Focus in on the vocab you’ll use the most and you’ll get the most out of it that way.
Obviously, it’s still important to learn other words, but just put it in context. Am I going to be using words that are very rare and not common like rare nouns for, you know, parts of the human body if I’m not a doctor, very often?
You know, it’s the kind of thing where you might want to recognise it, you might want to learn it once or twice, but don’t focus a disproportionate amount of time on learning that kind of vocab.
Always keep going back to the most common vocab and get comfortable with it.
A Key Point
A key point here, guys.
You don’t need to know every single word in English.
One thing that you can really do well with is learning how to say,
- “Sorry, I don’t understand you?”
- “Could you please repeat that again slowly.” and
- “What does this word mean?”
And then you can learn all the other stuff as you’re speaking. You don’t have to remember every single word.
3. Learning Grammar
Again, like the English vocab, what 20% of English grammar can you focus on today that you’re going to be using 80% of the time?
It may be that you want to learn incredibly abstract parts of English grammar, but if you’re not going to be using those, whether writing or speaking, I wouldn’t be spending a lot of time learning those.
Maybe go over it every now and then. Think about it. Have it rolling around in your head.
But I would be spending 80% of my time, if not 100% of my time, on the 20% of English grammar that I’m going to be using 80% of the time, the majority of the time.
So, things like:
- The Present Tense,
- The Future Tense,
- (The) Past Tense,
- Continuous (Tense) stuff,
- All of the different adjectives that I use and adjective order.
Again, I would just focus on what I’m going to use the majority of the time.
A Key Point
So, the key point here too to take away, guys, you don’t need to know every single grammatical part of English.
You don’t need to get every single sentence you say or write 100% grammatically correct to be understood.
You can improve your mistakes as you learn.
You can aim to one day in the future not make any grammatical errors, but even I as a native speaker make them.
Ultimately, your goal should be to be understood, to be understood, and you don’t need to be grammatically correct all the time, 100% of the time, to be understood.
4. Use An SRS Program
Use an SRS program like Anki, Memrise or Quizlet.
So, an SRS program is a Spatial Repetition System, and these are programs that effectively create flashcards for vocabulary. And, you can use ones that are already made or you can make them yourself.
I really recommend making them yourself. And, these really really help you learn vocabulary quick. They help you memorise words quick. Very very quickly.
The best part about these is that they make you focus on the 20% or the small percent of words that you find the hardest you have to see most often until you remember them.
All the easy words, which often tends to end up the bulk, ends up at the back of the deck and you don’t see them as often. So, it kind of does The 80/20 Rule job for you.
So, in summary, guys, that’s really it.
The 80/20 Rule:
“20% of the actions produce 80% of the results.”
“80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.”
This can apply to so many different things in life:
- Whether it’s your friends with 20% of your friends lead(ing) to 80% of your happiness,
- Whether it’s work where 20% of the time at work gets 80% of your tasks done for the day,
- Whether it’s business with 20% of your customers accounting for 80% of your income as a business,
- Or whether it’s your health where 20% of the time spent at the gym is going to get you 80% of the gains.
So, yeah, go over this episode a few times, guys. Think about it.
How does it apply to English?
How could you use The 80/20 Rule to improve your English learning?
To improve your life in general, whether it’s relationships, work, business, or language learning, or health? And see how you go.
Let me know in a comment below guys what you think. I’d love to know. And I’ll chat to you soon.
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By pete — 1 year ago
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AE 373 – Expression:
To Take The Piss
G’day, guys! That was a line out of the movie Crocodile Dundee. So, it’s about an Australian bushman, who ends up in the US, and then back in Australia. But I really thoroughly recommend that you check it out if you want to better understand Australian culture as well as American culture and how they differ. So, go and check out Crocodile Dundee.
Welcome to The Aussie English Podcast, guys. The number one podcast for learning Australian English, whether you want to just understand Australian English or you want to be able to speak Australian English, whether it’s with our accent, using our slang, everything like that, this is the number one podcast for you!
Anyway. A few announcements before we dive into today’s episode, guys. I’m still working on The Aussie English Classroom, but it’s up and running. There’s four courses on there at the moment for you to get into and give a go. It’s just a dollar for your first month. I’ll talk a little bit about it at the end, but I thoroughly recommend that you get in there and do all the courses, do all the exercises in order to better learn Australian English and take your English to the next level.
Aside from that, a little announcement for The Aussie English Classroom students, I’m going to remove the membership part on theaussieenglishpodcast.com website, ok? So, don’t confuse that with theaussieenglishclassroom.com website, that’s where you guys have access to The Aussie English Classroom now. But soon, in the next week, I’m going to delete the membership part of the podcast.com website, ok? So, if you want any of those episodes now go over there, download them, and you can always ask me later and I can send you a link, but I need to keep you guys just on one website instead of spread across both, ok?
Alright! So, let’s get into today’s joke. Today’s Aussie joke is: what do you call a boomerang that won’t come back? What do you call, what do you name, how do you refer to, a boomerang that will not come back, that won’t return? So, “boomerangs” are the weapons that Aborigines, Indigenous Australians, used for hunting, where they threw them, and they spin in the air, and some of them, not all of them, come back. But the joke is what do you call a boomerang that won’t come back? A stick. A stick, guys. It’s just a standard stick.
Alright. Today’s expression, guys, is “To take the piss”, ok? “To take the piss”.
As usual, let’s dive in and define the expression words in today’s episode.
So, “to take”. I’m sure you guys know what “to take”, it is the opposite of “to give”. It means to lay hold of something with your hands, to reach for something and hold it, and it can also mean to remove something from a particular place, ok?
“Piss”. I’m guessing that you guys will know what “piss” is. “Piss” is used in a myriad of different ways, in many, many, many, different ways in English. It can refer to urine or pee, you know, if you need to go to the toilet and do a number one, we can refer to that as “piss”. More broadly, that’s what “a piss” is. I have to go take a piss I, have to go piss etc.. It is slightly rude, although, it’s not really going to offend anyone unless you wish to use it in very, very formal situations, people might be like, “Okay, that was inappropriate”. But I would use this all the time. I have no qualms, I have no issues saying “piss” when talking to you guys, because this is Aussie English you going to hear. It is Aussie English that, if you want to sound like an Australian, you should use. So, “piss” means urine, simply, but it will be used as a swear word sometimes and there are tons and tons and tons of expressions related to “piss”.
“To take the piss”, though, ok? let’s define the expression. “To take the piss”, is a shortened version, it’s a smaller, reduced version of the expression “to take the piss out of someone”, ok? And this doesn’t literally mean to take the urine out of someone, ok? So, don’t worry about that. It means to joke with someone, to tease someone, to mock someone, to ridicule someone, to scoff at someone, ok? But, basically, to joke, make fun of. But it could also be something that you do that’s unreasonable, that isn’t funny, ok? And it is similar to the expression “To take the Mickey out of someone”, “To take the Mickey out of someone”, ok? These two are pretty much synonyms. You’ll hear both in Australia, but “To take the piss” is probably more common.
A quick note here, guys. The importance of using articles like the word a or an vs the word the. If I say I’m taking the piss, then I’m using obviously the word the, that instantly tells me that I’m joking or tells the listener that I’m joking, that I am making fun of something, that I’m talking about something unreasonable because of the word the. To take the piss, ok?
If I say I’m just taking a piss, so I’m using a, the word a, that would tell the listener that I need to go to the toilet, that I have to pee, that I have to urinate, ok? So, “to take the piss” is to joke or kid, but if I say “hey, guys, I need to take a piss!”, that means I need to go to the toilet.
The origin of this expression is pretty interesting, guys. It is originally from Britain, but I don’t know if I feel comfortable going through the specifics of the origin on the podcast, ok? Because it involves erections, which is what men experience when they get sexually excited. So, I don’t want to get too descriptive with that aspect of the origin of this expression, but you can look that up, I will link it in the transcript, if you guys are Aussie English Classroom members, you will be able to see that link and you can go and read about.
But the alternative theory was that during the age of the canals in Britain, urine would be brought up to the canals to wool mills in northern England, as urine was used in the process of fixing dye to walls. So, putting dye onto wool and making it stick. And this was particularly the case for things being dyed indigo or blue, ok? So, with synthetic dyes. And being in the business of transporting urine was much less lucrative than transporting, say, wine. So, when the boatmen were questioned (about*) what they were carrying they would lie and say “I’m taking wine” and the response would be “No, you’re taking the piss!”, to express disbelief. So, that’s one potential origin of this expression.
Anyway, let’s get into some examples of how I would use, “To take the piss”. “To take the piss”.
Alright, number one: you want to trick someone, ok? You’re playing a joke on someone. So, imagine you’re at work, It’s been a long week and a long day. You’re wrecked, you’re knackered, you’re absolutely spent, you know, incredibly tired. It’s a Friday evening, and usually, on a Friday evening you and your mates at work go to a nearby pub to sink a few pints of beer and to shoot the shit, ok? So, that’s a sort of rude expression, slang expression, informal expression, for to have a yarn or to chat. So, to have a talk with mates. We’re just shooting the shit. Your boss comes in and says, “You have to stay late and keep working while everyone else goes to the pub”. Because you’re shocked, you’re surprised, you’re angry, you’re upset, you ask him “Are you taking the piss? Are you kidding? Are you joking? You can’t be serious. Are you taking the piss?”, and your boss says, “Yeah, mate! We’re joking, we’re joking! Let’s all go. We were just taking the piss!”.
Example number two: ok, someone does something stupid, in this example. So, imagine you’ve got a teenage son. He’s a bit wild, he’s a little rambunctious, mischievous, he’s naughty, you know, he does naughty things from time to time. You come home one day after work, maybe you went out to shoot the shit with your mates at the local pub, you come home and you find that your son, your teenage son, has gotten into your fridge and he’s drunk three of your stubbies. So, he’s drinking alcohol when he’s under age and he shouldn’t be doing that, and not to mention, he’s stolen it from you. So, if you come inside and you get angry, because he’s done something really stupid, irresponsible, mischievous, naughty, you might say to him, “Mate, are you taking the piss?”, as in, “Are you joking?”, like, “What the hell are you doing? Is this some kind of stupid joke? Are you taking the piss?”. It’s not that you are making fun of anyone, it’s that this person has done something incredibly dumb, and you’re asking them “Are you taking the piss?”, like, “Why would you do this?”.
Example number three: to tease someone, to make fun of someone. So, this is where it’s more a joke or a trick, but in a nasty way, ok? So… well, not necessarily really nasty but not in a pleasant, nice way, ok? So, imagine you’ve got a mate and he’s just gone to get a haircut, he’s had his haircut on his head, and it resembles a mullet. And “a mullet” is a hair style in Australia where all of the hair on the very top of your head and on the sides of your head is very short, you know, maybe three centimetres long, two centimetres long, it’s been shaved down, it’s been reduced. But the hair at your back, the back of your head has been left incredibly long. That is “a mullet”, and they were very, very popular in Australia, in, I think, the 70s, 80s and 90s, probably the 80s and the 90s, ok? And, yeah, thanks mum and dad for giving me a mullet when I was a kid, very embarrassing to see those photos. Anyway. Ok, so your mate’s got a haircut and it looks like he’s got a mullet. So, you start to pay him out, you start making fun of him, you make a few jokes and you say, “Mate, you look like a bit of a bogan! What’s with the mullet? What is with the mullet, mate?”, and he gets angry, he looks at you, he starts having a whinge, “Why would you tease me? It’s, it’s what my missus likes, my girlfriend likes my hair like this!”. And then you say, “Don’t worry, mate, I’m just taking the piss! We’re just joking around, we’re taking the piss.”.
So, hopefully by now, guys, you understand the expression “To take the piss”. Remember, “To take the piss”. It means to be joking around, teasing, mocking someone, but it can also be that you are shocked by something stupid someone’s done, ok? Or it could be that someone has tricked you, and you could say “(Are) you taking the piss! You joking? What the hell?!”.
So, let’s go through a listen and repeat exercise, guys, so that you can now practice your Aussie pronunciation, ok? So, listen and repeat after me.
Listen & Repeat:
Taking the piss.
Taking the piss.
Taking the piss.
Am I taking that piss?
Are you taking the piss?
Is he taking the piss?
Is she taking the piss?
Are we taking the piss?
Are they taking the piss?
Is it taking the piss?
(A) quick note there, guys, and we’ll go over this more thoroughly in The Aussie English Classroom, in the lesson that will tackle connected speech and intonation, but I want you guys to focus in on, I want you to notice, that because this is a question, firstly, I’ve inverted the front of the sentence. I’m not saying, “I am taking the piss”, I’m saying, “Am I taking the piss?”. And, secondly, I want you to notice intonation wise that the end of the sentence goes up. So, instead of saying “I’m taking the piss”, that’s going down, I say “Am I taking the piss? And it goes up. Ok? So, that shows that it’s a question and we do that a lot in English. Anyway.
Today’s Aussie fact is related to Burke and Wills. Burke and Wills. These were two early Australian explorers, guys, and it’s a very famous exploration story in Australia. I’ve been listening to an audio book the past week, guys, by Peter FitzSimons, he’s a famous author in Australia, and it’s called “Burke and Wills: The triumph and tragedy of Australia’s most famous explorers.
So, these guys were exploring Australia in the 19th century. So, they went from Melbourne, in the south, three and a half thousand kilometres north, inland, they didn’t go along the coast, the east coast of Australia. They went through the middle, through the guts, of Australia from South to North, from Melbourne, all the way up to the Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland, I think on the border of Queensland and the Northern Territory. And this was in 1860 and 1861.
So, it’s an amazing story, guys. It’s an amazing story. Nineteen men went with Burke and Wills with the objective of crossing Australia because at this time no one had done it, and this part of Australia hadn’t been explored. They had no idea what was happening in the centre of Australia. In fact, they took boats with them, that’s how weird it was. They took boats because they were expecting to find an inland sea. Anyway, it’s a very tragic story as Burke and Wills died before being able to get back to Melbourne after they had successfully completed this expedition. But there is a lot of stupid things that they did during this journey.
So, I really recommend reading this book, checking this book out. It gives you some really interesting insights into what Australians were like in the mid 18th century, what they spoke like, the English they used. You also get to learn quite a bit about indigenous people that they met on their travels all the way up to the North of Australia.
But the reason that I wanted to mention these guys as Australia’s fact today is because during this book, during listening to this book, I heard one of them say in a letter that it was time to take the piss. I think this is just a coincidence, but they used this when referring to needing to drink their own urine, because they were dying of dehydration. So, these guys were stranded in the desert and they were badly dehydrated, they hadn’t drunk water in several days. I think it was about 72 hours, three days. They hadn’t drunk any water, so they were close to dead, and they… one of them said, “It’s time to take the piss”. And so, I thought that’s interesting if that was tied in with, you know, “Are you taking the piss?” Like, “Are you drinking your own urine? Is that…? Are you crazy?”, from, you know, being dehydrated and drinking your own urine? That this is a joke.
Anyway. Apparently, that’s not where this expression came from, though I thought wow! That’s an interesting way of thinking about it. Anyway, guys. Check out Burke and Wills and let me know what you think of them in a comment below this episode.
Aside from that, guys, remember to sign up for The Aussie English Classroom, if you want to take your Aussie English to the next level. You can do it on your phone, you can do it on your computer, you can do it anywhere in the world as long as you’ve got an internet connection. Each week you get one course that goes with this expression episode. We go through a series of exercises including vocab exercises, listening comprehension, phrasal verbs, the Aussie slang that I use in each of these expression episodes, we tackle Australian pronunciation, we also go through connected speech, and then we go through a little point of grammar. You can earn points, you can earn badges, you can meet friends, you can chat to me. I really, really recommend you get on there, guys. It’s a single dollar. One Australian dollar for you to try it for your first month. And this is how I am making a crust. So, this is how you guys can support me and it’s how you can improve your English at the same time. So, get in there, give it a go, and make sure you give me some feedback and tell me how I could improve it to help you learn English even faster.
Anyway, I’ve rabbited on. I’ve talked… I’ve talked my head off. I hope you guys have a fricking amazing week, and I can’t wait to see you guys on Facebook and in The Aussie English Classroom, and I will chat to you soon.
Stay cool, guys! Peace out.
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