G’day, mate! The content creator teaching foreigners Aussie English
Not many people would be game enough to sink their teeth into a secondary project while tackling a PhD, but Ocean Grove’s Pete Smissen is living proof that creativity has no bounds.
The scientist turned content creator is the mastermind behind Aussie English, a multifaceted web tool that focuses on teaching foreigners Australian English, culture, history and current affairs.
From evolutionary biology to Aussie slang, Pete said switching the microscope for the microphone was a decision he didn’t make lightly.
“It was difficult at the start; it’s a pretty small niche in terms of English learners, but it was much needed… so many people were encouraging me to do it.
“It was definitely one of those things where I was like ‘am I shooting myself in the foot?’
“I spent so much time at university and letting go was like being in the jungle, swinging from one vine to another and wondering if I was going to fall off.”
Fortunately for Pete, the niche demographic he was slightly apprehensive about tapping into was a career move that has paid off in spades. Having recorded material for Aussie English since 2015, Pete believes he’s the only podcaster with a strong focus on Australia.
“They’ve (foreigners) prepared overseas to learn British English and American English, and when they get here, they don’t know that the accent is so incredibly different.
“It’s very hard for them to turn somewhere to learn that. My avatar tends to be someone who’s highly educated at university and looking for jobs in commercial industries and academia.
“They’re very concerned about progressing their careers, but they also really want to immerse themselves in Australian culture.”
Conscious of his target market, Pete said he hoped his listeners felt they could better “integrate” themselves into the Australian way of life.
He said he tried to cover a range of true-blue topics – including Indigenous Australians, Captain Cook and Ned Kelly – so newly-minted Aussies could not only engage in conversation but form their own opinions.
While it’s been an interesting ride, Pete said it has had the most rewarding outcomes.
“When I was doing science, it was me on my own. With the podcast, I was getting feedback, emails, comments and words of encouragement.
“You also hear about these stories of people selling everything they have to come over to Australia. They often have no support network.
“I was getting emails from this one guy who said he was at his wits’ end after being knocked back at an interview because his English wasn’t good enough to continue.
“It was gut-wrenching, but it’s what motivates me to want to keep going and help people overcome barriers.”
To find out more about Aussie English, visit aussieenglish.com.au.