Language lapses

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Migrants need to learn understand Aussie terminology, writes NOEL G DESOUZA

Many an Indian who migrates to Australia has a good command of the English language. However, there are times when he might find that he is, in fact, speaking a different language to that which is spoken locally. Take for instance the word ‘footy’ which is an abbreviation of football. Australians go crazy over footy. It is their main game. But ‘footy’ means something very different to that understood in India just as in Southern Europe and Brazil; it means ‘soccer’. But in Australia, footy and soccer are two distinctly different games.

There are crucial instances when a single word can have a meaning which the reader would do well to comprehend in all its depth. Take the case of the term ‘immediate annuity’. The only thing ‘immediate’ in such a product in most cases is that when a person who has purchased such an annuity passes away, the annuities immediately stop.

There are cases when such an event has caused heartache and distress to the heirs. They have no more rights. Really that product should be called ‘lifetime annuity’ which would mean annuities as long as the individual lives. Those who see a sinister implication in the term might discern ‘immediate annuity’ as a cover-up term designed to obscure its true meaning.

There are numerous such terms in the financial world such as ‘growth shares’ where ‘growth’ means shares whose value had once increased substantially. The other is ‘balanced’ portfolio which is made up of a mix of shares, property and cash.

The most important purchase for most middle-class Australians (and most Indians fall into that category) is a dwelling. When Indians begin to learn about housing, they face an uncomfortable fact that Australia is not, contrary to local mythology, a ‘classless society’. They are then cut to size, so to speak, when they find that what they can buy will depend upon their purchasing power and their ability to raise funds.

Reading real estate advertisements is a study in itself.  ‘Close to transport’ may not mean a train; ‘close to a railway station’ could well mean a twenty-minute walk. Indians, like some other ethnic groups, might like to live close to other Indians. That could be an attraction, but then one has other preferences and one learns to make compromises.

There are three types of dwellings and the house-seeker must know how to define and understand each of them. The house seeker has three options: a house where the dweller has full rights and responsibilities; a company title unit where all the co-owners have veto rights; and in-between lays a popular strata title where the body corporate operates within a given set of rules. Most new home buyers go for the strata title unit where the intending buyer inherits the liabilities that the body corporate carries.

The negotiation with loan givers, banks and co-operative societies is a long drawn out process for the cautious borrower. Such caution includes the interest rate, the establishment fees, understanding the exit fees and so on. The cautious buyer also finds out what liabilities the dwelling has and the physical state of the building, before finalising the purchase.

The class structure of Australian society is an important consideration for a young couple who are concerned about good schooling for their children. Indians, for the first time, might hear about ‘Grammar’ schools. They might at first think that those schools give importance to the learning of grammar. In fact, they are elitist schools run by the Anglican Church. A good number of Chinese and Indians have found places in these exclusive citadels of English culture. Getting admission is not easy and once in, the fees can be prohibitive.

For those who wish to invest or virtually gamble, there is the share market. The jargon begins at once. There are shares which are called ordinary, preference and partly-paid to name the most common types. Learning the meaning and implications of each type is very essential. The last named type (partly-paid) could seem extremely cheap (sometimes in cents) and lead to the temptation to purchase many shares. But the buyer must beware as buying such shares can automatically mean that one has acquired a huge, and often crippling, debt.

Finally, there is an endless possibility to find unique and seemingly illogical meanings, to words that are of common usage in the so-called analysis of equities. The most popular of these is ‘technical analysis’. The word ‘technical’ evokes an idea of accuracy and meticulous precision; however, many consider such analysis to be esoteric. There are many variations and a large number of books on unique ‘technical’ systems. There are also expensive seminars where methods are taught which are often marked as ‘non-disclosable’.

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