So, Let’s Talk About Um… Fillers

5-business-conversations-to-have-today4Fillers are used all the time. They’re the words that are used in our everyday speech that we really don’t need: uhm, uh, ah, so, like. Most of us would be surprised at how often we actually use fillers during the day without even realizing it. In fact, you’ll probably read tons of different filler words in this blog post alone!

So, why do we use fillers? Well, fillers or disfluencies, help conversations to run smoothly without awkward pausing, or to signal to the other person that you’re still wanting to talk but just organizing your thoughts. Fillers are also used because it’s often quite difficult for us to use highly grammatical and formal speech all the time. Therefore, fillers are really not a bad thing in themselves. The only time they can be turned into a negative aspect of your speech is when you used them so often it’s distracting or confusing for other people to listen to.

For example, which sentence do you think is more fluid?
(a) “So, can we go bowling again? Y’know I really liked doing that.
(b) “So, like, can we like, do that, uhm… like, bowling thing again? Y’know I like, really liked doing that.”

Hopefully, you said a! The first sentence used a very minimal amount of filler words, but it’s still very concise and to the point. The second sentence is overly distracting and very hard to understand! So, if word-fillersit all possible, try to limit the amount of fillers you use in your sentences.

You may be thinking that because English is your second language, you feel that your natural hesitation will affect your fluency. But don’t be too hard on yourself. Even native English speakers aren’t completely fluid in their speech. There will be occasional pauses, and it’s important that you accept that. So if you’re ever searching for the right word, here are some common English filler words that you can use instead of that awkward pause:

  • uh…
  • um..
  • ahh…
  • like…
  • you know…
  • so…
  • okay…
  • well…
  • actually…
  • hmm…
  • seriously…

However, a good habit to kick is removing uh and um from your vocabulary. Overusing those words can make you seem like you don’t know what you’re talking about. Instead of saying, uh or um, try using another filler word like so, or well. Whether you’ve just been speaking English for twenty years or Fillers-in-Different-Languagestwenty days, this is a habit we can all try to break (including myself!).

Remember that every language has their own set of fillers, and there is a time and place for them. If you’re presenting a speech in front of the President, it’s better to keep your fillers to a minimum. But if you’re just talking casually, it’s completely normal if you use filler words. It can actually help you appear to be more fluent because you’re filling your silences in with actual words. This is the same technique that native English speakers use.

So, do you use fillers? What fillers do you use in, y’know, your own language?


One thought on “So, Let’s Talk About Um… Fillers

  1. I would really like to, ah, let ya, ah, know what
    I really truly think but, er, I can find, ah, my way to flently, state what my brain, ah, wants to communicate, you know what I mean. Do you, ah, dig it? Thanks.


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