Monday, October 18, 2010

Um...and Similar-Sounding Pause-Fillers

Most of us do it. We say "um" or "ah" or something like it, to fill in those awkward pauses within our sentence-making. Perhaps we aim to sound fluent or speak beautifully, but usually our brain breaks in between strings of words and we draw that horrible know, that place where we need to stop briefly and think about what to say next (which is a good thing!). Most of us aren't comfortable with an actual pause - we feel the need to fill the pause with sound, which ironically ends up being a non-word such as "um" or "ah".

I went to Niagara College with a delightful colleague who was originally from Nigeria. When she was doing a talk in front of the class, she, like most of the rest of us, uttered the occasional "um." No one thought twice of it. What I and a couple of my carpoolers found out on the way home from school that day (she was in the carpool, too) was that she actually thought that was what you were supposed to do, here and there, while speaking, in English. So she learned to start talking that way, too.

Huh. So enough people say enough "ums" that to someone whose second language is English, these "ums" are deemed a deliberate part of the language.

I laughed. I thought, how funny. I was immediately self-conscious of all the "ums" and "ahs" and the like that flow from my mouth every time I talk...which is a lot. Yuck. I wish I sounded more fluent.

I also learned that if you omit the "ums" and just stop for a minute, you actually do sound a little more fluent, and the pauses are actually quite attractive! I think they command attention. It reminds me of the simple yet strong speech the Lord of the Rings characters all have.

Don't get me wrong. It's been like six years since I've been in that course at Niagara College, and I've spent the better part of those six years adding thousands of "ums" to my "um" tally (I'm assuming there is a tally somewhere in my brain; I just don't happen to know the total off-hand)...but I was thinking about it the other day and I thought I'd try to practice the so very classy and attention-commanding pause. We'll see how that goes.

1 comment:

  1. Haha ums and ahs nice topic. I use them all the time especially when there is nothing left to say but um.. yeah. Check out my blog its a little different, but I am curious about what you think. We are a lot alike. :)