Ummm…soooo…you know…when like…you can’t…ummm…finish a sentence without…ummmm…saying the words…like or Ummm.
Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s a natural part of learning speech in your target language and it shouldn’t be something to worry about- provided that you don’t overuse them.
What Are Filler Words?
Filler words are the words that you use to give yourself time to think while in mid-sentence/phrase. You’re more likely to use filler words in the instance that you’re not fluent; however, it doesn’t mean that you’re incompetent for using them. Native speakers are always using filler words as part of their natural speech patterns.
In language learning, filler words are a healthy way of finding your way around new grammar and vocabulary. If you’re not certain of how to construct a sentence using new information, then you can easily insert an “umm” or “like” into the mix to get you a few seconds to figure things out.
Now, filler words aren’t to be abused. Think about a native speaker always saying “Ummm” or “like” or “kind of” or “something like” every 2 seconds. They would sound nearly unintelligible, highly uncertain and to some degree, childish. Thinking isn’t a smooth process in general, so there are going to be some hiccups in the train of thought before the entire message manages to translate itself verbally.
In the same way, you should practice spacing out your use of filler words when speaking your target language. Maybe set a mark for yourself to not use one more than five times every minute; you must stay aware of it too as the mind can easily slip away while speaking.
Another piece of advice would be to try and avoid using them altogether. Filler words aren’t essential because there are always different ways you can describe what you want to say. The deconstruction of vocabulary and grammar can do this – just simplify it.
Grammar Rules Of Filler Words
Filler words have no grammar rules, surprise! They’re best learned in their natural context, meaning you kind of just need to figure things out for yourself. Now, regarded some languages do have filler words built into them as a part of natural, fluent speech but knowing where to place them still requires some practice.
A few ways to get used to this oddity are:
- Sitting in natural environments with a lot of chatter.
- Talking in short bursts
- Talking in long paragraphs, timing your placements of the filler words.
- Point it out every time somebody uses them when talking to you.
Should You Use Them?
The real question is… do you have a choice? Filler words will always be present as long as you’re not an absolute zen master of the language. Even then, native speech practically uses filler words masterfully to get the message across. If that sentence didn’t make sense think of it this way [having impeccable timing to interrupt a string of thought to extend the conversation purposefully], and trust me, that alone is easier said than done.
What Are Some Filler Words To Use?
There should be a universal list of filler words and phrases for all languages, but there isn’t. Filler words can either be the same across a variety of languages at the same time or be wholly contextual and change meaning depending on the language. Having mentioned that they also can be independent of any sense and simply be used as a… well… a filler- no meaning no, no special context clues, just filler.
To explore some possible expressions of filler words, be sure to check out our Filler Words worksheet. Here you can experiment and practice with different variations of filler words.