The next time you listen to some spontaneous speech (not a TED talk or another type of lecture-these are planned in advance and are not so spontaneous or natural) try to filter out these features and concentrate on the words and expressions that are important to the meaning. Noticing these features is also an opportunity to reflect on what the speaker has said.
These could be repetitions of words and expressions or of ideas. Obviously, repetitions of words are easy to identify. It’s a little more difficult to know when a speaker is repeating an idea. You need to know that every new utterance (this is a spoken sentence) does not necessarily include a new idea, so you don’t need to worry about trying to translate these repeated ideas. In the extract below, I repeat the auxiliary “is”. I pronounce the second ‘is’ in a very reduced way, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t catch it.
"why English is is difficult to listen to...sometimes"
Conversations aren’t planned as we said, so of course, the person you’re speaking to will hesitate. In English, hesitations could simply be a pause or they could be sounds like ‘umm’ or ‘err’. They could also involve hesitating on a particular word. The ‘err’ hesitation sounds a bit like the article ‘a’, which can be confusing when you listen.
You can use these hesitation sounds when you speak to give yourself more time to think and plan what you want to say. You will sound more natural and fluent than if you use the sounds that exist in your own language, which may be very different. You can hear me making these sounds below.
"I... I’m not speaking either at 100% full speed like I would speak with other natives or my friends erm but"
Very often in conversation, a speaker will start an utterance and then change their mind. You can hear me do this in my podcast. As you can hear, I begin by saying “I’m going to be speaking”, then I pause, say ‘erm’ to hesitate, and finish by saying “or I am speaking in fast English”. Generally, speakers will do the same thing as me – start an utterance, pause, and then start again! It’s a consequence of speaking spontaneously.
"I’m going to be speaking erm or I am speaking in fast English"
These expressions give speakers time to think and plan their speech. They don’t contribute anything to the meaning of the conversation, so you can filter them out. They include words and expressions such as:
- I mean
- you know
- do you know what I mean?
In the clip below, you can hear me using the fillers “well”, “kind of” and “like”.