Wednesday, February 25, 1998 at 05:58:07
As a member of Toastmasters International, I continually strive to delete from any speaking opportunity, what you call filled pauses, and I call 'verbal garbage'. It is indeed distracting from the message, implies hesitation in thought, and sometimes is even perceived as dishonesty by the listener. In my home Toastmasters Club, we ring a bell to call attention to the speakers use of ah, uh, um. This has had the effect, for me, of removing those from my speech in more formal situations. I have found that in very casual conversation I still use them on occasion. As someone interested in improving communication skills and striving to learn all I can, I found your website most interesting. I will keep up with your study as long as you continue to post information to the web. I look forward to exploring the links you have provided also. I also plan to spread the word so that other Toastmasters can gain a better understanding.
I'm getting a lot of Toastmasters International members as visitors to my site! It is clear that you all are passionately devoted to the improvement of speaking skills. I certainly agree that in more formal situations (for which one almost always has time to prepare) there is far less forgiveness of hesitation. However, in spontaneous speech, hesitation in varying degrees is an unavoidable fact--only a gifted few with great presence of mind can complete lengthy stretches of fluent discourse without hesitation. The vast majority of us develop strategies to deal with the need for hesitation. Many will merely use filled pauses: the simplest solution. Many others will use lengthening (elongating the enunciation of some words to slow down temporarily the rate of speech). While others will 'lexicalize' their hesitations with tangential remarks, and redundance. I tend to fall in the first group: I am a great filled-pauser. This tendency has grown in me in recent years perhaps because I now live and teach in Japan where my speech production requirements are rather different. Most of my language students have a large vocabulary of concrete concepts. So, it is the more abstract concepts which require my attention in class. In addition to organizing the discourse of my speech I must also check whether what I am about to say is appropriate to the present students' English language ability. This has perhaps resulted in greater hesitation in my in-class speech. Interestingly, though, my students often report on course evaluations that they find my speech easier to understand than that of other native speakers they encounter...
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