Hey there, this is Teacher Ola Podcast episode 13: Sound more natural: Filler Words.

My name’s Ola and I teach English online through 1:1 lessons.

This podcast is for you if you’re an English learner who wants to speak English with more confidence and get rid of speaking barriers. You’ll boost your vocabulary, brush up your grammar, improve your pronunciation, and see how to have a tense-free conversation with another English-speaking human being! Go to my website for full transcripts and worksheets to each episode. Happy learning!

Thank you for tuning in! Please remember this episode is transcribed and you can find the text on my website. Go there because you need to see the worksheet as well. It’ll help you to digest and test some of the vocabulary items covered in this episode. Go to teacherola.com/13, teacherola.com/13.

Today I’m going to tell you how to make your speaking more natural using filler words. Words without any particular meaning. They appear while you speak in order to fill the space between normal words. These are words which give you some extra time to think about how to end the sentence or what to say in general. Most importantly filler expressions make you sound as if you were an insider. You know, what I mean? The way you speak and what impression you make on the native listener is a game-changer.

My first idea was to prepare just one episode a regular episode on how to sound more natural in English. I wanted to include in this one episode all aspects, techniques I recommend to make you sound more like a native. While I was preparing my content I realized there’s so much to say I have to split it into many episodes.

I feel and know this topic is crucial, it’s going to help you speak better, feel more confident and this is my friend my goal. I want you to get rid of your speaking blockade. I want you to feel sure about your abilities and your words.

That’s why I decided to prepare a whole series: Sound More Natural. It’ll appear every few episodes. I have to tell you about linking words, about translating in your head, about contractions about stress, about stress in syllables, about word stress, sentence stress. Intonation, elision, accent, uff! A lot! In the end, I decided to give you some more in-depth knowledge instead of just superficial piece of information about all these things and prepare separate episodes on each element.

If you want to sound more natural if you don’t want to be pegged as a learner or as a foreigner if you want to be accepted in a particular community as someone who really gets the grasp of the language you need to know how to sound natural.

The language is not just words and grammar, it’s something more. Foreign language gives you a completely new system, a different view of life and you want to be a part of that. You want to be treated as a part of it, as an insider you need to sound more like them, like native speakers. There is nothing wrong with keeping your accent and I’m not an accent coach, I’ve never been to an accent coach. That’s not the point. The point is you want to be perceived as someone trusted as someone who understands the language deeply so you can take part in meaningful discussions, something more than just basic small talk. If you want deeper understanding you need to work on how you sound.

Thanks to filler words you can also train your brain to think in English. To pick words and phrases not by translating them from Polish.  When you say your filler words, you stay within the English language frame and not allow Polish words to come up.

Filler words are words without any inherent meaning, they only waste everybody’s time. They fill up the silence so that the person you talk to knows you haven’t finished yet. You need time to find out what to say. Native speakers use these words all the time. You should use them as well. 

Can you overuse filler words? Absolutely yes. Especially American speakers tend to overuse some words. In my opinion. Examples of such words are: like, literally, um, I guess. These five, ummm, four! Sorry! These four: like, literally, um, I guess.  Oh! They are overused so much, you hear them everywhere. What can I tell you? Just be careful. You wanna sound natural but not like a teenager or not knowing much. If you use too many fillers words it seems you have not much to say really. What you’re doing by overusing filler words is you’re trying to cover the fact that you don’t know something. Don’t be too generous using fillers than, ok?

Ok. Now I’m going to give you one filler word or expression and then I’m going to give give you some short time to repeat it. Next, I’ll say example sentences with that filler word followed by a pause for you to repeat. If you know my podcast you know how important it is to repeat out loud. Copy the rhythm, intonation and accent. Think about situations in which you could use these examples.

#1 you know

Everywhere I go I see these, you know, Halloween decorations.

I would like to you know, take some holiday.

#2 I mean

I mean, I’m tired of telling everyone about my diet.

I mean, she expected me to accept her invitation.

#3 kind of, sort of; kinda, sorta

He kind of dropped it and stepped on it at the same time.

It’s kind of like a towel but thinner if it makes sense.

She didn’t really swim. She sort of floated on the surface.

It’s kind of muddy.

#4 um, uh

I wanted to uh, give this to you.

She told me that it’s um, kind of tradition in this country.

#5 I guess

I’m going to take this one I guess.

My brother, I guess, will give me a lift.

#6 literally

I’m literally waiting for my exam results.

It’s literally, the best film I’ve seen recently.

#7 ok, so

Ok, so, I’m a bit confused.

Ok, so you’re telling me I shouldn’t go there?

#8 well

Well, I think you might be wrong.

What can I say, well, you did the right thing.

#9 like

I’m thinking about going to like the cinema.

She’s just like gone on holiday.

#10 or something

Buy him a present, or something.

I would recommend going to the specialist, or something.

Now I hope you understand the role of filler words and you know why you have to use them.  You know also what phrases to use and how to use them. I gave you 10 useful expressions and you practised them repeating a few sentences with me. Whenever you hear a filler word again you’ll know why and how somebody used it.

Now your turn. Think of your answer to this question: Where would you like to go next weekend? Where would you like to go next weekend? Write your answer including filler words! I’m waiting for your sentences.

Teacherola.com/13, there you’ll find full transcript as well as a worksheet. Download it and practice some phrasal verbs and other vocabulary items from this episode.

If you think someone you know should listen to this episode, because they overuse the word ‘literally’ for instance, do tell him or her about it.

Next episode is another vocabulary booster, this time it’ll be about whether idioms I promised. Make sure to subscribe and do not miss it!

Have a great week, till next Wednesday, happy learning, bye!