“Are you from Switzerland?”
This is one of the best compliments I’ve ever received.
It’s not that I am Swiss (or that I ever will be, although I do love their fondue and spectacular walking tracks). But this drunken fellow thought my accent *might* have been from a German-speaking country. I’ll take that any day. Swiss people have a slightly different accent than German-speakers from Germany, so my new friend in Munich thought my accent sounded a little different to his, but not a dead give-away as an English speaker. Happy days!
(Note: He didn’t say “hey, you speak perfect German” either. Not at all, because I wasn’t speaking perfect German. But they didn’t immediately oust me as a native English speaker, which made me very happy.)
This was in part due to a sneaky trick.
How to project way above your own level of confidence
If I asked you “how was the dinner you whipped up last night?”, compare these two answers:
- “Delicious.” (Anyone – fluent speaker or not – could say this, just by learning one word. It’s basic.)
- “Well, actually, it was quite delicious”. (Thanks, Shakespeare.)
The difference? A few little words with a lot of impact, and which make you sound infinitely more confident. In this case: “Well”, “actually”, and “quite”.
These ‘filler’ words, so-called because they fill space that doesn’t change the meaning but just makes the conversation flow, change the way you sound. Learning the basic filler words for your target language can make you sound sound a lot more fluent in a very short space of time.
What are some good filler words and phrases to learn?
It depends on what native-speakers use most, but from my experience with Spanish, Japanese, German and French, these ones work very well and will have people saying “your language skills are rocking!” in no time:
- Well (a thinking word, as in “Well, I’ll have to think about that..”)
- So / therefore
- I think that
- I suppose that
- According to
- Over the course of time
If you don’t know these ones in your target language yet, your dictionary (or wordreference.com) will have you rocking them in no time.
If you’re already an expert, it always helps to pay attention to native speakers and make sure you’re getting the context and usage right. (For example, in Spanish “actualmente” is a false friend that means “currently”, not “actually” [which is "de hecho"]. I learnt this the hard way.)
A final example
- I think you can become fluent.
- Well, I suppose that over the course of time you could actually sound quite fluent using this technique.
Question: What filler words have you learnt that are helping you sound like a natural, or just get a bit more confident? Share in the comments below.
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