AA: I'm Avi Arditti with Rosanne Skirble, and this week on Wordmaster: we talk with English teacher Nina Weinstein about some expressions in spoken American English that you might not find in a dictionary.
Vocabulary or techniques used in spoken English, but not in written:
- Uh huh shows the speaker you’re listening; can mean “yes”; can be pronounced “um hmm” (mouth closed)
- Unh unh means “no”; can be pronounced “mm mm” (mouth closed)
- Uh, um give the speaker time to think. (Don’t use these too much.)
- Hmm means “I’m thinking” or “That’s interesting.” Can be pronounced “Mmm.” (“Mmm” can also mean “I like it" – food, an idea, etc.)
- Uh oh means “Oh no, there’s trouble.”
You know establishes understanding between the speaker and listener ("The restaurant is on the street; you know, the one just before you get to the mall.") It also gives the speaker time to think.
- Huh? is informal for “what?” Can be pronounced “hmm?”
- Hey is a casual way to draw attention to what you’re saying. Often begins a sentence.
In other words can begin a sentence. Can be used to check that the listener understood the speaker (very useful for second language learners)
Oops or whoops is used when someone makes a mistake or drops something.
Let’s see means “let me think” or “I’m thinking.” Often begins a sentence.
Tsk tsk tsk expresses disapproval
Aha means “I’ve discovered something.” Usually said with a lot of emphasis.
Other conversational strategies include:
Irregular pacing. Natural English isn’t spoken at one speed; native speakers can speed up or slow down within a speech, sentence, or even a phrase.
Repetition of words. Words and phrases are often repeated spontaneously.