Have you ever been accused of using too many disfluencies when you talk? Do you use the words um, uh, or like, a lot? Speech disfluencies are common in our every day speech and can have a variety of uses. They help us slow down what we’re trying to say. They help us repair mistakes. They also help stall time while trying to think of a new word. These words, even though commonly expressed in every day talk, it discouraged in the media. In formal settings, I’m constantly aware of my speech and try to consciously avoid using many disfluencies that just come so naturally.

Many parents will try to avoid using these words around their young children so that the children don’t pick them up. Surprisingly enough, these words can actually help a child understand new words. At a young age of around 2-3 years, children are trying to constantly pick up new words which can be very difficult. When their parents use disfluencies, the child’s mind knows “the next word is going to be important!” and the brain will focus on that next word. Parent’s speech stumbles help a child learn new words more efficiently. This research was conducted at the University of Rochester’s Baby Lab.

This research is only true for children older than 2 years. Children younger than 2 aren’t aware that the disfluencies will precede new words. This does not mean that parents should use their uh’s and um’s more around their child. This means that it’s okay to use them.