how to seem fluent in two words

While I have SO MUCH to share about my life… I’m going to skip that for a bit. Because I have some other thoughts at the moment.

Now that I can no longer call myself a beginner (my 2 year anniversary with Esperanto is coming up soon!) I find myself looking back fondly at the memory.  Sure, at the time it was frustrating to not be able to adequately express myself (one could argue that I still can’t do that, even in English), but everything fit together in those sixteen rules, it was new and exciting–and everyone I met seemed to speak confidently and flawlessly.  Fast forward two years. Yeah, it’s great to be able to use the language now. It’s great to no longer have people assume that because I don’t feel so great stringing together thoughts in Esperanto, I don’t understand what’s being said. True story: “Stop listening, Chris, this is too hard for you.” And most importantly, it’s wonderful to be able to think in the language.  But now… I pick up on errors. Everywhere. I try to be patient (and when appropriate, helpful), but it’s hard not to notice.

Before Esperanto, I may have occasionally earned the title of “Grammar Nazi.”  Really, I just like rules.  Rules should (as long as I agree with them?) be followed.  If you’ve been speaking the language for 20 years–as a native speaker, no less–you should know it pretty well.  I get (though am bugged) that modern usage has made things like proper use of “whom” less important, but I still do my best to follow those rules. (Once, during an interview, I was asked if my mother was an English teacher because I actually used “whom” correctly.  I cried a single tear for the English language that day)

It’s not surprising, then, that I cringe a little on the inside when those folks* who seemed so fluent even a year and a half ago stumble over suffixes and speak with a strong (rhymes with wrong) American accent. But do you know what really makes them sound like they’re speaking a tongue totally foreign to them? The word “um.”

If you would like to sound like you are more fluent in Esperanto than you do now, please cut out “um” and start adding in Esperanto filler words.  Say “nu” and “do” and I guarantee that other people will think you are more fluent than if you do not say them.  It will make you sound 100000** times more natural–if you’re pausing to think with a filler word that is Esperanto, they can assume you are thinking in Esperanto too.   If you can throw some other interjections in there, all the better.  True story: I was at a conversation round once, at which I spoke barely a handful of words, but I about half of them were filler words or interjections.  Someone said “wow, you’ve become really fluent now!”

I understand that if you’re reading this (unless I have some readers I don’t know about), you are either already fluent in Esperanto, or you do not speak it at all.  I have good news for you if you are in the latter category: this works in other languages too! I recently discovered the word “no” in Polish (it means “nu,” or “well,”). That was the happiest discovery I could have made.  I am far from fluent, but by adding “no” to my vocabulary, I sound much less stilted, and much more confident.  Even if I butcher the pronunciation of every other word.

*not you
**give or take

  1. Freaky. No is Finnish for well as well!

    • Awesome! I’ll have to add that in the next time I count to two. d:

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