Most Indians have this habit while speaking in English. It's not stammering that I'm aware of. It's not stuttering or bumbling either. I'm not sure what is it called.

The speech goes like this...

Hello everyone. I'm Maulik and here I am to present a..... our company's .....a....... balancesheet for the year of 2014-15. As we see, we are going through ...a.......lots of ups and downs in a......

How is 'a' pronounced there? It's the same way we pronounce this indefinite article with any noun. So, it's 'a' in 'a car'.

It's not just with Indians, I have seen many foreigners (even natives) with this habit but the frequency is quite less.

The video: (Check at 00:56 and 1:01) - Note: Irfan's English is still better! The people I'm talking about have loud and clear 'a......a....a'.


Listen it carefully. There are several such pauses. I'm not sure whether the narrator is native - http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-27577537

  • 6
    I disagree that it has anything to do with indians. Really depends on the person if he is a good speaker in general May 26 '14 at 14:04
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    Seconding: This is completely independent of language and nationality of the speaker. You will find lots of "er" and "uh" in the speech of anyone who isn't an experienced public speaker, native or foreign language.
    – DevSolar
    May 26 '14 at 15:24
  • @IvoBeckers I already mentioned that it happens with most Indians and I'm confirmed! I'm an Indian surrounded by Indians. And I do agree, it's not solely associated with Indians but then I mentioned that too!
    – Maulik V
    May 27 '14 at 5:19
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    @MrReality: No. Not that I know that many languages. But I would consider it unlikely. Is there a specific reason for your question?
    – DevSolar
    Mar 17 '20 at 17:02
  • 1
    @MrReality: You should best ask a separate question for that, as I am not a native speaker to begin with. ;-)
    – DevSolar
    Mar 17 '20 at 17:13

Most non-Indians have the same habit! It's called a dysfluency because for a moment your speech stops flowing (fluent literally means "flowing freely"). And Codeswitcher's answer is correct; these are often referred to as filler.

Of course, we don't usually write this sound down, but when we do we usually spell it uh, not a. Even though it sounds like the indefinite article, we don't spell it like that because it's not being used as an article. Some speakers of non-rhotic dialects spell the same sound er—since they don't pronounce /r/ in this position, er and uh describe the same sound.

You can find it in a few dictionaries under uh. They typically list it as an exclamation or an interjection, and from time to time you'll find people saying uh on purpose to indicate that they're at a loss for words (even if they aren't really):

Alice: How do you like my new hat?
Bob: It's, well, uh, er, um . . .

Bob is indicating that he can't think of anything nice to say. Poor Alice!

  • 2
    +1 for ...but when we do we usually spell it uh, not a. Though I read the pronunciation of uh as u but I accept it is certainly not spelled as ..a.. I just wrote to make others understand.
    – Maulik V
    May 26 '14 at 8:39
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    Native speakers do say uh unintentionally fairly often. They also say it intentionally sometimes.
    – user230
    May 26 '14 at 9:14
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    @DavidRicherby I did mention that you non-rhotic speakers often spell it er instead. But I doubt your numbers are reliable. Take a look through the linked Google Books results and count how many times er is actually er: google.com/search?q=%22er%22&tbs=bks:1&lr=lang_en
    – user230
    May 26 '14 at 11:58
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    @snailplane Oh, good point. It hadn't occurred to me that "er" has another meaning. (Over here, we call that place A&E and I don't watch hospital dramas.) May 26 '14 at 12:12
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    The public speaking group Toastmasters International has a person at each meeting dedicated to counting ums and ahs. And blogger Olivia Mitchell is another expert who refers to these as filler words.
    – J.R.
    May 26 '14 at 12:43

That's called filler (honest!) and is a form of speech dysfluency.

  • I know fillers. They are close but not exactly.
    – Maulik V
    May 26 '14 at 6:39
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    But uh… it is actually a filler. May 26 '14 at 13:21

It's a filler and what you are talking about is the pronunciation of 'a' in speech. Actually, 'uh' is similar to 'a' in Hindi or other Indian languages. In English, 'A' is pronounced as 'Ae' in Hindi and 'U' is pronounced as 'A' in Hindi. So we are using 'uh' in speech as a filler. I agree to snailplane's answer as well.

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