Translated by Alanna Quintyne
In today’s article called “The Importance of Silence”, I would like to dispel a myth that is speaking fast with no breaks makes you a better speaker.
In the following lines, you’ll find out why it’s something I disagree with, and you can find my thought explained in 4 points.
When studying a foreign language, we all have the same aim, which is: to speak. For this reason, I have no trouble believing that for many, this title may seem misleading or even out of place.
But don’t panic! In this article, I will discuss this title and give you all the information you need in order to understand why silence is so important.
Myths to Dispel
I have often had to deal with the complaints of my students, some of whom felt frustrated because they were not yet able to speak the Italian of their dreams.
So far, nothing shocking – everyone knows that learning Italian, like any other language, takes time. It is in fact a long journey, a marathon, as i have already mentioned in the past, and above all an individual journey that does not involve challenges but only with oneself.
What caused me to reflect, however, was finding out that for many, speaking in a natural way is linked to speaking quickly and without pauses or interruptions: in short, everything that shouldn’t be done. Since this is a myth which I believe should be debunked once and for all, I have highlighted 4 points in the following paragraphs that explain the importance of silence and pauses.
1. Pauses Allow You to Think
When speaking a foreign language, small moments of silence give us the opportunity to think about the best word to use, or even the right verbal form. In short, these moments of silence are a very useful resource for making our speech as accurate as possible.
But think about it: pauses are also useful for those speaking their own native language…Don’t believe me? If I ask you a question that you haven’t thought of yet, you would automatically, without meaning to, be silent for a few moments to clear your head before you start talking!
So I ask you: why should pauses be censored when speaking a foreign language if we use them when speaking our own? Good question, isn’t it?
2. Silence Gives Rhythm to Speech
Clear and efficient speech consists of words and pauses. Without this combination, it would be very difficult to follow the flow of someone’s speech. Pauses in the right places give rhythm to our sentences and keep the listener’s attention. Let’s give an example where I don’t insert the appropriate silences:
I am sure that even if you understood everything that was said, if I keep talking like this for 20 or 30 seconds, your attention will falter. If I used pauses in speech at the right points, it would be much more pleasant for you to continue listening to me. For example:
“Il silenzio è una componente fondamentale del discorso. Non è importante solo quello che si dice, le parole che si usano, ma anche il modo in cui vengono comunicate le informazioni.”
“Silence is an essential component of speech. It is not only important what you say or the words you use, but also the way the information is communicated.”
Surely this second way is more effective and easier to follow. So, this point leads us directly to the next one:
3. Silence Allows You to Emphasize the Most Important Points
In the previous paragraph we saw how speech without pauses and silences is flat and difficult to understand. Pausing at the right time and in the right place not only gives rhythm to one’s speech, but also emphasizes the most important points.
Think of the best public speakers: their strategic use of pauses allows them to focus attention on themselves and literally makes listeners hang off of every word. In addition, these “planned” silences, deliberately longer or shorter, placed in front of crucial sentences, aim precisely to give greater emphasis to that particular point or concept.
4. Silence Decreases the Use of Fillers
You all know what fillers are, right? Fillers are words which are used to fill gaps. I’ve already talked about them in depth in an article I wrote a while ago, so if you want to know more about them then I invite you to read and listen to it. However, if you already know about them and don’t need a refresher then keep going with this article and listening.
So, one thing I would like to point out is that sometimes silence is preferable in place of fillers. Let me explain. it is a fact that fillers make language sound more natural, so their use should not be considered a problem, on the contrary. On the other hand, it is good to keep in mind that their misuse can make us sound insecure, unprepared and unprofessional, so if you realize that you are using them too much, try to replace them with a moment of silence in which you take a deep breath and then resume speaking.
In this article, I spoke about silence and the misconception that its elimination is a good thing or that it makes us speak a foreign language better. Be careful though, it is one thing to keep completely silent, but it is quite another to take short breaks to catch your breath and collect your thoughts.
Remember: in order to communicate effectively, speech must always be accompanied by pauses as they give rhythm and naturalness to our speech flow.
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