Do your IELTS students associate being fluent in English with non-stop talking?

Then you might want to draw their attention to the fact that one of the most noticeable differences between native and nonnative speakers of a language is their so-called ‘HESTITATION PHENOMENA’ (…or lack thereof). 

Learners can be taught to use PAUSES more intentionally, as well as other ‘HESITATION DEVICES’, to gain time and confidence while speaking.


A) All-purpose words: Extending a general lexical item to broader contexts –for example ‘thing’, ‘thingy’, ‘stuff’

B) Appeal for help: Asking for help from the speaking partner either directly –for example ‘What do you call …?’,


indirectly –for example with rising intonation, pausing, eye contact, etc.

C) Approximation: Using an alternative, often simpler term to express the meaning of the target lexical item –for example ‘ship’ for ‘cruiser’

D) Circumlocution: Describing target words with their function –for example ‘the thing you serve soup with’ for ‘ladle’

E) Nonlinguistic signals: Mime, gesture, facial expression, or sound imitation

F) Prefabricated patterns: Using memorized stock phrases, usually for ‘survival’ purposes –for example ‘How do you say ____?’

G) Time gaining strategies: Using fillers or hesitation devices to fill pauses and to gain time to think –for example ‘well’, ‘uh’, ‘ummm’, ‘as a matter of fact’, etc.

Can you think of any other?

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Hi. I’m Fatime. I’m an IELTS Teacher Trainer, helping CELTA-qualified English language teachers become better at teaching SKILLS, as opposed to just testing them. 

Check out my courses here:

How to Teach IELTS Listening:

How to Teach IELTS Reading:

How to Teach IELTS Writing:

How to Teach IELTS Speaking: