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New app helps students cut 'um' and 'like' out of their vocabulary

Photo Illustration | LikeSo is an app that helps students practice their speaking skills so that they may stop using “um” and “uh” when they speak. – Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez

"Um", "so" and "like." These three words can often be found in a typical millennial's vocabulary. 

But a new language application LikeSo by Say It Media Inc. is designed to help students speak more articulately by eliminating “filler” words from their speech. 

The app uses voice recognition technology to detect words such as “like” or “so” and track verbal habits, according to

Users can practice their speech with two modes: Freestyle and TalkAbout. 

In Freestyle mode, the user speaks about any topic for a designated amount of time while the application analyzes the amount of filler words used and measures the pace of the speaker. 

Users are given a percentage on how articulate their speech is based on the number of times they used filler words in the allotted period, according to their website.

In TalkAbout mode, users choose a topic to speak about for a designated amount of time and are given a score based on the same criteria as Freestyle mode. 

When users find out their score, they see an analysis explaining what filler words they use the most.

With practice, LikeSo app users can learn from their mistakes and work towards a perfect score, according to their website.

There are negative connotations to filler words, said Galina Bolden, a professor in the Department of Communication. 

But in contrast to the goals of the app, Bolden says that words such as “like” or “so” are actually necessary components to speech and should not be eliminated.

Words that are often seen as parasites can have important roles in speech, she said.  

"I show that it conveys that the speaker has been tracking the addressee’s life-in other words, that the speaker is enacting a personal relationship with the addressee,” Bolden said.

The words "like" is extremely useful when introducing reported speech and actions, she said. 

“I would be very cautious about any advice to eliminate these words from your speech entirely," Bolden said. "I think training in interviewing techniques would be much more useful than an app that simply monitors for these particular words, without paying any attention to how they are being used in context.” 

The LikeSo app monitors the use of certain words but does not account for the context of which the words are used.

It is important to also note where in a conversation the words "like" or "so" are used, said Jennifer Mandelbaum, a professor in the Department of Communication. 

"They perform different functions at the beginning of utterance, for example, then they do elsewhere in an utterance,” Mandelbaum said. 

It is important to realize words such as "like" and "so" have a crucial place in conversation, she said.

"(These words) are part of how we design the actions we are doing when we talk to one another," she said. 

Mandelbaum said it can be difficult to practice speech prior to job interviews, which is one of the areas the application is designed to help with. 

“It’s important to remember that conversations are interactive— they involve more than just one person. The actual experience of an interview is quite different,” she said.

The use of filler words in speech are somewhat of an issue, particularly in formal situations such as presentations, said Danielle Distel, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. 

When asked how she feels about public speaking, Distel said she lacks confidence.

“It makes me nervous,” Distel said, “I always stutter and mess up.”

The LikeSo app is available for 99 cents at the app store for iOS phones, according to

“Everyone says it (like or so). It kind of makes people seem like they are not educated on the topic they are talking about,” she said, “It should be important to train against these words when you’re speaking formally or presenting a speech, but in everyday life, I do not think its that big of a deal."

Victoria Nazarov is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in journalism and media studies. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.

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