Lorenzo García-Amaya

Lorenzo García-Amaya, Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, and co-director of the Speech Production Lab wrote a Ted-Ed Lesson, entitled “Why do we, like, hesitate when we, um, speak?” has reached more than two million views online.

The lesson focuses on how seemingly insignificant interruptions are actually quite meaningful in spoken communication. It has been translated into numerous languages, including Spanish, Italian, and Arabic. 

“These speech markers give people a real-time view into your thought process and help listeners follow, interpret, and predict what you’re trying to say,” the lesson states.

García-Amaya’s TED-Ed script was partly inspired by teamwork initiated in the Humanities Collaboratory and his co-authored article on Afrikaans-Spanish filled pauses, published in Studies in Second Language Acquisition with Sean Lang. He also co-authored an article on Afrikaans-Spanish filled pauses with Sean Lang (BA, Spanish & Neuroscience, 2019).

“I thought it would be very nice to have a video about the Afrikaans-Spanish bilingual community in Patagonia, so that was the idea I was originally going to pitch to the TED team,” García Amaya said. “But I think the topic of the hesitation phenomenon was more interesting to them, so we decided to continue with that.”

García-Amaya explained that the TED team had a very well-thought-out process of checking accuracy for facts published in their videos.

“They required that every single quotation should be supported by an article or essay that had been published in the literature,” García Amaya said. “To summarize an article in one sentence is very tricky – it made the process take a bit longer than I expected.”

The next stage was to bring animation to the video, something that TED animator Yael Reisfeld helped bring to life. García-Amaya’s video was animated by this well-known and award-winning animator. 

“I was very impressed with our animator and was honored to have her put images to my words – her ideas were so creative,” García-Amaya said. 

García-Amaya said that his overall experience working with Ted-Ed was extremely positive, and he recommends to anyone to watch these videos to expand their knowledge on all topics.