Learning Japanese through textbooks and online lessons is incomplete if you cannot express yourself clearly.
Because Japanese is a very unique language, beginners might find it challenging to converse in Japanese without hesitation. During the initial days of learning a foreign language, we usually find it difficult to express ourselves while speaking in that language. At least from my experiences I have always felt that reading and writing sync in faster that speaking.
To carry on a smooth conversation in Japanese, it is important to show that you are listening to the speaker. In other words, it is important to pay attention to an ongoing discussion. So, it is a good habit to respond, even if there is nothing much to say.
Aizuchi 相槌 are Japanese filler words that are used by a listener to give an immediate response to a speaker.
In this lesson let me introduce 5 Japanese aizuchi which will help you respond better in Japanese.
Sou(desu) – I call this the magic word! The word そう combined with the copula です can be used in various forms (past tense, negative form…..) and in a variety of situations.
When agreeing with someone or giving an affirmative response
Aさん：今日はあついですね。(kyou ha atsui desune – It is hot today, isn’t it?)
Bさん：そうですね。(soudesune – Yes it is.)
Aさん：きょうは金曜日ですか。(kyou ha kinyoubi desuka – Is today Friday?)
Bさん：そうです。金曜日です。(soudesu. Kinyoubidesu -Yes, it is Friday.)
Aさん：これが1万円札ですか。(kore ga ichimanensatsu desuka – Is this 10,000 yen note? )
Bさん：そうですよ。(soudesuyo – Of course.)
そうですよ gives a feeling of assurance in the response.
When you want to express surprise or astonishment (on receiving a new information)
Aさん：明日は先生の誕生日です。(ashita ha sensei no tanjoubi desu – tomorrow is sensei’s birthday.)
Bさん：そうですか。何かプレゼントをさし上げませんか。(soudesuka. nanika purezento wo sashiagemasenka – Really? Shouldn’t we give sensei a present?)
Aさん：課長、体調がよくないので今日は早く帰らせていただけませんか。(kachou, taichou ga yokunai node kyou ha hayaku kaerasete itadakemasenka – Boss, may I leave early today as I am not feeling well?)
Bさん：そうなの。じゃ、早く帰ってもいいですよ。(sounano. ja, hayaku kaettemo iidesuyo – Is that so? Well, then you can leave early.)
Hontou literally means ‘really’. ほんとう and ほんとうに are used by the listener when they want to utter interjections like ‘really?’ or ‘is that so?’ or simply some excitement.
Aさん：夏休みには、パリへ行こうと思っている。(natsuyasumi ni ha, pari ni ikou to omotteiru – I am thinking to go to Paris during the summer vacation.)
Bさん：ほんとう。(hontou – really?) (showing excitement)
When you can’t believe your ears! Hee is used when you are extremely surprised at something (it could be a positive or negative surprise).
Aさん：締め切りは明日ですよね。(shimekiri ha ashita desuyo ne – The deadline is tomorrow isn’t it?)
Bさん：へぇー忘れてた。(Hee, wasureteta – Oh no, I totally forgot.)
This aizuchi is also used as a conversation filler.
Aさん：今日はね,学校で不思議なことがあった。(kyou ha ne, gakkou de fushigina koto ga atta – A strange thing happened at school today.)
Bさん：へぇ。(hee – oh really?)
Aさん：授業中はピアノの音が聞こえていたが音楽室にだれもいなかった。(jugyouchuu ha piano no oto ga kikoeteita ga ongakushitsu ni daremo inakatta – I heard the the sound of piano during class, but the no one was in the music room.)
Bさん：へぇー。そうなの。(hee. sounano – what! is that so?)
Naruhodo means ‘I see’ or ‘ yes that’s right. It is used to show that you agree with the speaker.
Aさん：このドアは自動的に開く。(kono doa ha jidoutekini aku – This door opens by itself.)
Bさん：なるほど。(naruhodo – I see.)
Hai (yes) is the most common aizuchi. When you are engaged in long conversations and the speaker goes on and on, respond with a hai every now and to keep the discussion alive.
うん un and ええ ee are two alternates for はい.