Conversational Japanese: What is Aizuchi? 相槌 – Conversational Interjections

Are you looking to improve your Japanese conversations?  One of the most important aspects of conversational Japanese is 相槌 (aizuchi)/相槌を打つ (aizuchi o utsu).  But what is Aizuchi?
These are conversational interjections that Japanese speakers use when speaking with one another. Aizuchi is primarily a way for the listener to communicate to the speaker that they are listening.  Watch the video to learn about Aizuchi and practice using it with Akiko-sensei!
In this article we are going to review the video above, as well as look at the functions of 相槌 (aizuchi), some aizuchi words and phrases, as well a couple examples of how to incorporate these interjections into your Japanese conversations.


The Functions of Japanese Aizuchi (相槌)

As stated in our Youtube video above, the main purpose of aizuchi is to let the other person know that you are listening to what they are saying.
If you have ever been asked by a friend or significant other “hey, are you listening to me?” – this may be a problem with your Aizuchi.  Even if you are listening with focused intent, your Japanese friend may mistake your silence for lack of interest!  We certainly want to avoid that.
In order to prevent such a miscommunication or misunderstanding, you can make use of Aizuchi words or phrases.

In Japan, it is not considered rude or impolite to “interrupt” the person speaking so long as it is to say some aizuchi.  This way you can reassure your friend (or significant other) that you are listening intently to what they are saying!

Aizuchi Words and Phrases that You Can Use!

There are many more phrases than the ones listed below, but we have a good starter list put together.  Additionally, we hope to be updating this in the future to provide you with more 相槌 words!

うん、うん (un, un)

This is the first 相槌 word Akiko-sensei teaches us in the video above!  A literal translation would be something like “yes, yes.”  However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you are agreeing with what the other person is saying.  It merely shows that you are listening to them.
As Akiko-sensei points out in the video above, this うん、うん (un, un) sound is made with your throat, not your mouth.

そうなんだ!(sou nan da!)

This phrase can be used on its own – or alongside え or あ depending on your tone.  そうなんだ (sou nan da) is similar to exclaiming: “Is that right!”
If you wish to indicate surprise at information you may be receiving, you can say え、そうなんだ!
Alternatively, to emphasize interest, you can add あ to the front and it becomes あ、そうなんだ!

それ、いいね!(sore, iine!)

“That’s nice!” – An aizuchi classic.  Use this one to compliment the speaking party or empathize with their stories!

お、すごい! (o, sugoi!)

If you have already read our article 20 Ways to use the Japanese: すごい! Then you should already know this one!
Sugoi (すごい) is a word that’s typically used when you’re left awestruck out of excitement or feel overwhelmed. This can be used in many different situations, whether good or bad. A similar English expression would be something along the lines of “Wow” or “Amazing!”

最高! (saikō!)

You may have heard this one before too!  The word 最高 (saikou) means “the best” or “great”.

最高 is made up of the kanji 最 meaning “the most; maximum”, and 高 meaning “tall” or “high”.  Put them together and you get 最高!
This is another interjection used to express excitement at what the other person is saying.

Examples of Aizuchi in Action

Example 1:

Ashita, yaki niku o tabe ni iku!
I’m going to eat Korean BBQ tomorrow!
E, sounanda!
Eh, is that so?!
Sou da yo! Tabe hou dai mo aru tte
Yes! I heard they have all-you-can-eat
Sore, ii ne! Urayamashii na…
That’s great! I’m jealous…
Aizuchi can also be used in formal situations as well.
Instead of うん、うん – you can replace it with a simple はい.  Check out example no. 2 below!

Example 2:

部長 (buchou – manager):
Rai shuu no kaigi nandesu ga…
Regarding next week’s meeting…
会社員 (kaishain – employee):
Happyou shite moraemasu ka?
Could you present?
What other examples can you think of to use 相槌?

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