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言葉の語源 kotoba no gogen – The origin of words:

あいづち aizuchi  [相槌]

Meaning: verbal or non verbal responses of agreement while someone is speaking. (While listening to someone you nod for example)

Hint: Remember the “zu” is づ

あいづちを打つ

aizuchi o utsu

Example #1

あの(ひと)のはなしは面白(おもしろ)くなかったけれど、一応(いちおう)あいづちを()ちながら()いていた。

ano hito no hanashi wa omoshiroku nakatta keredo, ichiou aizuchi o uchinagara kiiteita
That person’s story wasn’t interesting, but I listened while throwing in the occasional “uh huh” or “yes.”

Example #2: 

クレイさんは、「そうですね」と相づちを打ちました。

kurei san wa “sou desu ne” to aizuchi o uchimashita.
Clay agreed with a nod of “that’s right”.

Origin: This word comes from the conversation-like pounding when making swords. Sword makers would use a hammer called つち (槌) to pound the molten metal into the right shape. Several people would take turns pounding in a rhythm as if conversing with each other but without words. From this came the meaning of responding to someone non verbally while speaking.


Carrying on a conversation (in any language) isn’t just about getting your ideas across. It is also about showing the other person, the speaker, you are listening. This is especially important in Japanese since it is used all the time.

In English, we might say, “Oh, really?” or “Is that so?” or “Uh huh” to show the speaker we are interested and understanding what he or she is saying. This video lists several important 相槌 aizuchi for showing you are interested or agree with the speaker.

Aizuchi to show Attention

Let’s first look at 相槌  aizuchi that could be considered positive. None of these fully imply the listener even agrees with the speaker. But the listener is interested, engaged, and understanding what the speaker has to say.

Here are the main words (there are many more):

はい yes
hai

While this means “yes,” はい is often used in conversation to show attention and interest.


ええ yeah
ee

This is sometimes written as えー. This is a common substitute for はい with generally the same meaning. I’m listening and I’m interested. When said with a rising tone, it can show surpise or disbelief.


うん yep
un

This is a less formal but common way to say “yes.” As mentioned above, saying this doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with the speaker, but just that you are showing interest.


なるほど I see
naruhodo

When the listener explains something you didn’t previously understand, you can say, “I see” or “I get it” or “indeed.”


さすが As expected…
sasuga

This means “as one would expect” and is often used as a compliment. If the speaker says an accomplishment, compliment him or her with “I knew you could do it.”.


すごい! Amazing!
sugoi!

すごい means “amazing” and can be compared to the slang word “cool” or “awesome.” When the speaker says something amazing, use this.


そうですね。 That’s right.
sou desu ne.

Also shortened as そうだ, this literally means “That is so.” It shows mild agreement, but it could also just be used to show interest.


うそ  (surprise) No way!
uso

This literally means “lie.” When said with surprise, it means “Really?” but when said with disbelief, it can mean “I don’t believe that.”


うそ (disbelief) I don’t believe that.
uso

Depending on how you say this, it can show agreement (with shock) or disbelief (also with shock).


ほんと (I) swear; really; (I’m) telling the truth
honto

This can be used to agree with the listener. I swear. That’s for sure. I’m telling the truth. This literally means “true” or “fact.” In less colloquial circumstances, it really has a う at the end: ほんとう.


ほんとに really; truly
honto ni

The adverbial form can be used to confirm what someone said is really true.


まさか It can’t be…; no way; you don’t say
masaka

This is usually said when the listener suddenly realizes what the speaker is saying may actually be true despite it sounding absurd. It can’t be…


信じられない I don’t believe it

Literally, this means “I cannot believe.” but this can also be said when believing but not wanting to believe. I can’t believe (he did that).


ありえない impossible; no way
arienai!

This means impossible, but again, it may simply show the listener is shocked by what she hears.


おかしい That’s odd; funny; little strange
okashii

This means “odd” or “strange.” Something’s funny about that.


なんかへんな Something’s wrong with that; that’s odd
nanka henna

Literally, something strange.


 

Aizuchi Japanese Conversational Interjections

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