Aizuchi Words To Learn To Be The Best Listener

Listening manners in Japanese

There are many cultural rules and etiquette in the Japanese language and culture which also applies to listening etiquette while communicating with others.

Aizuchi also known as gap fillers in English is a good way to practice proper listening skills in Japanese that will help you put the speaker at ease and also give you brownie points for being a good listener.

What is Aizuchi?

相槌 (あいづち, aizuchi) is a social gesture and gap filler to show the speaker you are following, understanding, or even sympathizing with their story. It can take a form of a simple nod, a word, a particular sound, or physical gesture.

By learning Aizuchi words and phrases, you can not only become a better listener, but can connect with your speaker better, and even leave a great impression.

Take a look at these 23 Aizuchi terms you can use right away to up your Japanese listening manners.


うんうん (unun) simply means ‘yes’. You can simply use this as a general word or sound you make when listening to someone speak. You can use it throughout the duration of the speaker speaking, but you can also use it during breaks in between sentences.

You don’t necessarily need to use うんうん twice or more times, and you can also use うん once giving it a slightly more casual approach, and repeating it twice gives it a more active listening tone.


ねね きのう じゅぎょう いって しゅくだい の ていしゅつ する じゅんび してた とき に
nene kinou jyugyou itte shukudai no teishutsu suru junbi shiteta toki ni
You know, when I was trying to prepare turning in the assignment we had in the class yesterday…


un un
Yeah, what happened?


せんせい に きゅう に よばれて
sensei ni kyuu ni yobarete
The professor suddenly called me


un un
Yeah? And, then?


はいはい (haihai) also means ‘yes’ and comes from the word はい or ‘yes’ in Japanese. The same way as うんうん, you can use it throughout the duration of the speaker speaking or in between sentences.

You can also use this when speaking over the phone to indicate that you can clearly hear what they are saying. In this case, rather than saying はいはい continuously, it is best to say it in between sentences for clearer breaks.

Here is an example:


さきほど こうにゅう した しょうひん に ついて おきき したい の ですが
sakihodo kounyu shita shouhin ni tsuite okiki shitai no desuga
Regarding the item I purchased earlier




てぃーしゃつ を こうにゅう した の ですが、サイズ を まちがえて しまって
tii shatsu wo kounyuu shita no desuga, saizu wo machigaete shimatte
I purchased a T-shirt, but I chose the wrong size




しょうひん の さいず を かえる こと は できます か
shouhin no saizu wo kaeru koto wa dekimasu ka
Can I change the size of the product?


はい。かのう で ございます。では、こうにゅう へんこう てつづき ですが
hai. kanou de gozaimasu. dewa kounyuu hennkou tetsuduki desuga
Yes. It is possible. So, regarding the return process.


ああ (aa) is usually a sound or reaction you can make when you have realized what the speaker is talking about. Or, it can also mean that you understand what they are referring to.


せんしゅう、ぶしょ で のみかい を した じゃん?
senshuu busho de nomikai wo shita jan?
Last week, we went to drinks with the team, right?


ああ。あの すずき さん の たんじょうび の とき ね?
aa. ano suzuki san no tanjoubi no toki ne?
Yeah, yeah. You mean during Mr. Suzuki’s birthday party?


へえ (hee) is another useful Aizuchi to show your interest in the speaker’s story or a handy ice breaker in between their sentences. But, make sure there’s a punchline or a particular revelation before you use it. It isn’t as flexible as using うんうん (unun) in between sentences.


せんしゅう、おきゃくさん と うちあわせ してた とき に、さいきん はやってる たれんと も さんか して たん だよ ね。
senshuu, okyakusan to uchiawase shiteta toki ni, saikin hayatteru tarento mo sanka shite tan dayo ne.
Last week, when we had a meeting with the customer, a really famous celebrity also joined.


hee. kawaikatta?
Really? Was she pretty?


ええ (ee) means ‘what?’, ‘are you serious?’, or a simple ‘OMG!’. It is often used when you are shocked, surprised, or disapprove of something.


きょう おきゃくさん に ていしゅつ する しりょう を わすれて しまいました。
kyou okyakusan ni teishutsu suru shiryou wo wasurete shimaimashita.
I forgot the documents I was supposed to turn in to the customer.


ええ。ちょっと いそいで とって きて くれ。
ee. chotto isoide totte kite kure.
Are you serious? Can you go and get it quickly?


まじで (majide) means ‘are you serious?’ or ‘really?’. This is one of the most used casual term used between friends.
You can also simply say まじ (maji).


せんしゅう、ぷれぜん が うまくいって、あんけん また もらったん だよね。
senshuu, purezen ga umakuitte, anken mata morattan dayone.
Last week, the presentation went well, and we signed another project.


まじで。 すごいですね。
maji de. sugoi desu ne.
Are you serious? That is great news!


そうそう (sousou) means ‘Exactly’ or ‘yeah’ in English. This is a helpful word to use that can assure the speaker that you understand or even agree with what they are saying. You can also simply say そう (sou).


せんしゅう、かいしゃ の のみかい あった じゃん?
senshuu, kaisha no nomikai atta jan?
Do you remember that we had a get together at work last week?


ああ、あの すずき さん の そうべつかい の のみかい でしょ?
aa, ano suzuki san no soubetsukai no nomika desho?
You mean the farewell party of Suzuki-san?


そうそう、その ひ ね。
sousou, sono hi ne.
Yeah, that day.


いえいえ (ieie) means ‘not at all’ or ‘no , no’. You can use it to portray humbleness or just by simply saying ‘no’ depending on the context of your conversation.

Often times in Japanese culture, when someone complements you, you can say ‘thank you’ by humble down yourself by rejecting what the speaker is saying. This makes you appear humble in such a way that you feel you ‘still need improvement’ or ‘you are still a work in progress’.

This may be a very foreign concept compared to western culture, but simply think of it for now as a way to say ‘thank you’ and that you appreciate the compliment.

Take a look at how you can use it in your conversation:


きみ は、すごく がんばり や さん で、この あんけん も よく やってくれた。
kimi wa sugoku ganbari ya san de, kono anken mo yoku yattekureta.
You are very hardworking, and did a great job on this project.


いえいえ、たろう さん の ごしどう の おかげ です。
ieie, tarou san no goshidou no okage desu.
Not at all. It’s thanks to your mentoring Taro-san.

TIP: This a great way to get on your boss’s good side! After saying いえいえ (ieie) you can follow up a comment that would give back a complement back to the speaker. By stating that ‘it was thanks to’ the speaker, you are humbling yourself down, and also lifting up the speaker and praising them.


いやいや (iyaiya) is another good way of saying ‘Not at all’. In a similar way as いえいえ (ieie) you can use this to subtly reject what the speaker is saying, but also praise them at the same time.


ぼく は、そんなに ぷれぜんてーしょん とか、うまく できない から。
boku wa sonnani purezenteeshon toka umaku dekinai kara.
I’m not very good at presentations.


いやいや、そんなことないよ。たろう さん の ぷれぜんてーしょん を いつも さんこう に して もらって ます。
iya iya sonna koto naiyo. Tarou san no purezente-shon wo itsumo sankou ni shite morattemasu.
Not at all. I always use your presentation as reference to learn, Taro-san.


本当に (hontou ni) means ‘Really?’ or ‘Are you serious?’ just in a way you would use まじ (maji). The difference with 本当に and まじ is that 本当に is a less casual term compared to まじ. In a similar way, you can also take off the に (ni) at the end, and simply use 本当 (hontou)?


あんけん が うまく いったん だよ ね。
anken ga umaku ittan dayo ne.
Actually, the presentation went well.


ほんとう に?じゃ、のみ に いき ましょう よ。
hontou ni? ja, nomi ni iki mashou yo.
Really? Let’s go for drinks then.


そうなんだ (sou nanda) means ‘Is that so?’. You can use そうなんだ when you learned something new from the speaker.


うち の しゃちょう と いっしょ の がっこう だったん だ。
uchi no shachou to issho no gakkou dattan da.
I actually went to the same school as our CEO.


hee. sounanda.
Oh yeah? Is that so.


そうですね (soudesune) means ‘That’s true’ or ‘I feel the same way’. This is another useful gap filler you can use when you want to let the speaker know you agree with what they say.


やっぱり わたし たち の ぎょうかい は きょうそう が はげしい です ね。
yappari watashi tachi no gyoukai wa kyousou ga hageshii desu ne.
Our industry really is competitive isn’t it.


たしか に そう です ね。
tashika ni sou desu ne.
For sure, that’s true.


なるほど (naruhodo) means ‘Ah, I see’ or something you would say when you have an ‘aha! moment’. You can also use this when there is something being explained to you, and you finally understand something or you have a realization. It’s also a great filler and a useful signal to show your speaker that you are following their story.


ここ は、こうして こうしん する と、うまく いく よ。
koko wa koushite koushin suruto umaku iku yo.
You can update this part like this, so it will be more effective.


なるほど。やっと りかい できました。
naruhodo. yatto rikai dekimashita.
Ah, I see. I finally got it.


だからか (dakaraka) means ‘That’s why’ or ‘That makes sense’. This can be used in a similar way as なるほど (naruhodo) to show that you have made the connection of what the speaker has explained with the bigger picture.


きのう は、きゅう に かぜ を ひいて しまって、みーてぃんぐ に いけ なかったん です。
kinou wa kyuu ni kaze wo hiite shimatte, miitinggu ni ike nakattan desu.
I suddenly caught a cold yesterday, so I couldn’t attend the meeting.


dakaraka. soudattan desune.
That makes sense. I didn’t know that was the case.


だよね (dayone) is another way of saying ‘That’s true’ or ‘Ditto’. It’s a casual way you can say ‘I agree’. A less casual way you can use is ですよね (desu yo ne). A more masculine and casual tone you can use is by saying だよな (dayo na).


さいきん、じむ いきたいん だけど、いそがしくて、ぜんぜん じかん つくれないん だよ ね。
saikin, jimu ikitan dakedo, isogashikute, zenzen jikan tsukurenain dayo ne.
I want to go to the gym lately, but I’ve been very busy and can’t make time.


That’s true.


確かに (たしかに, tashikani) means ‘certainly’ or ‘no doubt’. Another way you can agree to the speaker’s statement.


ことし は、へいせい さいご の とし で、らいねん から あらたな せだい が うまれるん だね。
kotoshi wa heisei saigo no toshi de, rainen kara aratana sedai ga umarerun dane.
This year is the last year of the Heisei era, and next year will be the birth of a new generation.


That is so true!

TIP: Extend the last syllable to emphasize that you truly agree!


そんな事ないですよ (そんな こと ない です, sonna koto nai desuyo) another good way to say ‘That is not true’. This a handy phrase that will let you disagree to what your speaker and praise them in a similar way as いえいえ (ieie).


こんかい の ぷれぜんてーしょん は、うまく いかなかった な。やっぱり おれ は、だめ かも。
konkai no purezente-shon wa, umaku ikanatta na. yappari ore wa, dame kamo.
The presentation didn’t go well. I don’t think I’m meant for this.


そんな こと ない です よ。たろう さん に は、いつも たすけて もらって ます。
sonna koto nai desu yo. tarou san ni wa itsumo tasukete moratte masu.
Not at all. I am always helped by you Taro-san.


すごいですね (sugoi desu ne) means ‘That’s great!’ or ‘That’s amazing.’ This is another useful phrase you can use in many different scenarios that is highly flexible.


ぼく は、だいがく の ころ は、どうじ に ぶかつ も やり ながら、いんたーんしっぷ を して いた。
boku wa, daigaku no koro wa, douji ni bukatsu mo yarinagara, intaanshippu wo shite ita.
When I was in college, I was in a sports club and doing an internship at the same time.


すごい です ね。やっぱり けんじ さん って、なんでも できるん です ね。
sugoi desu ne. yappari kenji san tte, nandemo dekirun desu ne.
That’s great! Kenji-san really is a jack of all trades.


流石ですね (さすがですね, sasuga desu ne) means ‘As expected’. In this scenario it will mean this, or ‘as we will know’, but in other situations, it can have a different meaning depending on the particle that comes after さすが (sasuga).


この あいだ の じゃいあんつ の しあい は、まつい の ホームラン れんぱつ だった な。
kono aida no jaiantsu no shiai wa, Matsui no hoomuran renpatsu datta na.
The Giants game the other day was filled with Matsui’s home run.


さすが です ね。ぷろ だけ あって、いい しあい を みせて くれます ね。
sasuga desu ne. puro dake atte, ii shiai wo misete kuremasu ne.
As expected. He gives a good show.


よく分かります (yoku wakarimasu) means ‘I highly agree’ or ‘I truly understand’. This is especially helpful when you want to emphasize that you strongly agree to something.

TIP: Use よく分かります to give an emphasized and definitive tone to the speaker.


やっぱり、ぐろーばる か が すすんで いく なか で、えいご の しゅうとく は だいじ に なって きます ね。
yappari guroobaru ka ga susundeiku naka de, eigo no shuutoku wa daiji ni natte kimasu ne.
There is no doubt that with globalization, learning English becomes very important.


よく わかります。わたし も そう おもい ます。
yoku wakarimasu. watashi mo sou omoi masu.
I totally agree. I think so as well.


おっしゃる通りです (おっしゃる とおりです, ossharu toori desu) means ‘Exactly as you said’ or ‘I completely agree with you’. Compared to some of the phrases earlier that gave slight nods of agreement, this Aizuchi is to show your strong agreement to the speaker’s statement.


むかし の ひと と いま の ひと は ものごと の みかた に おおきな ぎゃっぷ が ある から ね。
mukashi no jidai no hito to ima no hito wa monogoto no mikata ni ookina gyappu ga aru kara ne.
There is a big gap in the way the old generation and the generation have in perspective.


そう ですね おっしゃる とおり です。
sou desune ossharu toori desu.
That’s true. I strongly agree with what you said.


勉強になります (べんきょう に なります, benkyou ni narimasu) means ‘That was insightful’ or ‘That was helpful’. This is great to use when someone had just given you a hint or helped you out at work, or when you feel that you were given information. You will be able to tell your speaker that they have indeed helped in a positive way, and it will also give them a good ego boost.


ぷれぜんてーしょん の なか で、ここ の ぶぶん を はいらいと する と、おきゃくさま が すごい よろこぶ から。
purezenteeshon no naka de, koko no bubun wo hairaito suru to, okyakusama ga sugoi yorokobu kara.
If you highlight this part in the presentation, the customers will love it.


そうなん です ね。勉強 に なります。ありがとう ございます。
sounan desu ne. benkyou ni narimasu. arigatou gozaimasu.
Really? That is very helpful. Thank you.


参考になります (さんこう に なります, sankou ni narimasu) means ‘That is helpful’ or ‘That was informative’. This is another good way to say ‘Thank you’ to someone who helped you or assisted you. You can use this interchangeably with 勉強になります (benkyou ni narimasu).


これ は、すごく おきゃくさま が、いちばん じゅうし して いる しりょう だから、ゆうせんど を あげて さぎょう する と いいよ。
kore wa, sugoku okyakusama ga, ichiban juushi shite iru shiryou dakgara, yuusendo wo agete sagyou suru to iiyo.
This document is something that the customer puts in a lot of importance in, so you should prioritize it while working.


わかかりました。たいへん さんこう に なります。ありがとう ございます。
wakarimashita. taihen sankou ni narimasu. arigatou gozaimasu.
I see. This is very informative. Thank you.

Aizuchi Gestures You Can Use

Here are also some ways you can show that you are an attentive listener to your speaker. Use these gestures with the Aizuchi you learned above, and you will become a great listener and leave the best impression.

Nodding your head

Actively nodding your head while your speaker is sharing their thoughts is one simple way you can show your speaker that you are listening to every word they say.

Folding your hand and nodding your head

Often times, folding your hands is generally considered to be rude in Japan. However, when at the right environment, you can show you are truly engrossed in the conversation and with what the speaker has to say by folding your arms, scrunching your face, and nodding. This might seem like a weird look, but it is just one gesture that will show you are truly taking in and actively understanding your speaker’s opinion.


Those are some of the things you can do and say while you are engaging in meaningful conversations. This is one of the best things you can do to further your Japanese listening skills, but also understanding Japanese culture.

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