Change the flow of the conversation with backchannel cues!

January 28th, 2013By Category: Uncategorized


Want to improve your conversation skills? I’m sure anyone who’s learning a foreign language would want to. And I think you are trying very hard to stretch your speaking skills. But conversation skills isn’t just about speaking. Listening is important too, because you can’t respond appropriately if you can’t understand what the other person is saying.

Did you know that there’s another important factor aside from these two skills? That is “backchanneling”, “Aizuchi” in Japanese. Backchanneling (Aizuchi)  has the important function of filling in empty spaces, expressing your agreement or sympathy, or signaling that at least you are listening. It’s not an exaggeration to say that if you are good at backchanneling, then you are good at making conversation.

Today I will show you the most common backchannel expressions used in casual conversations.

Ara~. (Oh.)
Maane. (I suppose so.)
Wakaru. (I understand.)
Tashikani. (You are right.)
Zannen. (Too bad.)
Sugoi. (Wow.)
Nannde!? (Why!?)
Arienai. (No way.)
Soudayo. (That’s right.)

A conversation between colleagues:
A: I still have so much work to do.
B: Ara~. Why not talk to your boss?
A: I can’t do that. It won’t change anything.
B: Ma, Tashikani. But it’s worth a try.
A: Maane. I guess I could try.
B: Soudayo.

A conversation between colleagues:
A: Zenzen shigoto ga owanarain dakedo.

B: Ara~. Jyoushi ni itte mitara?
A: Sorewa arienaiyo. Itte mo muda dayo.
B: Ma, tashikani. Demo toriaezu iudake itte miru nowa? 
A: Maane. Iudake itte miruka.
B: Sou dayo.

Many students say backchanneling is difficult. (It seems like it is a little embarrassing.) But if you take the plunge and use it, no matter what level you are at, it’s strange because you suddenly feel like you are fluent in the conversation.


Would you like to try reading this article in Japanese?

 Iidabashi Japanese Language School


We are supporting foreigners by starting a brand new Japanese conversation class specialized for those living and working in Japan!

The Iidabashi Japanese Language School motto is “Be Unique, Have fun Globally!” We teach classes focused on conversation skills to foreigners living in Japan, and have started a Japanese conversation class called “Nihongo Plus” based on a new concept, and launched a fresh website in August 2012 to coincide with the twelfth anniversary of our school’s founding.

Click the link for more information –>

Author of this article

Iidabashi Japanese Language School

The Iidabashi Japanese Language School motto is "Be Unique, Have fun Globally!" We teach classes focused on conversation skills to foreigners living in Japan.

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