123 - Uh-huh, yeah! (Round 2)

Hello fellow netizens,

So last time we talked about some very simple “responses” to somebody talking to you, known as 相槌(あいづち) in Japanese.

But in order to be a more active listener, you sometimes need to give a little more feedback.

Now, I’m not saying that if someone is talking you should endlessly interrupt them all the time.

If they’re “on a roll,” all you need to do is:
1. Look at them.
2. Nod to show that you understand.

Much like this..

But whenever they stop for a breather, it would be good to step in with a few more multi-syllabic responses. Let’s take a look at some of them:

1A. そうですね
I know, right? (Closest translation).
Literally: "it’s so, isn’t it?"
Note: This is a common, simple way to express agreement.
Appropriate for: Casual conversation; rather respectful.

しごと は つらい けど みな で いっしょ に がんばってる と たのしい。
Work is hard, but if we all do our best together, it’s fun.
Literally: "Work + は + difficult + but + everyone + で (with) + together + do one’s best + と + fun."

I know, righ

These guys seem to be doing it right. I mean, they get to be adults AND play in the mud.

さいきん てんき よく ない ね?
The weather was bad lately, ne?
Literally: "Lately + weather + not good + ne?"


1B. そうだね
I know, right? (Closest translation).
Literally: "it’s so, isn’t it?"
Note: This is the casual version of そうですね.
Appropriate for: Best buddies; casual conversation

こんしゅうまつ どこか あそび いかない?
Wanna go have fun somewhere this weekend?
Literally: "This weekend + somewhere + play + go?"

そうだね、いこう いこう!
Yeah, let’s go, let’s go!
Literally: "You’re right, aren’t you? + Let’s go + let’s go!"

As in this sentence above, in Japanese, when you get excited about something, it's relatively common to say it twice.

So you could say...

うでずもう しよう!
Let’s do arm wrestling!
Literally: "arm-sumo + let's do."

All right, let’s do, let’s do!
Literally: "sure + let's do + let's do."

Next on the list, we have...

2A. そうなんですか?
Is that so?
Note: You use this when you learn something / find something out.
Appropriate for: Casual conversation; rather respectful.

わたし ひと が おおい ところ にがて なん です。
I don't like crowded places.
Literally: "I + people + が + many + place + poor (at) +なん(short for 'なの') です.
Note: So "I'm not good at places where there are many people (around)." なの is also used in sentences to make an assertion, but only in female language.

そうなんですか? 知りません でした。
Really? I didn’t know that.
Literally: "is that so? + didn't know."

2B. そっか
Oh. // I see.
Note: Basically the less polite version of そうですか.
Appropriate for: Best buddies; casual conversation.

ごめん、ようじ が できて* のみかい いけなく なった**。
Sorry, something came up and I can’t come for drinks.
Literally: "Sorry + errand + が + to do + drinking party + cannot go + became."

そっか? じゃあ、また こんど だ ね。
Oh. Well, next time it is then.
Literally: "Really? + Well, + again + this time / next time + is + ね."

Note*: In 用事が出来た(ようじ が できる) we see another use for this infamous できる verb. It means that you ‘sorta managed’ to 'make' an errand. This way of expressing it gives off a more passive role to the speaker. So they are letting you know that they didn’t actively seek that errand, but instead it ‘happened’ to them, much like how someone could say 子供が出来た (こどもができた // I'm pregnant.), if they got pregnant unintentionally.

Note**: Verb (potential form minus ' る' ending) + なく(negative) + なった (became). As in the example above, you use this to express your ‘lack of involvement’ in the situation. ‘Something came up and (I) ended up not being able to go for drinks’ is a closer translation, although it sounds weird in English. Let’s analyze this a little more so you get an idea of the logic behind it. At the beginning, when you agreed to go for drinks, you ‘were able to go’ = 行ける (いける). But then an errand ‘happened’ to you 用事が出来た (ようじ が できた), so you ‘became’ (なった) unable to go (行けない), where you dropped the ‘る’ from 行ける and you add the negative なく.

行けない → 行けなくなった
I can't go. → I can't go anymore.

Lastly, I will give you an example of a formal response:

3. 仰る通りです
おっしゃる とおり です
I completely agree with you.
Literally: "(It is) as you say."
Note: 仰る is the honorific language version of 言う (いう // to say).
Appropriate for: Fiercely formal.

しごと が ふえた から ざんぎょう しなきゃな。
(We) have more work, so (we) must work overtime.
Literally: "Work + が + increased + because + overtime + must do."

おっしゃる とおり です。
You are completely right.
Literally: "(it is as) you say + exactly."

So, I hope you got a better idea of what it means to be a good listener in Japanese.

See you next time!

This lesson was written by Adriana, a guest contributor.