When I tutor Japanese, I try to correct non-Japanese interjections whenever possible, the most common one being “umm”. Even the most skilled speakers including native speakers sometimes need to fill the air with fillers to buy a little time to collect their thoughts. But it doesn’t sound very Japanese to say, 「私の趣味は umm サッカーです」. I also suspect it taps your English part of the brain and makes it difficult to stop thinking in English. That’s why I gently remind my student to say 「ええと」 instead of “umm”. It’s a simple change that can instantly make your Japanese sound more natural. Have you been saying “umm” while speaking Japanese? If so, a quick tip from me, replace it with 「ええと」.
Here are some other interjections to practice:
- ええと – Err, umm
- あのう – Umm (usually to get somebody’s attention)
- あれ？ – huh?
- えっ – eh?
- あっ！ – Oh!, Ah!
- こら！ – hey!
- うーん – hmm (wondering/pondering)
- へえ – really? (surprised/impressed)
- いたっ – ouch
- よいしょ – when exerting effort such as picking up something heavy