Sound more Japanese with interjections

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:

  1. ええと – Err, umm
  2. あのう – Umm (usually to get somebody’s attention)
  3. あれ? – huh?
  4. えっ – eh?
  5. あっ! – Oh!, Ah!
  6. こら! – hey!
  7. うーん – hmm (wondering/pondering)
  8. へえ – really? (surprised/impressed)
  9. いたっ – ouch
  10. よいしょ – when exerting effort such as picking up something heavy

10 thoughts on “Sound more Japanese with interjections

    • Yes, because it’s almost unconscious. On the other hand, you’ll know your immersion techniques are working if that’s the first thing that comes to mind.

      • In Okinawa, we say あがっ!instead of いたっ!An great way to spot an Okinawan person in Tokyo is to give them a でこぴん and see how they react — あがっ! or いたっ!

  1. Very helpfull!! Sometime in the aniem I hear something the sound li “おい
    (oi)!” with the mean between getting attention and a light criticism. Something like “hey what are you doing?”. However I don’t know if a gergal o anime related expression

  2. This is great. Your blogs/site is awesome and a great help.

    I also find myself saying ええと, even when I’m speaking English. My students think it is hilarious. However, I still say “Argh” when I hurt myself. I am trying too hard not to swear to make anything more than a indistinguisable sound. The day I say いたっ I will consider myself truly Japanese at heart, lol.

  3. Would be way more educative to put an audio example for each intersection. Are you sure I can reproduce those sounds just by reading them?

  4. Hey, I’ve been using your online grammar guide for a long time (to supplement a textbook). Just discovered your blog, thanks a lot for the great work. Congrats on finishing your book.

    Some of these are coming naturally to me, but ええと isn’t quite burnt in yet. I see your point though – same thing applies when Japanese people with otherwise fluent English say 「ええと」in the middle of a sentence in English.

    Chool: I found that watching those comedy / variety shows you see a lot on Japanese TV really helped me pick this stuff up – the speech is more natural than scripted dramas or anime. There is a lot of へえぇぇぇ~~~?!-ing, especially from the audience.

    Throwing in an 「あのう」 before asking for help in a store or in the street somehow makes me feel less nervous about approaching strangers too 🙂

  5. Thanks, this’ll help. I currently say “aaahh” and I still say “ummm” too. I’ll try and say these more often.

  6. I finished my Japanese class already. So I sorta can relate on this post. Out of place no more.

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