In normal Japanese conversation, you are bound to have come across something called 相槌/ あいづち. あいづち does not translate well into English but refers to little phrases that help to facilitate a smooth conversation in Japanese. We do use this in English too, but it is much more common in Japanese as it is used to show that you are paying close attention to what is being said (it does not mean you necessarily agree with it!).
Therefore when used well, it has the double benefit of keeping the conversation going whilst giving you a bit more time to think about what to say next.
The most common あいづち are へー, うん, え, うわ,そうですね, but actually あいづち can serve several purposes:
- As affirmation, eg. うん, 確かに, よかったね, すごいね
- Expressing agreement, eg. 私はそう思う, まったです
- Expressing surprise, eg. へぇ, まじで
- Inviting the other speaker to elaborate, eg. それで, そしたら, それから
Here are some more you may hear:
さすが; なるほど ; その通り, 本当に, やっぱり
Nodding also counts as あいづち!
Instant messaging apps such as LINE often have stickers (called スタンプ) which might remind you of useful あいづち.
So the next time you are practicing conversation and get stuck thinking of an appropriate response, try adding in some あいづち!
One thing to note: be careful about your use of あいづち with people senior to you, it can sound too casual.