相槌 Aizuchi


#1

Aizuchi is a conversation habit in which you show you’re listening by constantly punctuating what the speakers says with filler such as うん ええ and そう and so forth. here’s a tofugu article about it. People do this in English too altho it seems to be more prevalent in japanese to the point of having its own term, and that if you dont do it in japanese, people might not think you are listening

When I read about this I realized I already do this more heavily in english than other english speakers, and I think the reason why is because in the US, eye contact = listening, but I don’t make a lot of eye contact, and in fact I think that in japanese culture eye contact is not made so much either and may actually be avoided (it is after all intimate and intense and I think japanese culture places a lot of emphasis on putting emotional distance as politeness between people who are not close) so if you don’t make eye contact you have another way of showing you’re listening, and that is aizuchi. Also in text chat, eye contact simply does not exist, so to show youre listening, aizuchi is the way to do it. I even picked up うん from japanese years ago before I even started learning the language and was already saying it out of habit

So yeah I wonder what are your thoughts on aizuchi and whether it comes natural to you? I find it an intereting cultural thing to think about!

also this is was in the tofugu article but I have to link it here just because of how ridiculously adorable it is:


#2

Yes, I do that very often. I’m the same as you where I don’t make a lot of eye contact. Sometimes I get a bit of a weird look from the people talking to me (in english) but I just do it naturally and kind of can’t help it. No one has gotten visibly annoyed by me doing it so I guess that’s good. But I do feel a bit awkward when I get an odd look. It doesn’t really bother me, though.


#3

The linguistic term for this in English is ‘back-channeling’.
I wouldn’t say it’s more common in Japan than anywhere else in the world.


#4

i think the point isn’t that it doesn’t exist outside of japan, but that japan does lots of it more than many other cultures and it seems to be a specifically important part of japanese conversation, the way there is emphasis on eye contact in the US (which has been a thorn in my side ever since i started going to school)

i do it more than most american english speakers (in fact in the US it’s sort of discouraged because it’s seen as interrupting) but japanese speakers do it more than me


#5

I have found myself adding aizuchi when talking in English with my Japanese coworkers here in the US. I do think it helps them feel more comfortable.

But one thing I found happening is the ends of conversations seem to get awkward. At least it feels that way to me.

What is the proper technique for finishing a conversation?


#6

beats me! I dont even know how to properly end a conversation in english

i guess “we’re done talking now” is one way to do it, but it would be kinda rude haha


#7

Erm… I guess something like… ”またね!”

そうですか?

Depends on level of formality of course but if I’m done talking to my coworkers, I usually say something like “Welp, talk to ya later!” sort of thing.


#8

Hmm, I’ll have to pay attention to my conversations with people outside the house, as I think conversations with the people closest to you are different than conversations with acquaintances, friends of varying closeness levels, and strangers.

I think I sometimes have to force myself to make eye contact. I feel like I maybe used to do it more when I was an extrovert, but I am an introvert now, socially anxious, and a bit awkward with social norms and expectations. Sometimes I do it naturally, but with strangers it can feel more forced and/or uncomfortable.

My kid even got it mentioned in one of the emails from his teachers, mentioning his lack of eye contact during a certain point in the morning. And while I can understand how some people in authority positions find this disrespectful, it’s generally not something I enforce or feel comfortable enforcing. It’s not uncommon for kids with ADHD/ADD and/or Autism, and other neurodivergences to use less eye contact, dislike eye contact, or feel eye contact is uncomfortable or unnatural.


#9

If I had to guess, though, I think at least in Japanese, aizuchi would be something I’d need to practice and get used to.

But I think since I tend to pick up the speaking patterns and the like from the people I’m around, if I was speaking regularly with someone Japanese, or in Japan, I’d probably be able to pick it up soon enough?


#10

yeah honestly I find that people who find lack of eye contact in autistic/adhd people (i am both) is abnormal are totally ethnocentric. Eye contact is not valued in most cultures and in fact in many cultures it can be seen as threatening or overly intimate (in fact many autistic people also feel this way), or otherwise inappropriate in many situations. Western english-speaking culture is unique in the way it emphasizes and demands eye contact, even with strangers on the street, which I have noticed makes some people who are not WASP American uncomfortable (the stereotype that white people insist on fake-smiling at everybody on the street lol), probably because it’s not part of their cultures

I don’t think Polish culture has such an emphasis on eye contact, since out of all the issues my family (which is Polish) had with me for being autistic/adhd, lack of eye contact was not one of them. it was only with US school officials that it was apparently a problem. But i might need to ask other slavs/polish people I know about this

its definitely a very interesting anthropological question tho! I might ask folks I know about it later on


#11

Shoot, I’m in my mid-20’s and I still feel like constant eye contact feels both uncomfortable and unnatural. Looking someone in the eyes while greeting them or something is fine but staring them down for minutes at a time during a conversation just feels… wrong.

If you don’t mind my asking, did you respond to the teacher about it? I’m curious how, like you said, someone of authority would react to our feelings on the matter.


#12

I did not. I wasn’t really sure how to respond to that. I mean it was in a second email about a list of problematic behaviors, and what to say to the psychiatrist, therapist, and case manager. I let the case manager know that it’s not something I enforce. She’s also supposed to start showing up at his school twice a month for counseling / coping techniques that sort of thing.

If it comes up again, I might say something, but I expect that if his behavior improves overall, that they won’t care too much about one or two minor things. (There’s a color scale. Green is “okay/good” then above that (better) is blue, pink, and purple. Below that (worse behavior) is yellow, orange, then red.) He was getting a lot of the three colors below, but in the last two weeks has gotten four blues, so hopefully with that and the case manager, things will be better for him and between him and staff/authority there.


#13

I also have ADD, a few other conditions, and some autistic traits (but not enough for a diagnosis), so that may be connected to why I often find eye contact uncomfortable and unnatural. Especially the expectation that if you’re having some long, interesting or serious conversation with a friend that you’re supposed to maintain eye contact for 75 - 100% of the time. I could never do that, it would be weird to me.


#14

I couldn’t agree more!

As for the email, I wouldn’t know how to respond to it either, really. Another reason I was curious if you did. Sounds like things are getting better though. That’s good. :slight_smile: