This style of communication is very different from English.

When saying something to someone, 本当?? is a common response.

Also, for example if someone said 決めた!, a common response might be 決めたんだ! できた!できたんだ! ついた!ついたんだ! etc.

This is weird when I do it in English. For example, speaking to my partner...

Him: Oh, this is like this...

Me: Oh, really??

Him: Yeah...(I just said that dude wth)

So I have to remind myself not to do this in English.

Any comments on the reason for this style of communication?

  • Wow, really? This isn’t the first time I’ve connected some of the communication difficulties I had growing up to this. Speaking in Japanese pigeon、if you will. 100% born and breed American, West Virginian as far back as I can trace, and Virginian before that. Yet, I have told people I was raised by my grandmother and a Japanese computer, I played so many video games. Learning Japanese was like returning home. Thank you, linguistic connections like this inspire me to push forward in my studies of Japanese, although I am still a novice. And stackexchangewa, senseini arigato!
    – Ragaroni
    Apr 10, 2020 at 0:06
  • 2
    You don't use things like "is that so?" or "oh really?" as mere acknowledgements that you are listening in English? Or if someone says "I did it!" it seems perfectly normal for another person to say "You did it!" back to them, in the style of the んだ examples you gave.
    – Leebo
    Apr 10, 2020 at 6:40
  • 1
    Leebo, I’d have to say that it varies a lot by person whether you can say “is that so” or “oh really”. I think they come off as flippant to a lot of English speakers. I learned not to use them with adults as a teenager.
    – Ragaroni
    Apr 10, 2020 at 7:03
  • @Tori it may help to clarify exactly what this question is about. Are you asking about the content of these statements, or the way they are used/this style of confirmation in conversation? It sounds a little bit to me like you have written a question about あいづち, potentially without knowing it.
    – Mindful
    Apr 10, 2020 at 7:37
  • @Ragaroni you can adjust the feel of anything with tone and intonation, but my question to the OP was assuming a fairly neutral usage.
    – Leebo
    Apr 10, 2020 at 7:41

1 Answer 1


Your question is a little bit vague, but I am going to try and answer the question I think you're asking.

It appears to me that your confusion stems from the fact that backchanneling is much more common - and oftentimes more emphatic - in Japanese than in English. The Japanese term for this is あいづち, and the discrepancy between its prevalence in Japanese and English is a reasonably well known pain point for speakers of either language trying to acquire the other one. Here's a brief article about it.

There is some debate in the comments about how reasonable it is to be confused about the usage of particular phrases like 本当?, but I think this misses the forest for the trees. Different people are going to favor different expressions, but what is important to remember here is that backchanneling is a fairly significant part of conversation in Japanese, and that sometimes things are said primarily just to backchannel and don't mean much of anything at all. To quote the wiki article I linked:

Aizuchi are frequently misinterpreted by non-native speakers as the listener showing agreement or fully comprehending what is being said.

You should also take a look at this question, which is very related.

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