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Nodding and conversational behavior 2010/10/8 01:17

I would be very happy if anyone could give me a few tips on this!

I am a Japanese student living in the US, and I do not experience any difficulty communicating with people in English. However, I have a small dilemma with regards to how to ''act naturally'' when talking to someone who is American or non-Japanese in general.

The things is, every time I speak to someone, I constantly nod my head and say things like ''uh-huh'', ''yes'', ''right'', ''okay'' and so on, in order to show that I am paying attention to the other person. I do this automatically because, as most people on this forum would probably know, this is how it's done in Japanese language. For me it feels extremely awkward NOT to do this, as I'd feel like I'm offending the other person. However, at the same time, I feel awkward about nodding constantly while engaging in conversations with people in the US, because I notice that people just don't nod as frantically as Japanese people do.

So my question is: how exactly do people in the US (and non-Japanese people in general) express acknowledgement towards each other in a conversation? How frequently should you nod / say words like ''uh-huh'' in a conversation?

I know that this is a really trivial question, but I really want to avoid awkwardness as much as I can so that I can be more friendly with people.

Also... is it ever appropriate to say ''yeah'' instead of ''yes'' to someone who is older/respected/in a higher position than you?

Thank you!!
by GuestM (guest)  

No 2010/10/8 12:07
I've never noticed much of a difference in nodding and saying (the equivalent of) "uh-huh" in Japan and my Scandinavian home country. I wouldn't worry too much about it though, I've never given it a second thought myself.
by S (guest) rate this post as useful

uh-huh, yeah 2010/10/8 13:03
I personally don't notice a big difference between the amount of nodding, uh-huh, and other indications of interest between Japan and English-speaking countries (I am a NZer who has lived in Japan 12 years.)

If someone is considerably older than you and you don't know them well, I would avoid "yeah" if possible. I probably use it when talking to my grandmother, but I have known her for a long time. Of course it depends on the formality of the situation- if I am discussing sports with my boss it's more appropriate to use "yeah" than if I am in a meeting or being interviewed for a job.
by Sira (guest) rate this post as useful

. 2010/10/8 23:51
I am Japanese and have not noticed a difference, but now that you say it, I realize Japanese may nod a little more than Americans. Don't worry about a minor difference, though. You are being respectful by letting people know they are heard, and that's what counts.
by Ikuyo Kuruyo (guest) rate this post as useful

I like it 2010/10/10 06:42
I'm Australian and I have noticed the extent that Japanese engage in listening. It can sometimes be a little disconcerting when you get a big reaction to a mundane comment, but really I like it, it shows interest, rather than most Aussies who really only tolerate other people talking so that they can then get their own turn. Dont try changing, it's a good thing.
by Pious (guest) rate this post as useful

... 2010/10/10 13:15
I am Japanese and have noticed the difference. When speaking in English, you don't need to do the acknowledgment that you are listening by nodding or saying uh-huh too often. Keeping eye contact and other attitude indicating your interest and attention suffice. Saying "okay" too often can sound like "okay, I've heard that, so (go on!)?" showing disinterest, even.

I think avoiding "yeah" to people senior to you would be safe. It's a bit like avoiding saying (in Japanese) "un" instead of "hai" to people senior to you.
by AK rate this post as useful

. 2010/10/15 10:11
Travelling in Japan, while on public transport particularly, I am amazed when older people converse at the amount of acknowledgement they do.
It seems almost constant, as sort of Arh,Arh,Arh noise...At home in Australia it would be thought of as a bored reaction but I don't think it's that in Japan and goes on for long periods - as most conversations seem to .
by Connie Chiwa (guest) rate this post as useful

. 2010/10/15 14:32
The critical difference in US or English speaking countries and Japan is that it is rude to interrupt when the other is speaking until finished. Interjecting in the middle of speaking like, yes, ya, a so, uh ha, etc. that Japanese usually do can be perceived as you want to say hurry up, I can not wait for my turn. Another critical difference is to look in the eyes when you speak or listen. Japanese are taught it is rude to look straight in the eyes but it is taken as not listening or unimportant. It is also rude & offensive.
Even some Japanese managers of a well known international company(HQ is in Nagoya. You can guess & you are right), who are stationed long time in US, often close their eyes during a meeting. They think Japanese way that they are concentrating without any outside influence but they don't know what other Americans are talking behind their backs.
by ay (guest) rate this post as useful

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