Q. What should I know to make conversations with Americans go smoothly?


Americans are less at ease than Japanese are when a lull appears in a conversation. If a moment of silence lasts too long, an American is likely to feel pressure to say something to “fill” the silence. The unfortunate result of this is that Americans sometimes dominate conversations with Japanese. While the Japanese person is thinking of how to express himself in English, the American suddenly starts talking again.

Another difference is although English does have aizuchi like “uh–huh” and “I see,” Americans use eye contact, a nod of the head and a change of facial expression to indicate they are listening to the other person. When a Japanese makes a sound, using an aizuchi each time he would in Japanese, this seems intrusive and even distracting. “Yes” in general means agreement, and in contrast to “hai” in Japanese, does not simply means that you are listening attentively to the other person, so try to polish your skills as a listener.