Filler Words: How They Make Your Japanese Sound More Native

Filler Words: How They Make Your Japanese Sound More Native

People with a certain mastery over a language typically use a lot of filler words without realising it. For instance, you may hear English speakers say things such as “um” and “like” several times in a sentence. These words serve as space fillers and are extremely useful for maintaining the flow of a sentence when talking to others. If you have just enrolled a Japanese lesson in Singapore, you’d be right to assume that the same applies to Japanese too. As such, to avoid awkward pauses when polishing your Japanese speaking skills, add these common filler words to your vocabulary so you can sound more like a native.

How Are Filler Words Used in Japanese?

Filler words are essentially a type of slang that uses sounds, syllables, or words to fill pockets of silence during conversations and come in handy when trying to figure out what exactly you want to say. All in all, they are the same concept as the filler words you use in your native tongue, but those used in Japanese are unique in that they are often used in different parts of sentences than you would expect.

That said, it is worth noting that it is completely optional to use Japanese filler words, but omitting them, especially in informal settings, can make you come off as either overly posh or harsh to your conversation partner. Be sure to check out these common habits to up your Japanese fluency further.

Common Filler Words Used in Japanese

The following are the filler words you will commonly come across when learning the Japanese language.

1. Eeto (えーと/えっと)

Eeto is the equivalent of the English “umm” or “uhh” and shares the same flexibility in that it can pop up at random parts of a sentence. Also, you can drag out its pronunciation by saying “eeeeeeeto” for the entire duration of the pause or repeat it many times in a row if desired.

2. Ano (あの)

Ano works similarly to eeto and represents pausing to think, just like “umm” or “err”. For instance, if you were to come up to a Japanese local and talk to them in English, they’d probably respond along the lines of:

あの、すみません。英語は話せません。— I’m sorry, I don’t speak English.

3. Ano ne (あのね)

Ano ne is the most common way of getting someone’s attention and works similarly to saying “hey there” in English. One can also use this as an expression when suddenly remembering something, having an idea they want to share, or simply wishing to collect their thoughts. Although there is no direct English equivalent for this second usage, think of it as saying something like “Hang on a second…” or “You know…”

あのね、見てください。 — Hey, please look (at this).

4. Ara (あら)

You typically use ara whenever you just notice something or as a way of expressing understanding of something you’ve been told, similar to saying, “Ah, I see.” This expression is more commonly used among women, but there is no hard rule that prevents men from using it too.

あら、そこにいたか。— Oh, there you are.

5. Ee (ええ)

Versatile and affirming, ee can be used in place of “yes” or “sure” as well as “uhh” or “umm”, similar to eeto. In addition, it may also serve to express displeasure when placed in a negative context.

ええ、やりたくない。— Ugh, I don’t want to (do something).

6. Nanka (なんか)

Essentially the closest to saying “like” in Japanese, nanka is another expression you can use when searching for the right word to say. Alternatively, nanka can also be said whenever you discover something or are listening for something; in this case, the word becomes more like “wait…” or “hey…”.

なんか、今日は雪が降りそうだ。— Hey, it seems like it might snow today.


Filler words are a small yet significant part that can take your spoken Japanese to the next level. As such, it pays to learn more about them and incorporate them when practicing your spoken Japanese. Remember that there are many ways to work towards achieving perfection in your way of speaking, and using filler words is one such way to be more authentic when pausing without losing your flow.

For more tips on becoming proficient with Japanese, consider signing up for our Japanese class in Singapore today! With Japanese Explorer’s tailored lessons and native Japanese teachers at your side, you can streamline your Japanese learning journey and achieve your desired fluency sooner than later.

For more information about our online and offline courses, feel free to contact us at any time.


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