Repeating a Phrase Multiple Times
Repeat a word in rapid succession to make your Japanese sound more natural. A strange but very powerful technique you can use in a language where you will find it common to hear double-takes and triple-takes of words. If you thought that was enough, wait till you start hearing the quadruple, quintuple, and even sextuple-takes.
I’m aware that in English we also say multi-take words occasionally such as “yeah, yeah, yeah”, or “okay, okay,” but it pales in comparison to what Japanese does with the concept.
Here are a few major examples you will often hear:
そうそうそうそう: Yea that’s it (when you are verifying what someone says is correct)
はいはいはい: Okay, I understand.
いたいたいたいたいた: There it is!
ないないない: no way.
行く行く行く: I’ll go!
きたきたきた: It’s here!
ねねねね or ななな: used when getting someone’s attention and you are about to ask something
いやいやいやいや: No, that’s not what I mean.
Many multi-takes allow the speaker to choose the amount of times he wants to repeat the word (anywhere from 2-6 times). While using these and the many others in existence, you need to follow two important rules:
1. You can’t multi-take any random words
Multi-takes are only done with certain words. Only add multi-takes to your speech when you’ve heard them before. Just because you can say 行く行く行く doesn’t mean you can say 食べる食べる食べる. I haven’t noticed any definite rules, but usually the words only contain 1-2 sounds.
2. You must match the proper intonation/pronunciation
Often multi-taking presents a different way of saying it then the original word, especially when you are rapidly repeating the word, slurring the sounds together. Some take a good deal of practice to sound natural (ex. いたいたいたいた）
Have any other examples of multi-takes? Please leave them in the comments!
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.
It’s worth noting that for some of these repeating it can change the meaning a little – saying hai once means yes, but saying it more than that often sounds like the person you’re replying to is being annoying or that you already know – which is why so many Japanese mothers say 返事は一回！to their kids.
I’ve heard 無理無理無理 (むりむりむり) before in ドラマ.
Never heard ね in anything more than a double take. Usually used by women. 行く is another one I’ve never heard more than once concurrently. Some of the others are pretty common. I use そうそうそうそう as a quint on a daily basis. I probably use it TOO much nowadays.
Once in a blue moon I hear やだ as a triple.
I have used ね as in getting someone’s attention in a single.
The ね in this case is held out just a little bit.
I think it makes it sound a little more like I want something (like a favor to be done for me), or I approaching a topic kind of delicately? I think I could also use that if I’m about to complain or whine about something too. Tehehe.
That sounds more like I am excited about something to share, or I’m really trying to get someone’s attention. It has a playful kind of feel, I think.
Though I’m only a heritage speaker, so I might not explain that too well! ^^;;
What kai says.
The mameshiba videos are good about showing the asking a question use of ね.
It’s a dialectal thing or something but instead of はいはいはい
I’ve heard it being said as ははははは as a way of “I’m listening” sorta like you say, mhm, when someone is talking to you.
It sounds really funky at first, like sarcastic laughing so it took me a while to get what it meant.
I always found the ふんふんふん。。。 listening response to be amusing!
Another fun one is “あるある”, used when referencing a common experience, especially for a group of people in a specific category.
For example, you might post a picture of your massive pile of homework with the caption:
“This is what happens when you’re a student”
Or in regular conversation you can use it as a response to confirm that you’ve had a similar experience.
“I only seem to attract the weird ones”
“Oh yeah, I know what that’s like”