In linguistics, the term backchannel is used to describe the short words or sounds a listener makes during a conversation to acknowledge what the speaker is saying and make known that he is still paying attention. For example, in English this would include:

  • Mm-hmm
  • Yeah
  • Wow!
  • Definitely
  • Really?
  • Ahh
  • Ok

What are the most common listener responses like this in Spanish? What situations is each used in (for example, agreement, acknowledgement, surprise)?

  • I think it's onomatopeya what you are looking for.
    – Jose Luis
    Commented Dec 7, 2011 at 22:35
  • 1
    @Joze: An onomatopoeia is a word that imitates a sound it's describing (like "meow"). Backchanneling is a separate concept (check the Wikipedia page I linked above).
    – jrdioko
    Commented Dec 7, 2011 at 22:41
  • Oh! my bad! now I understand! :-)
    – Jose Luis
    Commented Dec 8, 2011 at 7:29

3 Answers 3


Spanish people also make the noises we do in these situations, eg ahh, mm-hmm

Other words someone might use in the situation you mentions are

  • Ok
  • En serio?! (Really?!)
  • Bueno (Ok)
  • Dale (Ok then, as in like, ok then do that)
  • Wow (wau, uau, however you want to spell it)
  • What about "¿Verdad?" for "Really?"... I've always used that, although I've seen "En serio" before.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Dec 7, 2011 at 23:35
  • yeah verdad is used too
    – Kage
    Commented Dec 7, 2011 at 23:38

I can think of several that I use personally:

  • ¿En serio? (Seriously?)
  • Ajá (Indicating that I'm still paying attention)
  • Wow (Same as in English)
  • OK (Same as in English)
  • ¡No jodás! ("Get out of here" would be the equivalent in English)
  • Wouldn't the last example be translated a lot more strongly than "Get out of here"?
    – jrdioko
    Commented Dec 8, 2011 at 17:23
  • 1
    @jrdioko: It depends on the context of the conversation. ¡No jodás! in the context of you listening to someone else narrating some facts unrelated to you, is more like saying get out of here! (indicating surprise). On a different context in may very well indicate more like don't fuck with me!. And yes, the right word would be fuck instead of mess. The verb joder is something you shouldn't use lightly :)
    – Icarus
    Commented Dec 8, 2011 at 17:37
  • 1
    ¡No jodás!* doesn't have written accent on letter "a". It should be "¡no jodas!" because the stressed sylable is "jo". And it also means something like "really?" when you come across an unexpected problem and you can't bealieve it. This use is very common.
    – Javi
    Commented Dec 8, 2011 at 20:02
  • 2
    @Javi Although your comment is right for Spain, in some Latin America regions "No jodás" is very usual. Commented Dec 8, 2011 at 20:13

Here are some that would work well in Mexico:

  • ¿Ah sí?

  • No me diga/digas.

  • ¿De veras?

  • ¿En serio?

  • Mmm (voice going up at the end)

  • Pues sí / pues no (this affirms that the person's reaction was reasonable)

  • ¿Y entonces? (this encourages the person to continue after a pause)

  • Ah caray (oh jeesh, oh gosh)

  • ¡Caramba! (Jesus H Christ!)

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