Talking on the phone in English is something that we normally find quite intimidating. The fact that we don’t have the other speaker in front of us makes us feel nervous since we aren’t able to interpret their body language. We can’t see their eyes, their mouth, their movements and therefore, communication seems to be rather more complicated. But don’t worry!!! This fear will soon disappear if you bear in mind some useful tips:
- Speak slowly and clearly
Listening to someone speaking in a second language over the telephone can be very challenging because you cannot see the person you are trying to hear. However, it may be even more difficult for the person you are talking with to understand you. If you are nervous about using the phone in English, you may notice yourself speaking very quickly. Practise or write down what you are going to say and take a few deep breaths before you make a phone call.
- Make sure you understand the other speaker
Don’t pretend to understand everything you hear over the telephone. Even native speakers ask each other to repeat and confirm information from time to time. This is especially important if you are taking a message for someone else. Learn the appropriate expressions that English speakers use when they don’t hear something properly. Don’t be afraid to remind the person to slow down more than once. Keep your telephone in an area that is away from other noise distractions such as a radio or television.
- Learn telephone etiquette (manners)
The way that you speak to your best friend on the phone is very different to the way you should speak to someone in a business setting. Many ESL speakers make the mistake of being too direct on the telephone. It is possible that the person on the other line will think that you are being rude on purpose if you don’t use formal language in certain situations. Sometimes just one word such as “could” or “may” is necessary in order to sound polite. You should use the same modals you would use in a formal “face-to-face” situation. Take the time to learn how to answer the phone and say goodbye in a polite manner, as well as all the various ways one can start and end a conversation casually.
Besides, here you can find some typical phrases and expressions to be used in telephone conversations.
Finally have a look at the following video and practise the pronunciation of some of the phrases learnt above: