9 Essential Telephone English Tips to Use Today

Nov 2, 2016 | 11 comments

Do you avoid speaking on the telephone in English because it’s too stressful? Because it’s too difficult to understand others?

Of course, today it’s much easier to avoid the phone. We can send texts or chat on social media but… for business, the telephone is still important. For example, making appointments and reservations, participating in a conference call and handling customer complaints.

If you use the telephone in English at work, you know your job is to be professional. However, speaking in English is already challenging. And doing it on the phone… it’s stressful!

When we speak face-to-face, we can use facial expressions and body language to help us understand. But on the phone, we only have our voice. This means clear communication is essential.

Today I want to share 9 essential telephone English tips to help make speaking on the phone easier. And I want to help you avoid some common mistakes.

How to practice and perfect your English telephone skills.

Lesson by Annemarie

9 Tips for Speaking on the Telephone in English

Do Prepare Ahead

Do you talk about the same thing again and again when you use English on the telephone at work? For example: do you respond to the same customer complaints often? Or do you provide account information to clients?

If so, take a little time now to write down what you would like to say in English. When you write down what you want to say, you can:

 

  • Think about the words and sentences you want to use
  • Make sure what you say in English is correct
  • Practice the sentences again and again so you can remember them easily

Do Speak Clearly

Have you ever spoken to someone on the phone who spoke so softly you that you couldn’t hear them? Was it frustrating?

Often when we feel nervous or uncomfortable, we speak softly or quietly. This can be very challenging for others on the telephone.

To improve your ability to speak clearly, practice! Practicing what to say on the telephone will help you to develop confidence and become comfortable with the words and sounds in English.

A GREAT way to do this is to record yourself and listen to yourself speak. Yes, really! Use your smartphone or laptop to record yourself. It is scary the first time but it is 100% effective in helping you improve your spoken English.

It will help you:

 

  • Perfect what you want to say
  • Improve your pronunciation
  • Correct grammar mistakes
  • Become comfortable with your voice in English

Do Use a Professional Greeting

A kind, professional greeting is always a good way to answer the phone at work. And if you need to do it in English, here are some suggestions:

 

  • Keep it simple with: Hello/Good morning/Good afternoon
  • Be helpful by providing your name, your organization/company, and an offer to assist. For example: “Good morning. This is Sue with LDR Services. How can I help you?”

Do Ask to Put Someone on Hold

If you’re speaking to someone but you need a few moments to review their account information, it is best to briefly put someone on hold. Or maybe you need a moment to:

  • answer another call
  • talk to a colleague
  • take a moment to think about what you want to say in English

These are all good reasons to put someone on hold. But it’s important to ask first. You can do that by simply saying:

 

  • Could you hold for a moment?
  • Do you mind holding for a moment?
  • May I put you on hold?

Do Have Paper and a Pen

This is so simple but useful! Of course, you need a piece of paper and a pen if you need to take notes or write important details from the phone call.

But it’s also useful for your English. While you are listening, you can write down words or expressions you want to use when it’s your turn to speak.

This will help you avoid forgetting what to say. And it will help you organize your thoughts clearly.

Do Show You’re Listening

Have you heard your English-speaking colleagues say things like:

  • Hmmm
  • Yeah
  • Oh, I see
  • Right.
  • Exactly
  • Mmmmm
  • Uh huh

On the telephone, we can’t see if the other person is listening to us.

When someone is very quiet on the phone, we don’t know if they are listening. Maybe the listener is looking at her Facebook page or reading the newspaper!

Don’t be afraid to try using these words and sounds to show you are listening on the telephone. If you feel nervous using them, try practicing them out loud first.

Do Repeat Important Details

Do you sometimes write notes during a phone call?

For example, do you need to write an important date, time, phone number, name, or detail? Never be afraid to repeat this information to make sure it’s correct.

It’s always professional and appropriate to do this. The person giving you the information will be very happy to know the correct information will be delivered.

To do this politely, simply use one of these expressions:

 

  • Great. I’d like to repeat that back to you to make sure it’s correct.
  • Can I repeat that back to you?

Do Practice English Dates/Times/Spelling

Dates and times seem so simple. But when you’re on the phone and you have to think or speak quickly, it’s easy to feel confused or to make a mistake.

Once again, practice is your friend. Practice saying dates and times out loud. Doing so will help you remember how to say these more easily when you’re on the telephone.

Dates:

  • January 1, 2008 = January first (1st) two thousand eight
  • Saturday, November 5, 2016 = Saturday, November fifth (5th), twenty sixteen
  • March 23, 1988 = March twenty-third (23rd) nineteen eighty-eight

Times

  • 12:00 p.m. = Twelve o’clock noon (or noon)
  • 1:30 p.m. = One thirty p.m.
  • 8:15 a.m. = Eight fifteen a.m./Quarter past eight in the morning
  • 10:45 p.m. = Ten forty-five p.m./A quarter to eleven at night

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

And finally, our only don’t in this list of useful tips.

Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification, repetition, or to slow down! Remember, the most important thing is clear communication. And your goal is an easy, successful English telephone conversation.

If you aren’t sure about what you heard, ask for clarification or repetition with these phrases:

  • I’m sorry, could you repeat that?
  • Could you say that once more?
  • I heard you say [repeat what you heard] is that correct?
  • Did you say [repeat what you heard]?

If someone is speaking too quickly or if the pronunciation is challenging to understand, don’t be afraid to ask for them to slow down.** You can simply say:

  • “I’m sorry. Could you slow down please?”
  • “Could you say that more slowly please?”

**And if they don’t slow down? Just start speaking in your native language. 🙂 That will quickly remind them that YOU speak another language and they do not, so they should be kind and slow down. Really. It works.

Bonus! Let’s talk about spelling on the phone.

Imagine you need to spell your last name but some of the letters sound the same. There is a great tool to help you with that.

You can use this internationally-recognized Phonetic Alphabet to help you.

Here’s an example: “Yes, I’d like to make the reservation for Baylor. Susan Baylor. That’s B – as in bravo, A – as in Alpha, Y – as in Yankee, L – as in Lima, O – as in Oscar, and R – as in Romeo.”

These words don’t sound like any other words don’t sound like any others and this helps the listener know exactly which letter you’re saying.

It may seem challenging at first, but this list is easy to memorize with practice. Or you can print it and keep it with you at your desk.  

Phonetic Alphabet for Spelling in English

  • A – Alpha
  • B – Bravo
  • C – Charlie
  • D – Delta
  • E – Echo
  • F – Foxtrot
  • G – Golf
  • H – Hotel
  • I – India
  • J – Juliett
  • K – Kilo
  • L – Lima
  • M – Mike
  • N – November
  • O – Oscar
  • P – Papa
  • Q – Quebec
  • R – Romeo
  • S – Sierra
  • T – Tango
  • U – Uniform
  • V – Victor
  • W – Whiskey
  • X – X-Ray
  • Y – Yankee
  • Z – Zulu

I’d love to know about your experiences with speaking on the phone in English! 

Your experience and know-how might help someone else become more confident. Do you have a secret tip that helps you be successful with phone calls in English? Would you share it in the comments section below?

Or, if phone calls are still challenging for you, what is your greatest challenge? Share below and I’ll be sure to help.

Have a wonderful week and thank you, as always for joining me on Confident English Wednesday.

~ Annemarie

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