Nowadays it seems as though you can do almost everything online – from ordering your groceries through to buying concert tickets, it would probably be possible to do nearly everything in your daily life on the internet without ever having to speak to another person! However, when you’re in London to improve your English skills, it’s important not to fall into this trap. If you want to make the most of your time here, you need to have conversations with native English speakers, and one way to do this is to use the phone.
Why use the phone to improve your English skills?
Talking to a native English speaker over the phone is different to speaking to someone face-to-face. Over the phone, you can’t read their lips or pick up on non-verbal cues that you would do if you were in the same room. This can mean it’s more difficult to understand what is being said, and to make yourself understood. However, by the same token, this can make it a very valuable learning experience, as you’ll really have to concentrate on listening and speaking. Fortunately, there are some set phrases and conventions you can use to help make yourself understood, and which will help you understand what they person you’re speaking to is saying. Here are some of them to help you get started:
Starting a phone conversation
If you call someone on your mobile phone or the phone installed in your home (called a ‘landline’), this is a good way to begin the conversation:
- “Good morning/afternoon/evening. This is X (your name).”
If someone calls you, the usual ways of answering the phone include:
- “Hello?” (informal)
- “Good morning/afternoon/evening. This is X (your name) speaking.” (more formal)
Asking for what you want
After you’ve greeted the person you’re calling, you should explain why you are phoning. These are some phrases you could use:
- “I’m calling about…”
- “Please may I speak to Y (person’s name).”
- “Would it be possible to book some tickets for…”
Understanding what happens next
Often, the person who’s answered the phone may need to find some information to help you, or pass you on to another person. So you might hear them say one of the following things:
- “I’ll just put you through.”
- “Please hold the line.”
- “Just a moment.”
All these phrases mean they are in the process of dealing with your call, so you should wait patiently. You may hear music playing while you wait.
Alternatively, the person you’ve called may not be able to help you or put you through to someone who can. In this case, you may need to leave certain information so that someone can call you back. So you may be asked:
- “Would you like to leave a message?” (if asked this, give them your name and telephone number)
- “Please could I take your number?” (this refers to your telephone number)
- “Please could you call back at a different time?”
Ending the call
These are some common ways either party can end the phone call:
- “Thank you for calling.”
- “I have to go now.”
- “I hope we can speak again soon.”
Using the phone to practice your English can be daunting, but don’t be shy – it’s a great way to improve your speaking and listening skills.
Learn more English speaking and writing skills by booking a Communication Skills class.