Making phonecalls in English

Lots of my students tell me that they find it harder to understand English when they are speaking on the phone. That makes sense, doesn’t it?
When we are speaking face to face, we can use body language, lip reading and gestures to help us understand but on the phone we only have the words. The person on the other end also can’t see if you are struggling to understand so they may speak quickly or move onto the next topic before you are ready.

So it is a great idea to practise speaking on the phone but how can find someone to practise with? Here are a few tips I give my students.

  • Book a taxi – Find a taxi firm in Birmingham and phone to ask how much it costs to get from Birmingham city centre to Gatwick airport.
  • Reserve a table at a restaurant – Phone to check their smoking policy and if they have any vegan options.
  • Research attractions with Tourist Information – Call Tourist Information in Edinburgh and ask them about their recommendations.
  • Plan a museum visit – Ring a London museum and enquire about opening and closing times and prices.
  • Check train times – Call Network rail and ask about discounts for senior citizens and students.
  • Book a weekend away – Phone a campsite/hotel in Devon and ask about pitch/room prices and facilities.
  • Can you think of any other ideas?

If you are feeling nervous, you can write a few notes and questions before you phone. Here are a few phrases you might need during the phonecall:

Sorry, I didn’t catch that.

Could you repeat that please?

Sorry about my English. Could you speak more slowly please?

Thank you so much for your help.

I will have a think and get back to you.

Remember, some of these places will often deal with non-native speakers so they will be patient with you but others may not. Don’t be offended or worried about your English – you will never meet the person on the other end of the phone 🙂 Remember to be polite and thank them for their time, as is the British way!!
It will feel difficult the first time but keep practising, you will improve!

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Nicki is a Cambridge qualified, experienced English teacher for foreign learners. She loves helping English learners to learn real English and communicate with confidence!

2 thoughts on “Making phonecalls in English

  1. Thanks for your help.
    It’s very impossible to do that because I live in small village and we don’t have anything. We have internet only and mobile.
    I learn more from your page, thanks

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