English in the Real World
Top tips for speaking on the telephone in English
If you’re looking for a challenging situation to practice your English, just pick up the telephone. Not being able to see the person you’re talking to and the body language they’re using can make chatting on the phone one of the most difficult forms of communication. Never fear, though! We’ve compiled some tips to guide you through an average telephone conversation in English.
Every phone call should begin with a polite greeting such as, Hi, how’ve you been? or Nice to hear from you. Even if you’re calling a business contact for a specific purpose, it’d be rude to jump right into business without a little small talk at the beginning.
Getting to the point
There always comes the point, however, where you want to move on from friendly banter and get down to business. For this situation, use the phrase I’m just calling to … to transition to the topic at hand. For example, I’m just calling to see if you’d like to set up a meeting. If the situation is reversed, however, and you are waiting to find out why someone called you, you can guide the conversation by saying, So what can I do for you?
Interrupting without insult
If you happen to be speaking with a very talkative person, it may be difficult to get a word in edgewise or contribute to the conversation. If someone is going on and on, and you’d like to interrupt, be sure to do it politely. For example, begin with I would like to say something here, if I may or Allow me to make a point. Or, you could just ask: May I interrupt you for a second?
If you’re making plans on the phone, be sure to confirm the details toward the end of the call. Begin with phrases like Please let me confirm… and So, let me make sure I’ve got things straight… and follow up with the details as you understand them.
Closing the call
Sometimes this can be the trickiest part of the conversation! It may be the time to offer some good wishes, such as good luck on that interview or hope you feel better soon if it’s appropriate. Additionally, you may want to confirm any plans you’ve made: I’ll see you on Friday, then. Sometimes it’s easiest to just say you enjoyed speaking to the other person. Also, keep in mind that strategically saying the word well at the beginning of a sentence can indicate that you are ready to end the conversation: Well John, it’s been a pleasure talking to you.