When you make a phone call in a foreign language, it is normal that you sometimes might not understand what the other person says. No reason to panic!
Just try to react quickly and in an appropriate way, otherwise you will risk losing track of the conversation.
Clarify and verify facts
1. Immediately interrupt the person in a friendly way and explain your problem.
2. Always try to make use of idioms such as: "Sorry, could you please spell that for me?" – don´t invent or try to create your own sentences.
3. Learn the English alphabet! There will always be a situation where you will have to spell a name or an address out loud.
4. And last but by no means not least: Keep it short and simple!
If you haven´t understood what the person at the other end of the line has just said, you can always politely interrupt them by saying:
- Sorry, I didn´t (quite) catch that!
- Excuse me, could you repeat that, please?
- Sorry, my line isn't very clear, may I ask you to speak up, please?
Here are some other useful phrases for difficult situations:
- Sorry, we got cut off (when you have to call again)
- Sorry, I think you´ve dialled the wrong number.
- Sorry, this is a really bad line – I´ll call you back!
If you have already spoken to the caller several times, he or she might start by asking: "How are you?" or "How are you doing?" As you know that this is a typical small talk situation, you answer:
- I´m fine (even if you´re not), thank you. And how are you?
- Not too bad. And yourself?
- Can´t complain. How are things with you?
- I´m very well, thank you. And how are you?
Some useful phrases to put somebody through:
- Can you hold on a moment, please?
- Please bear with me for a moment while I put you through.
- I´ll see if Mrs Parsons is available.
- Please hang on a second.
- I´ll connect you to Sales.
- I´ll connect you with Mr Garragher.
- I´m putting you through to the marketing manager.
And you may end the phone call by saying:
- It was nice talking to you, bye!
- Have a nice day! Bye!
- Talk to you again!
- Speak to you soon!
Über die Autorin
Saholy Nanahary-Robertson, M.A., ist Leiterin von Three Lions English und bietet Kurse und Workshops für Englisch an. Zuvor hat sie nach ihrem Magisterstudium jahrelang als Assistentin auf Vorstands- und Geschäftsleitungsebene gearbeitet.