What would you do if an English speaking somebody called your phone right now?
Would you pick up? If you were in an English speaking country and wanted to order in, would you make the call?
I hope your answer to these questions is "Yes, absolutely Kayley!" Although, many of my language learning students and friends dread phone conversations in their target language. Believe it or not, there is an actual word for this fear, 'telephonobia'. This vivid anxiety arises when your phone rings and your heart flutters with the ferocity of each vibration. No fear, there are ways to prepare for positive over the phone experiences.
I am about to share five valuable tips on how to become better at talking on the phone in your target language.
Also! I've highlighted some difficult words and phrases in tips 1-4. If you know the meaning or have to look them up, write a definition in the comments to help out fellow English learners.
Ok, lets get started!
1. Own it!
Most of us here on Verbling understand the fears involved with language learning. The heart-sinking feeling when someone says "pardon, I didn't understand you". The butterfliesthat precede your input during a group conversation. Or, telephonobia. Tip #1 is own it! Be bold like the eagle.
Omniglot | Simon Ager says "Don't worry about not understanding everything - try and guess the things you don't know from context...".
If you are completely lost during a phone conversation just say "pardon, can you say that slower" or "can you repeat that". Be brave! Have patience for yourself. If we are serious about meeting our goals, we have to do the hard stuff. We need to make mistakes. Know this, the more uncomfortable you feel, the better, always challenge your fears in the practice of language procurement.
2. Flex those listening ears.
I know this seems like an obvious one, but! Practice is important.
Eurolinguist | Mark Kinsella recommends "...bombardment. Listen as much as you can."
Practising your listening skills these days is a breeze. There is so much content on the internet - regardless of your target language. When I first moved to Brazil, not understanding Portuguese was SO frustrating. Despite my low level, I watched at least one 10 minute episode of Adventure Time every day - without subtitles! Initially, I couldn't understand a thing, but I stuck with it. I SWEAR! I absolutely believe that this short but consistent practice helped me skip right over my telephonobia faze. If your target language is English, I recommend that you watch at least one brief episode of something every day - switch up the accent to develop a versatile ear.
Here are some suggestions:
Adventure Time | American
Bluey | Australia
bro'Town (Adult Themes) | New Zealand
Or just watch what you love. If you love cooking watch cooking videos. If it's sport, choose a league to watch in your target language. Listen to a podcast if that's you're thing...
3. Don't sweat the small stuff!
I'm going to keep this one short. It is so important to forgive yourself and forget it. I have experienced some embarrassing moments. People laughing at my accent in front of my colleagues and friends. At first, I would beat myself up over it, but that just set me back. I quickly learnt to keep on keeping on. You have to be able to laugh at yourself. Be proud for trying. Focus on your goal and let nothing stand in your way.
4. Slow your roll.
Slow it down. When you're feeling the pressure, take a deep breath. Listen when the person on the other end is talking. Remember tip #1, don't be afraid to ask people to slow down or repeat themselves. When it's your turn to talk, give yourself time to think about what you want to say. Focus on your pronunciation and clarity.
Keep in mind that any opportunity to practice shouldn't be taken for granted. Remember tip #2, never pass up the opportunity to practice. Answer that phone call!
5. Say what!? What to say...
Ok, last tip! Here I want to give you some common informal English phrases you might hear while on the phone along with some things you can say.
Answering Your Phone
When answering your phone, you can usually say "Hello". In Australia some people might say "Hey, how are you mate", that's pretty common. If I don't know the person calling me, I usually answer saying "Hello, Kayley speaking". If I still don't know who it is, I'd follow with "May I ask who's speaking?"
When Someone Else is Calling Through
In the awkward case that you receive an important call while on the phone you can say "that's my other line" or "I have another call, I'll call you back."
Receiving Instructions or Explanations
When you are making plans to meet over the phone or someone is instructing or explaining something to you, there are a few natural phrases that English speakers commonly use.
All of these mean I understand. If you don't understand, you can say "hmmm, I'm not sure what you mean" or "I'm not sure where that is."
Ending a phone conversation can be a little bit tricky. I want to make clear that phone etiquette is different for each culture. To politely finish a phone conversation, we say "It was good to talk to you" or"Good to hear from you." When you want to get off the phone, you can say, "I have to let you go, thanks for calling". After saying these phrases, we say "bye" before hanging up.
Ok! They are my 5 tips for becoming more comfortable with speaking on the phone in your target language. I hope you find them useful. Remember, if you know any of the highlighted words in tips 1-4 or if you had to look up their meanings help others out by writing the definition in the comments.
If you're in lockdown at the moment, tip #2! You have plenty of time to practice. =)