Strangely, after to textSMS schreibentexting, posting messages on social media, e-mailing and all the rest, the “speaking” function of our phones has become one of those we use least. But telephoning is still not a skill we can always avoid.
For every online booking form that saves you a call, there’s another situation that requires one. You can make an appointment with your opticianOptiker(in)optician online, but you still need to phone to ask if your new lenshier: Kontaktlinselenses are ready. You can often reserve a table for dinner online, but what do you do if your favourite Italian restaurant doesn’t offer an online booking service?
The less we speak on the phone, the more difficult it becomes to make a call, especially if it’s in another language. Here, we present the key language you’ll need to phone in different situations, so that you can be a cool, capable and confident caller.
Meet Ray and Hester Pepperdine. Ray has taken early retirement, but Hester is still working in a very stressful job. Ray worries about his wife because she’s working too hard. Follow a series of phone calls, and find out what happens when Ray decides to organize a break for his hard-working wife.
Ray calls his wife at work. He has a suggestion, but does Hester have time to listen?
Ray: Hi! It’s me. Sorry to to botherstörenbother you at work. Do you have a moment?
Hester: No, not really. It’s not a good time. Is it urgent? Is there a problem?
Ray: No, not at all. I just wanted a quick word with you. It won’t take long.
Hester: OK. Go ahead.
Ray: It’s just that I’ve found a really good deal for a short break this weekend — to the French Riviera. Shall I book it?
Hester: No, sorry. It’s a lovely idea, but I can’t think about that at the moment. I’m really busy. Can we talk about it later?
Ray: OK, sure. Speak later! Sorry to have disturbed you.
Find the phrases that...
- Ray uses to make the call as quick and polite as possible.
- Hester uses to make clear that she’s busy.
Ray calls one of Hester’s good friends. He doesn’t know her very well, but he’d like her advice. What is he planning to do?
Ray: Oh, hello! Is that Kate?
Kate: Speaking. Who’s that?
Ray: Oh, sorry, yes, my name’s Ray, Ray Pepperdine. I’m Hester’s husband. We’ve met a few times before, if you can remember.
Kate: Yes, of course I remember you.
Ray: I hope you don’t to mindetw. dagegen habenmind me calling you like this.
Kate: No, of course not. What can I do for you? Is everything OK?
Ray: I’m calling to ask for your help. You’re Hester’s friend, and I’d like your advice. Can I to run: ~ sth. past sb.jmdm. etw. darlegenrun an idea past you?
Kate: Sure, go ahead.
Ray: Well, Hester desperately needs a break, but we can’t get away. So, I was thinking of organizing a staycation for her, a holiday at home. I’m thinking of transforming the back garden into the French Riviera — with a beach, maybe with sand and palm trees and a little pool. Is that crazy?
Kate: Er, yes, possibly.
Ray: Oh, don’t you think she’d like it?
Kate: Um, I’m not sure...Well, yes, why not? If you want to do it, then go for it!
Ray: OK, if you think it’s a good idea, then I’ll do it.
Kate: Let me know how it goes.
Ray: Will do! Thanks for listening. Speak soon.
Find the phrases that Ray uses to...
- check that he has the right person.
- introduce himself.
- explain why he’s calling.
Ray calls a building supplies companyBaustofffirma, Baustofflieferantbuilding supplies company. What does he want to buy? Can the firm help him?
Receptionist: Hello! ARP Building Supplies.
Ray: Hello! I’m hoping you can help me. I found your number on the internet. I’m looking to buy a large quantity of sand. Could I speak to someone who might be able to help me?
Receptionist: I’ll put you through to the sales department. Who shall I say is calling?
Ray: My name is Ray Pepperdine.
Receptionist: Thank you. Hold on a moment, Mr Pepperdine, and I’ll put you through...
Salesperson: Hello! Sales.
Ray: Oh, hello! I don’t know if you can help me. I’m looking to buy a lot of sand for my garden. I want to transform part of it into a beach for my wife.
Salesperson: Yes, we can supply you with sand, but the minimum quantity you can order is 10 tonnes.
Ray: Ah, that’s a lot more than I need.
Salesperson: Sorry we can’t help you this time.
Ray: No problem. Thank you.
Find the phrases that could be useful in other business calls.
Next, Ray calls a garden centre. Can he buy the plants he wants there?
Salesperson: Hello! Home and Garden. How can I help you?
Ray: Oh, hello! I’m calling to ask if you sell pottedeingetopft, Topf-potted palms.
Salesperson: Sorry, I didn’t catch that. You’re to break uphier: die Verbindung reißt abbreaking up a bit. Could you say it again?
Ray: Do you sell potted palms?
Salesperson: Sorry, did you say “pot plants”?
Ray: No, potted palms.
Salesperson: Sorry, I’m still not sure what you mean.
Ray: I want to buy a little palm tree in a pot. A palm tree. It’s spelled: P-A-L-M. Do you know what I mean?
Salesperson: Oh, I to seehier: verstehensee — sorry! No, I’m afraid we don’t sell palm trees. I think you’d need a specialist supplier of exotic plants. Try the internet.
Ray: OK. Thanks.
Find the phrases that both speakers use in trying to sort out their misunderstanding.
Ray phones his brother, Roger, to ask if he can borrow something. Can his brother help?
Roger: Hello, Ray! How are you?
Ray: I’m fine, thanks. But I’m a bit concerned about Hester. She’s working too hard. That’s why I’m calling, actually — to ask you to do me a favour. But it’s a secret. Don’t tell Hester.
Roger: Sounds mysterious! What can I do for you?
Ray: Do you still have the kids’ old paddling pool (UK)Planschbeckenpaddling pool? I’d like to borrow it.
Roger: Oh, gosh (ifml.)Mensch!, Mann!gosh! That went years ago. Why did you want it?
Ray: I’m turning the garden into a beach as a surprise for Hester, and I thought a pool would be fun.
Roger: We have a hammockHängemattehammock, if that’s any help?
Ray: Oh, yes, that would be excellent. I’ll come and pick it up if I may... Oh, I can see Hester’s car outside. I’m going to have to say goodbye. I’ll call you again tomorrow. When’s a good time?
Roger: Any time after eight.
Ray: OK, speak tomorrow. And remember — not a word about this to Hester.
Find the phrases that Ray uses to...
- move the conversation from small talk to the purpose of his call.
- end the call quickly.
Ray would like to organize a special meal for Hester, but he isn’t confident in the kitchen. So, he calls a party service. What arrangements do they make?
Party service: Hello! Chefs at Home. Can I help?
Ray: Oh, hello! I’d like to book a chef to cook a meal at my home, please.
Party service: Yes, of course. What date were you thinking of?
Ray: This Saturday — that’s the 23rd June — in the evening. Is that possible? Or Friday, if Saturday isn’t available.
Party service: Let me see... Yes, we can do Saturday. Can I take a few details, please? First, can I take your name and address, then we can talk about your requirements. ...
Party service: Right, that’s all booked for you, Mr Pepperdine. A three-course French meal for two people, with wine, and served in the garden.
Party service: I’ll send you an e-mail to confirm the booking, and I’ll attach some menu options for you to look at. If you could let us know your preferred option at least 48 hours in advance. And please don’t hesitate to call if you have any questions.
Ray: Thank you so much. You’ve been really helpful.
Find the phrases that could be useful when making other types of booking.
It’s Sunday evening. Hester calls her friend Kate. The call goes directly to her voicemail. Did Hester enjoy her special “holiday” weekend?
Hello! This is Kate’s voicemail. Sorry I can’t take your call at the moment. Please leave a message, and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.
Hi, Kate! It’s Hester. I have just had the most wonderful weekend — a beautiful meal in the garden last night, and I spent the whole of today asleep in a hammock. I hear that you helped Ray to organize it. Thank you so much. Apparently, he wanted to turn the garden into a beach for me. Have you ever heard anything so crazy? I would have been to sweepkehren, fegensweeping sand out of the house for the rest of the year! Anyway, could you give me a ring when you get this message? It would be nice to catch up with you. Speak soon!
Find the phrases you could use to leave a voicemail message.
Here’s a list of some of the phrases you might have highlighted while reading this article. They will come in handy: to come in ~nützlich seinhandy the next time you have to make or answer a phone call. So, don’t be nervous — just pick up the phone.
Starting a conversation
– Sorry to bother you...
– Do you have a moment?
– I just wanted a quick word with you.
– It won’t take long.
– Go ahead.
– I hope you don’t mind me calling.
Ending a conversation
– Sorry to have disturbed you.
– Thanks for listening.
– I’m going to have to say goodbye.
– Speak later! / Speak soon!
– I’ll call you tomorrow.
Postponing a conversation
– It’s not a good time right now.
– Is it urgent? Can we talk later?
– When’s a good time to call?
– Could you give me a ring back?
Finding the right person
– Is that...? / Who’s that?
– My name’s... / It’s...
– Who shall I say is calling?
– Hold on a moment.
– I’ll put you through.
Offering and asking for help
– What can I do for you?
– How can I help you? / Can I help?
– I’m calling to ask for your help.
– I’m hoping you can help me.
– Could I speak to someone who might be able to help me?
– That’s why I’m calling, actually.
– Sorry we can’t help you this time.
– Don’t hesitate to call if you have any (more) questions.
Sorting out a misunderstanding
– Sorry, I didn’t catch that.
– Could you say it again?
– Sorry, did you say...?
– It’s spelled...
– Oh, I see — sorry!