Conversation: Talking on the Telephone

Speak English on the telephone with confidence

In this post we’re going to feature a few really useful videos to help you speak on the phone in English with confidence! We’ll also provide some resources to help you role play telephone conversations.

Talking on the phone in a foreign language can be really intimidating and challenging! When we communicate in real face to face situations we use lots of different “cues” such as facial expressions and body language to help us express and understand each other. When we’re talking on the phone we don’t have these cues and to make matters worse there are often lots of distractors. Distractors can be problems or sounds on the line, such as crackling or echo, background noise on the other end of the line (such as traffic or office noise) or even noise wherever you are (children, traffic, roadworks etc..)

Have you ever had to speak on the phone in English? How did it go? What was it for?

How do you feel about talking on the phone in English?

Do you prefer talking face to face or on the phone?

Do you prefer using video conferencing or talking on the telephone?

The Phonetic Alphabet

LetterPhonetic RepresentationLetterPhonetic Representation
AAlphaNNovember
BBravoOOscar
CCharliePPapa
DDeltaQQuebec
EEchoRRomeo
F FoxtrotSSierra
GGolfTTango
HHotelUUniform
IIndiaVVictor
JJulietWWhisky
KKiloXX-Ray
LLimaYYankee
MMikeZZulu
The Phonetic Alphabet Reference

The “phonetic Alphabet” is the most widely used system for representing the letters of the alphabet. These words can help to spell out words and codes to facilitate clear communication, especially when the method of communication can create misunderstandings. The current system was implemented in 1957 and has become standard, where previously various different systems had been used. The idea is that each word is sufficiently distinct to avoid any confusion.

Telephone Conversation Roleplay

Calling the doctor’s surgery.

Arranging a meeting.

Finding out prices and availability.

Student A. You are calling a clothes shop to find out if they have a certain item of clothing that you are looking for. You need a UK size 6 for a child and would like it in blue.

Student B works in the shop but doesn’t know if the item is still available, so takes notes about the request and will find out about availability and get back to the caller via email.

Reporting a problem.

Student A. You are calling the electricity company to tell them about a problem with your electric supply. The supply has been cutting out at various times during the day and night which has caused you a lot of inconvenience, problems with remote working, the freezer, your alarm clock etc.. You want to know when they can resolve this problem and want some compensation such as a discount on your bill.

Student B. You work for the electricity company, you’ve received a lot of angry calls this morning about electrical supply problems is the city. You don’t know what the problem is or how to resolve or even how long it will take to get resolved but you can make an incident report, send a technician to investigate and make a note of the complain to send to the billing department for review and possible discount.

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