You just had a laugh with a colleague, and right when you want to get back to work the phone rings and you see a foreign country code on your phone display. It takes you aback. You’ve all been there, even those of you whose English is very good. It’s the startle that you’re going to have to go out of your comfort zone. With a few tricks you’ll be able to answer your next call in English with ease. One of the first things you need to remember is that people in English speaking countries lay a lot of importance on friendliness and politeness in conversation. Try smiling while speaking on the phone; you’ll come across friendlier. It is also very uncommon to introduce yourself with one word – namely your last name. Schmidt, Braun and Müller are common but imagine your last name is Bode, Patzelt or Übelhack. The poor English speaking listener doesn’t know if you greeted them, asked them to hold the line or if you possibly sneezed. A proper way to introduce yourself would be “Good morning/afternoon, my name is Jennie Spiller how can I help you?” The next step is to be prepared for some small talk, the English customer might take the initiative and use your first name, this shouldn’t alarm you, nor should you think they are being rude by skipping over the du/Sie-rules of interaction. The small talk might continue for another sentence or two (see small talk topics) however the person calling should soon mention the reason for calling. After your successful phone call you should end your conversation politely (see ending a call).
Small Talk Topics
Weather – I hope the weather is as nice in Texas as it is in Germany?
Sports – Did you watch the big game last night?
Vacation – Hi , how was your vacation?
→ Of course you could also speak about a wide array of topics i.e. Entertainment, hobbies, or the news but the first three are probably easier to speak about on the phone.
Good afternoon, this is Jennie Spiller, how can I help you?
Hi Jennie, it’s Bill calling from Boston.
Hi Bill, you’re up quite early!
Yes, I like to get an early jog in before I start work. The reason I’m calling is because I’d like to confirm our upcoming visit and to ask you if it would be possible to send us a list of hotels that you would recommend.
Absolutely, I’ll send you an email with that information sometime today. I’ll also include a restaurant or two and the local taxi numbers.
Thanks Jennie, I’d appreciate that. Then let me wish you a nice afternoon and how do you Germans say it… Mahlzeit – right?
(Laugh) Yes, Mahlzeit. Bye Bill
Thanks again, bye.
Email address ”Tücken“
jane_doe = Jane UNDERSCORE Doe
jane.doe = Jane DOT Doe
jane-doe = Jane DASH/MINUS Doe
ABCD = Capital
abcd = Lower case
Ä = A –Umlaut/ A with two dots
Jane.Doe@gmail.com: Capital ‘J’ as is Juliet, ‘lowercase A’ as in Alpha, ‘N’ as in November, ‘E’ as in Echo, DOT capital ‘D’ as in Delta, ‘O’ as in Oscar, ‘E’ as in Echo, AT ‘G’ as in Golf MAIL DOT com
Good morning, my name is Sandra Keller May I speak with (person’s name)?
I am calling on behalf of (company/organization name) in regard to (reason for the call).
Asking for the caller’s name
May I ask who’s calling?
Can I have your name, please?
Asking for someone/department
I’d like to speak to… .
Can I have the accounts department, please?
Can you put me through to the … department?
Asking for repetition/clarification
I’m sorry, could you repeat that. (formal)
Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that. (informal)
Could you please repeat that?
Could you speak up a bit, please?
Could I just confirm that you said the 13th of January and not the 30th?
Did you say 70 or 17, seven zero or one seven?
I’ll put you through.
Hold the line, please.
Can I put you on hold?
I’m sorry he/she is not available.
I’m afraid he/she’s busy at the moment.
Ending a call
Is there anything else I can help you with? …. Ok, have a nice afternoon.
Thank you for your help. Good bye.