How to improve fluency and how to make telephone calls without panic

by Laura Rosia
(London)

Hi Robbie,
My name is Laura and I just started my placement in a Solicitors office where I am asked to make telephone calls to clients, to the police station, to the prison, schedule and cancel appointments, book meeting rooms etc.

What is worst is that I have to answer the telephone and that is an unpredictable situation that scares me and makes me panic so my English, that is not perfect and quick, becames even worse.
Please give me some advice.
Thank you in advance.
Laura

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Feb 16, 2011
Managing English Phone Conversations
by: Robby Kukurs

Hi Laura,

Thanks for your question, that's an interesting one!

To be honest with you, I've always found phone conversations easier to manage than face-to-face communication.

Why?

When you're having a real conversation, quite often native English speakers would assume that every time you slow down a bit or hesitate it's OK for them to interrupt you.

This can be easily avoided when you're on the phone because no-one can judge your body language and make wrong assumptions. In the worst case scenario you can tell that person to hold on for a second while you think of the proper way to answer the question - something that's not realistic in face-to-face conversation.

Of course, you won't be doing this every time you pick up a phone, but I hope you get the idea - being on this side of the phone line gives you an advantage of speaking at your own pace, which brings us to the next point - speed.

You mention that your English isn't fast enough. Let me counter that with another question - why should it be?

If you try speaking very fast, it'll lead to even bigger English fluency issues and you risk getting completely tongue-tied!

I honestly believe that no English speaker - be it native or foreign - would mind spending a few extra seconds on the line due to your slower speaking pace. Besides, speaking speed is individual factor and there would be many native English speakers who'd also speak slower than the average person.

So my advice would be to change your mindset a bit and try to convince yourself you're in the advantage position every time you pick up the phone.

You can also prepare the most commonly used phrases and expressions so that you can say them automatically. You know, things like "[Company name] Laura speaking, how can I help you?" and "Is there anything else I can help you with?" Just make a list of such phrases you use regularly and memorise them until they become you second nature!

It'll be much easier to have phone conversations if you can speak those standard phrases automatically, and then you'll just have to fill in the gaps with your own improvised speech which shouldn't be that hard.

So for instance, when you're calling another company to book an appointment, your speech should be pretty standard - like "Hello, it's Laura calling from [Company name], can I speak to someone from the legal department?"

So the bottom line here is - make some preparations and don't be hard on yourself in terms of speaking too fast!

Hope this helps!

Best Regards,

Robby

Robby Kukurs is the creator of www.englishharmony.com, a website he created in 2007 to help struggling foreign English speakers gain real English fluency.

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