Free Resources for Students and Teachers of English as a Foreign Language in China - by Paul Sparks

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Paul Sparks, Online Business English Lesson Plans, Lesson Material and Ideas for Grade 2 English Conversation Lessons at Xiangtan Normal University...




Lesson 23 - Telephone English


LESSON OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this lesson is introduce the students to English phrases and sayings when using the telephone.


Telephone English

There are a number of phrases and idioms that are only used when telephoning. Here is an example phone call:

Secretary: Hello, Xiangtan Normal University, how can I help you? 
Caller: This is Paul Sparks. Can I speak to Mr Xiang? 
Secretary: Certainly, hold on a minute, I'll put you through... 
Mr Xiang's office: Mr Xiang's office, how can I help? 
Caller: This is Paul Sparks calling, is Mr Xiang in?
Mr Xiang's office: I'm afraid he's out at the moment. Can I take a message? 
Caller: Yes, Could you ask him to call me. I need to talk to him, it's urgent. 
Mr Xiang's office: Does Mr Xiang have your number? 
Caller: Yes.
Mr Xiang's office: Thank you Mr Sparks, I'll make sure Mr Xiang gets this asap. 
Caller: Thanks, bye. 
Mr Xiang's office: Bye.
As you can see, the language is rather informal and there are some important differences to everyday English. See below for key language and phrases used in telephone English: 

Introducing yourself -"This is Paul" or "Paul speaking"
Asking who is on the telephone - "Excuse me, who is this?" or "Can I ask who is calling, please?" 
Asking for Someone - "Can I have extension 321?" or "Could I speak to...?" (Can I - more informal / May I - more formal) 
Connecting Someone - "I'll put you through" (put through - phrasal verb meaning 'connect') or "Can you hold the line?" 
How to reply when someone is not available - "I'm afraid he is not available at the moment" or "He isn't in at the moment"  Taking a Message - "Can I take a message?" or "Could I tell him who is calling?" or "Would you like to leave a message?"


Exercises for Practicing Speaking on the Telephone 
Real life situations - Businesses are always interested in telling you about their products. Find a product you are interested in and research it over the telephone. You can ... 

  • call a store to find out the prices and specifications. 
  • ring the company representative to find out details on how the product works. 
  • telephone a consumer agency to find out if the product has any defects. 
  • call customer service to find out about replacement parts, etc.


Leaving a Message 
Sometimes, there may not be anyone to answer the telephone and you will need to leave a message. Follow this outline to make sure that the person who should receive your message has all the information he/she needs. 

Introduction - "Hello, this is Paul." OR "Hello, My name is Paul." 
State the time of day and your reason for calling - "It's ten in the morning. I'm calling to let you know that ....." 
Make a request - "Could you ring me back?"
Leave your telephone number - "My number is ...." OR "You can reach me at ...." 
Finish - "Thanks a lot, bye." OR "I'll talk to you later, bye." 

Here's an example of message 
Telephone: (Ring... Ring...) Hello, this is Paul. I'm afraid I'm not in at the moment. Please leave a message after the beep..... (beep)
Mr Xiang: Hello Paul, this is Mr Xiang. It's about noon and I'm calling to see if you are busy this afternoon. Could you call me back? You can reach me at 123-45467 until five this afternoon. I'll talk to you later, bye. 

As you can see, leaving a message is pretty simple. You only need to make sure that you have stated all the most important information: Your Name, The Time, The Reason for Calling, Your Telephone Number


Role Playing using the Telephone

Requesting Travel Information 

Student A: 
Choose a city in your country. You are going to travel to this city for a business meeting over the next weekend. Telephone a travel agency and reserve the following: 
Round-trip flight 
Hotel room for two nights 
Restaurant recommendation 
Prices and departure times 

Student B: 
You work in a travel agency. Listen to student A and offer him/her the following solutions: 
Round-trip flight: Air JW $450 Coach, $790 First Class 
Hotel room for two nights: Hotel City $120 a night in the downtown area, Hotel Relax $110 a night near the airport 
Restaurant Recommendation: Chez Marceau - downtown - average price $70 a person 
Product Information 

Student A: 
You need to purchase six new computers for your office. Call JA's Computer World and ask for the following information: 
Current special offers on computers 
Computer configuration (RAM, Hard Drive, CPU) 
Possibility of discount for an order of six computers 

Student B: 
You work in at JA's Computer World answer student A's questions using the following information: 
Two special offers: Multimedia Monster - with latest Pentium CPU, 256 RAM, 40 GB Hard Drive, Monitor included - $2,500 AND Office Taskmaster - cheaper CPU, 64 RAM, 10 GB Hard Drive, Monitor not included - $1,200 
1 Year guaranty on all computers 
Discount of 5% for orders of more than five computers 
Leaving a Message 

Student A: 
You want to speak to Ms Braun about your account with her company, W&W. If Ms Braun isn't in the office, leave the following information: 
Your name 
Telephone number: 347-8910 (or use your own) 
Calling about changing conditions of your contract with W&W 
You can be reached until 5 o'clock at the above number. If Ms Braun calls after 5 o'clock, she should call 458-2416 

Student B: 
You are a receptionist at W&W. Student A would like to speak to Ms Braun, but she is out of the office. Take a message and make sure you get the following information: 
Name and telephone number - ask student A to spell the surname 
Message student A would like to leave for Ms Braun 
How late Ms Braun can call student A at the given telephone number 
Selling Your Product 

Student A: 
You are a salesperson for Red Inc. You are telephoning a client who you think might be interested in buying your new line of office supplies. Discuss the following information with your client: 
New line of office supplies including: copy-paper, pens, stationary, mouse-pads and white boards 
You know the customer hasn't ordered any new products during this past year 
Special discount of 15% for orders placed before next Monday 
Any order placed before Monday will not only receive the discount, but also have its company logo printed on the products at no extra charge 

Student B: 
You work in an office and receive a telephone call from your local office supplier. As a matter fact, you need some new office supplies so you are definitely interested in what the salesperson has to offer. Talk about the following: 
New pens, stationary and white boards 
Do they have any special offers 
You would like to place an order for 200 packages of copy paper immediately

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