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Success on the telephone

Ian McMaster ist Chefredakteur von Business Spotlight
Der Anrufer am anderen Ende der Leitung spricht Englisch ... und plötzlich fallen einem die simpelsten Vokabeln nicht mehr ein. Wie sich die peinliche Stammelei am Telefon vermeiden lässt, zeigt die erste Folge unserer neuen Serie.
You have few problems reading the language or understanding others. But telephoning in English? That's when you start to panic. This is understandable. You can't see the other person, and voices are often more difficult to understand on the phone. All is not lost, however. There are some simple steps you can take to improve your telephoning skills.

1. Don't panic. This is easier said than done, but really is the key to success. You must lose your fear of the phone. Make at least one call a day in English to a friend just to practice. Repeat to yourself: "Telephoning in English is easy." Positive thinking can work.

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2. Learn key vocabulary. Learn the vocabulary listed below. Alternatively, copy them and put them next to your phone at work, or take them with you when you're travelling.

3. Learn some key phrases. As well as key words, there are certain standard phrases that come up again and again on the phone. Learn them and use them! Don't try to be too clever on the phone; stick to the standard phrases.

4. Start and finish well. A confident opening is important. Say clearly, and not too quickly, who you are and why you are calling: "This is Boris Schröder from Düsseldorf. I'm calling about your order for ...Try to avoid saying "My name is ..."; this sounds less professional. At the end of the call, remember to thank the other person: "Thanks for your help." If they thank you, the answer is "You're welcome", not "please".

5. Learn to control the call. Native speakers of English often speak too quickly and not clearly enough. Make sure you know how to stop them or slow them down. Phrases such as: "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that" and "I'm sorry, could you speak a little more slowly" will help you to control the situation. Don't be embarrassed to stop your partner; remember, your English is almost certainly better than their German.

6. Listen carefully. Listen to the vocabulary and phrases that your partner uses. Often you will be able to say the same things later in the same conversation. Your partner won't notice what you are doing, but you will feel good that you have activated your passive vocabulary.

7. Soften your language. German-speakers often sound impolite in English because they are too direct. "Would" and "could" are the two key words. "I'd like to speak to Jane Brown, please" is much better than "I want to ...".

8. Create a positive atmosphere. Smile when you are on the phone. It really does make a difference to the way you sound. And the impression you create can make a big difference to your chances of business success. If you are unsure how you sound on the phone, record yourself during a conversation. You may be surprised by the result.

9. Learn to spell. Do you know the telephone alphabet in English? If not, learn it. It is important not only to know how to say the individual letters, but also to be able to check them: "Was that I for India or E for Echo?" (Don't say "E like Echo".)

10. Give yourself time. If you want to make a call, you can prepare beforehand. But what happens when your phone rings and suddenly someone is speaking English? No problem. If you feel uncomfortable and need time to prepare your thoughts, simply say: "Sorry, could I ring you back in five minutes, I'm in a meeting at the moment." Key vocabulary

area code ... Ortskennzahl
answering machine/ansaphone ... (automatischer) Anrufbeantworter
connect ... verbinden
country code ... Landeskennzahl
dial ... wählen
dial a wrong number... sich verwählen
dialling tone (US: dial tone)... Freizeichen
direct line... Durchwahl
engaged ...besetzt
engaged tone (US: busy tone) ... Besetztzeichen
extension number ... Nummer der Nebenstelle
have the wrong number ... falsch verbunden sein
home number ... Privatnummer
letter (of the alphabet) ... Buchstabe
mobile phone (US also: cell phone)...Handy
number unobtainable ..."kein Anschluss unter dieser Nummer"
operator ... (Telefon-)Vermittlung
receiver ... (Telefon-)Hörer
switchboard ... Zentrale
work number ... Büronummer

Key phrases

Good morning, this is Heike Hohner calling from Germany.
I'd like to speak to Mr/Ms Smith, please.
I'd like to leave a message for ...
Just a moment, please. I'll put you through.
I'm sorry, the line's busy / engaged.
Would you like to call back later?
I'm afraid she's not in the office today.
I'm afraid he's away on business.
Can I take a message?
Can she call you back when she gets in?
I'm calling about ?
I'm returning your call.
I'll get back to you on that.
I'll give her the message as soon as possible.
Can we fix an appointment?
Does Thursday suit you?
Let me check my diary.
Sorry, I didn't catch that.
What was your name again, please?
Could you speak more slowly, please?
Could you spell that for me, please?
Thanks for your help.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Thank you. Bye.
You're welcome. Bye.

Vokabeln zu den Key phrases

put somebody through ... jemanden durchstellen
the line's busy ... auf der Leitung wird gesprochen
return somebody's call ... jemanden zurückrufen
get back to somebody on something ... in einer Sache auf jemanden zurückkommen
fix an appointment ... eine Verabredung treffen
suit ... passen
catch something ... hier: etwas mitbekommen
spell ... buchstabieren

Dieser Artikel ist erschienen am 21.01.2002