Boost up your speech skills



13.1. Listening Development

Assignment 1. You will hear different types of telephone calls. Listen and match the calls you hear with the types of calls in the list below (one is extra). Listen again and put down the expressions the callers are using and details of information



Contact call: getting in touch with a business contact

Information call: calling to get information

Voice mail call: calling and leaving a message on a machine

Appointment call: contacting a business to arrange a meeting / appointment

Call 1. …
Call 2. …
Call 3. …
Call 4. …

Assignment 2. Telephone: Connecting

1) Imagine you are calling a company and want to speak to someone who works there. Can you think of any phrases you might use, or that you might hear? Put down these phrases.

2) Now listen to two conversations. In the first conversation Richard Davies is calling the marketing department of a company and wants to be put through to Rosalind Wilson. In the second conversation Mike Andrews wants to talk to Jason Roberts in the marketing department. As you listen, see if you can hear some of the phrases typically used while speaking on the phone. Fill in the gaps.


M i c h e l l e. Hello, you've reached the marketing department. How ?

M a l e. Yes can Rosalind Wilson, please?

M i c h e l l e. Who’s ?

M a l e. It’s Richard Davies here.

M i c h e l l e. Certainly. Please and .

M a l e. Thank you.


M i c h e l l e. Hello, marketing. How ?

M a l e. ?

M i c h e l l e. Certainly. ?

M a l e. My name’s Mike Andrews.

M i c h e l l e. I’ll see . Hello, Jason, ... OK – I’ll put him through. , I’m just putting you through.

Assignment 3. Telephone Messages

Imagine you work as a receptionist and you receive a call for someone who isn't there. What might the caller say, and what would you say in reply? After you've thought of some phrases, see the keys for some more ideas.

Now listen to a telephone conversation between the finance department of a company and Jennifer McAndrews. Jennifer wants to talk to Adrian Hopwood but he's not available so she has to leave a message. As you listen, see if you can hear the exact wording of the suggested ideas.

Check your understanding by reading the scripts below.

C l a i r e. Hello, finance department

F e m a l e. Hello, (=I’d like to talk to) Adrian Hopwood, please?

C l a i r e. I’m (=sorry to say he’s) in a meeting at the moment. (=Can I be of any assistance?)

F e m a l e. No I need to talk to Mr Hopwood, I think. What time will he be out of the meeting?

C l a i r e. In about an hour. (=Can you give another call later?)

F e m a l e. Okay, I’ll do that.

C l a i r e. Or (=can I give him a message?)

F e m a l e. Actually, would you mind? (=Please, let him know that) Jennifer McAndrews called and that I’m in the office all day if he could call me back.

C l a i r e. Can (I have your number), please?

F e m a l e. Yes, it’s 5556872.

C l a i r e. 5556872. Okay, (=I’ll see that he gets the message.)

F e m a l e. Thanks very much for your help, bye!

C l a i r e. Goodbye!

13.2. Vocabulary Enrichment

Assignment 1. Fill in the gaps with the words in the box.


rings operator Directory fixed charge dial
Emergency 'double' payphones caller

Shops and restaurants do not allow customers to use their office telephones, but some have ... and there are boxes in the street and in public buildings.

When giving numbers to an ..., read each figure separately. Zero is read as the letter 'O', When the same figures occur together, the word ... is used. 886103 is read as 'double eight six one O three'. Some of the telephone services available are: ... calls to the Fire Brigade, Police, and Ambulance Service, for which you should ... 999.

A.D.C., which stands for 'advise duration and charge', means that when the call is finished the operator ... you back to tell you how long the call was and how much it cost. ... Enquiries give information about numbers both in the U.K. and abroad. Personal calls are made to a particular person. A ... is made for the service, but you do not pay for the time taken to find the person. If he is not there the call is tried again later without further charge. Transferred-charge calls are paid for by the person receiving the call rather than the ....

Assignment 2. Practice dialogues I - IV between an international operator (A) and a caller (B) and then make some more dialogues combining the lines at random. To make sure you pronounce the numbers correctly, read the note after the dialogues.

NOTE: Giving numbers

Here's a phone number: 0171 222 3344. And here's how to say it: "Oh-one-seven-one, triple two, double three, double four." OR "Zero-one-seven-one, triple two, double three, double four."

Pausing: When you say a seven digit number, separate the number into two blocks of three and four, pausing after each block. Each digit is spoken separately, unless it's a double or triple. If the second part of the number was '5555', you'll probably find it easier to say 'double five – double five'.

A Number please. Number please. Number please. Number please.
B I'd like to make an A.D.C., personal call to 01-486-2435, please. Eastbourne 74655, personal with A.D.C., please. Could you get me Luton 12507? Make it personal, please. Can I have a personal call to Bedford 645932, please?
A What is the name of the person you wish to speak to? Who do you want to speak to? The name of the person you are calling, please? Who are you calling?
B Miss Susan Greene. G-R double E-N-E. Extension 214. Extensions are internal numbers at a company. The Export Manager. I'm not sure of he name, but it's room 211
A What is your number,please' What number are you calling from? Where are you calling from? Your exchange and number, please?
B Brighton 11865. Aberdeen 605. Belfast 74520. Swansea 66932.

Assignment 3. Practice short dialogues.


A: Is that Eastbourne 69523?

B: No, you've got the wrong number. This is Eastbourne 65932.

1 A: ......The Army and Navy Stores? B: ......The Battersea Dogs' Home.
2 A: ......extension 319? B: ......extension 913.
3 A: ......Polegate 4378? B: ......Burwash 4378.
4 A: ......The Hilton? B: ......The Salvation Army.
5 A: ......Directory Enquiries? B: ......the engineers.

Assignment 4. Practice the spelling of different words.


A: Did you say Foster: F-O-S-T-E-R?

B: No, I said Gloucester G-L-O-U-C-E-S-T-E-R.

1 A: ........ chicken......? B: ........ kitchen......
2 A: ........ Midwood......? B: ........ Bradford......
3 A: ......... Turkey......? B: ........Torquay......
4 A: ...... expect......? B: ...... except ......
5 A: ........ Chertsey......? B: ....... Jersey ......

Assignment 5. Now test yourself with the quiz. Choose correct answers.

1. When you telephone a company the person answering the phone may ask you a question. Which is the correct question?

A. Who’s calling please?

B. Who calls?

C. Who it is?

D. Who called?

2. Which phrase means the same as ‘hang on a moment?’

A. Just a second

B. I’ll put you on

C. Go ahead

D. I’m ready

3. Choose the correct word: “Please ……. and I’ll put you through.”

A. stop

B. stay

C. talk

D. hold

4. What is the expression used to connect two people on the telephone?

A. I’m sending you through.

B. I’m putting you through

C. I’m calling you through.

D. I’m talking you through

Assignment 6. Match the expressions in columns. Say which of them refer to leaving or taking a message and which of them refer to getting through.

  • Can I speak to (Mr X), please?
  • Could you ask him to call me back?
  • Does he have your number?
  • May I ask who's calling?
  • Could I leave a message, please?
  • What's your number, please?
  • Could you, please, pass on a message to him?
  • Is (Mr X) there, please?
  • Could you ask him to return my call?
  • Could I have your name, please?

Assignment 7. Fill in the table. Sort out the phrases into semantic groups according to the subtitles.

Introducing yourself

Asking who is on the telephone

Asking for Someone

Connecting Someone

How to reply when someone is not available

Taking a message

              • This is Ken.
              • Excuse me, who is this?
              • Could (Can, May) I take a message?
              • The line is busy... (when the extension requested is being used)
              • Can I have extension 321?
              • Could I speak to...? (Can I - more informal / May I - more formal)
              • Is Jack in? (informal)
              • I'll put you through (put through - phrasal verb meaning 'connect')
              • Could (Can, May) I tell him who is calling?
              • Can you hold the line? Can you hold on a moment?
              • Ken speaking.
              • I'm afraid ... is not available at the moment
              • Mr Jackson isn't in...
              • Mr Jackson is out at the moment...
              • Can I ask who is calling, please?
              • Would you like to leave a message?

              Assignment 8. Match the phrases to make meaningful mini dialogues.

              • May I, please, speak to Jerry?
              • I'd like to make a reservation.
              • Is this the Animal Defense League?
              • May I please speak to Maria Shigematzu in Accounting?
              • Sorry to bother you but-
              • I'd like to order a large pizza with Canadian bacon and pineapple.
              • I'd like to place an order for 500 red pens.
              • I really have to get back to my English homework.
              • I'm sorry I didn't call you last night. I fell asleep early.
              • She just stepped out for a minute. Can I have her call you back?
              • Sorry, we're out of red. We should be getting more in next week.
              • Do you know what time it is?
              • That's okay. I wasn't here anyway.
              • He's not here right now. May I take a message?
              • Oh, I'll let you go. Give me a call when you have some time.
              • For how many people?
              • Delivery or pick-up?
              • The Animal...what? Sorry, I think you have the wrong number.

              Assignment 9. Put the lines of the telephone dialogue in a correct order.

              • O p e r a t o r: Hello, Frank and Brothers, How can I help you?
              • F r a n k: Could you repeat the number please?
              • P e t e r: Thanks, bye.
              • F r a n k: Bob Peterson's office, Frank speaking.
              • P e t e r: This is Peter Jackson. Can I have extension 3421?
              • F r a n k: Thank you Mr Jackson, I'll make sure Bob gets this asap.
              • P e t e r: This is Peter Jackson calling, is Bob in?
              • F r a n k: I'm afraid he's out at the moment. Can I take a message?
              • P e t e r: Yes, Could you ask him to call me. I need to talk to him about the Nuovo line, it's urgent.
              • O p e r a t o r: Certainly, hold on a minute, I'll put you through...
              • P e t e r: Yes, that's right, and this is Peter Jackson.
              • F r a n k: Bye.

              Assignment 10. Translate the following from Russian into English.


              У меня зазвонил телефон.

              – Кто говорит?

              – Слон.


              А вчера поутру Кенгуру:

              – Не это ли квартира Мойдодыра? –

              Я рассердился, да как заору:

              – Нет! Это чужая квартира!!!

              – А где Мойдодыр?

              – Не могу вам сказать...

              Позвоните по номеру

              Сто двадцать пять.

              13.3. Reading Improvement

              Assignment 1. The following text gives some advice about telephoning between different cultures. Before you read it, quickly answer these questions about the organisation of the text:
              a) What is the picture about?
              b) How many paragraphs are there?
              c) How many main points are probably in the article?
              Now read the text, then mark the sentences that follow as True (T) or False (F).


              In some countries, like Italy and Britain, conversation is a form of entertainment. There is an endless flow of talk and if you break the flow for a second someone else will pick it up. In other countries there is a higher value placed on listening – it is not only impolite to break in but listeners will consider what has been said in silence before responding. Finland and Japan are examples.

              If you are talking to people who are also speaking English as a foreign language, they are likely to leave gaps and silences while they search for words or try to make sense of what you have just said. So be patient and try not to interrupt, as you would hope they would be patient with you.

              Every country has its own codes of etiquette. For example it is common for Anglo-Saxons to use first names very quickly, even in a letter or fax or telephone call. Such instant familiarity is much less acceptable in the rest of Europe and Asia where even business partners and colleagues of many years' acquaintance address each other by the equivalent of Mr or Mrs and the last name or job title. So stick to last names unless you specifically agree to do otherwise. Don't interpret the other person's formality as stiffness or unfriendliness. On the other hand, if business partners with an Anglo-Saxon background get on to first name terms straightaway, don't be surprised.

              Above all, one should remember that people do not usually mind if their own codes are broken by foreigners as long as they sense consideration and goodwill. This is much more important than a set of rules of etiquette.

              (Adapted from “Faxes, phones and foreigners” by kind permission of British Telecommunications plc.)

              d) Check your comprehension. Are these statements true or false?

              1. For the British and the Italians it is normal to interrupt the other speaker during the conversation.

              2. A special importance is attached to listening in Japanese and Finnish cultures.

              3. One should interrupt and try to help speakers who may have difficulty in saying what they want to say.

              4. It is unusual for Americans and British to use first names early in a business relationship.

              5. It doesn't matter if you break certain social rules if it is clear that you are sensitive to other people.

              6. Etiquette is the critical point in telephoning between different cultures.

              Which do you think is the most important point to take into consideration?

              e) Transfer: How would you describe the specific ways the Belarusians conduct telephone conversations?

              Assignment 2. Read the text below. Identify the following:

              1. something that is important before telephoning.
              2. advice on how to use your voice.
              3. advice on checking your understanding.
              4. examples of 'explicit' cultures - what does this mean?
              5. examples of 'subtle' cultures - what does this mean?
              6. a possible problem about the phone that you would not have face-to-face.


              Many people are not very confident about using the telephone in English. However, good preparation can make telephoning much easier and more effective. Then, once the call begins, speak slowly and clearly and use simple language.

              Check that you understand what has been said. Repeat the most important information, look for confirmation. Ask for repetition if you think it is necessary.

              Remember too that different cultures have different ways of using language. Some speak in a very literal way so it is always quite clear what they mean. Others are more indirect, using hints, suggestions and understatement (for example 'not very good results' = 'absolutely disastrous') to put over their message. North America, Scandinavia, Germany and France are 'explicit' countries, while the British have a reputation for not making clear exactly what they mean. One reason for this seems to be that the British use language in a more abstract way than most Americans and continental Europeans. In Britain there are also conventions of politeness and a tendency to avoid showing one's true feelings. For example if a Dutchman says an idea is 'interesting' he means that it is interesting. If an Englishman says that an idea is 'interesting' you have to deduce from the way he says it whether he means it is a good idea or a bad idea.

              Meanwhile, for similar reasons Japanese, Russians and Arabs – 'subtle' countries – sometimes seem vague and devious to the British. If they say an idea is interesting it may be out of politeness.

              The opposite of this is that plain speakers can seem rude and dominating to subtle speakers, as Americans can sound to the British – or the British to the Japanese. The British have a tendency to engage in small talk at the beginning and end of a telephone conversation. Questions about the weather, health, business in general and what one has been doing recently are all part of telephoning, laying a foundation for the true purpose of the call. At the end of the call there may well be various pleasantries, Nice talking to you, Say hello to the family (if you have met them) and Looking forward to seeing you again soon. A sharp, brief style of talking on the phone may appear unfriendly to a British partner. Not all nationalities are as keen on small talk as the British! Being aware of these differences can help in understanding people with different cultural traditions. The difficulty on the telephone is that you cannot see the body language to help you.

              (Adapted from Faxes, phones and foreigners by kind permission of British Telecommunications plc.)

              Choose the closest definition of the following words from the text.

              1) literal

              a) direct and clear

              b) full of literary style

              c) abstract and complicated

              2) understatement

              a) kind words

              b) less strong way of talking

              c) clever speech

              3) deduce

              a) reduce

              b) work out

              c) disagree

              4) vague

              a) unclear

              b) unfriendly

              c) insincere

              5) devious

              a) rude

              b) dishonest

              c) clever

              6) pleasantries

              a) questions

              b) requests

              c) polite remarks

              Which of the tips discussed in the article do you find the most important? Write them out in order of priority.





              13.4. Writing Enhancement

              Assignment 1. Test yourself with the quiz! Finish the sentence by choosing the correct words and discarding those which do not fit in.


              take can your message I
              a please

              1. He’s not in his office at the moment, ... ... ... ... ..., ...?

              later call can back you
              soon message

              2. She’ll be back in the office this afternoon, ... ... ... ... ...?

              meeting afraid I’m she’s a
              in at on

              3. Can I speak to June Wilkinson please? ... ... ... ... ... ....

              message I’ll sure make OK
              gets he the an on

              4. Could you ask him to ring me back please? My number is 020 7558 4567. ... ... ... ... ... ... ....

              Assignment 2. Correct the mistakes in phrases 1 – 10. The first one is done for you as an example.

              Another thing to think about when talking on the telephone is (1) formalism. It's important to use the right (2) level in formality – if you are too formal, people might find it difficult to feel comfortable when they talk to you. On the other hand, if you are too informal, people might think you are rude!

              Generally speaking, if you are talking to someone in a business context, you should use could, can, may or would when you make a request: (3) 'Could I speak with Jason Roberts, please?' (4) 'Can I take message?' (5) 'Would the next Wednesday be okay?'. You should also use please and thank you or thanks very much whenever you ask for, or receive, help or information.

              It's important to show politeness by using words like would, could, please, thank you etc. But it's also okay to use some of the features of informal / spoken English – short forms, phrasal verbs and words like okay and bye – in other words – everyday English! So phrases like (6) I'm off to a conference..., no any problem, bye! and (7) Hang up a moment and I'll put you through are perfectly acceptable, as long as the overall tone of the conversation is polite.

              One last tip – it's better to ask for help or clarification when you're having a telephone conversation, than to pretend you understand something that you didn't. It's perfectly acceptable to use phrases like (8) 'Could you repeat that again, please?' (9) 'Could you speak a little more slowler, please?' and (10) 'Would you mind to spell that for me please?' Using phrases like these will help make sure that you have a successful phone call, and may save you from lots of problems later on. You could always say that (11) the line's very badly today if you can't hear very well. And it's also a good idea to practise words, phrases and vocabulary before you make the call!


              (1) formality











              13.5. Speaking Reinforcement

              Assignment 1. Get ready to act out the following telephone conversations in class. Use the active vocabulary units.

              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)
              • Guaranty
              • 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

              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

              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

              Assignment 2. 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. Be ready to ‘leave your message’ in class, or bring the recording of your message.

              1. Introduction: Hello, this is Ken. OR Hello, my name is Ken Beare (more formal).
              2. State the time of day and your reason for calling: It's ten in the morning. I'm phoning (calling, ringing) to find out if ... / to see if ... / to let you know that ... / to tell you that ...
              3. Make a request: Could you call (ring, telephone) me back? / Would you mind ... ?
              4. Leave your telephone number: My number is .... / You can reach me at… / Call me at ...
              5. Finish: Thanks a lot, bye. / I'll talk to you later, bye.

              Here's an example of a message:

              T e l e p h o n e: (Ring... Ring... Ring...) Hello, this is Tom. I'm afraid I'm not in at the moment. Please leave a message after the beep..... (beep)

              K e n: Hello Tom, this is Ken. It's about noon and I'm calling to see if you would like to go to the Mets game on Friday. Could you call me back? You can reach me at 367-8925 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.


              • Try to speak clearly and don't be afraid to speak more slowly than normal.
              • Think about what you want to say before calling and if necessary take notes.
              • Don't be afraid to ask your caller to repeat themselves if you don't understand. You can say, "I'm sorry, could you repeat that please?" or "Sorry, I didn't quite catch that."
              • Don't forget to confirm what was agreed on before you hang up the receiver.