ESL: Improve Your English Telephone Skills

Dialogues provide practice for English-language learners

Man on the Telephone
Dougal Waters / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Speaking on the telephone can be a challenge to all students. There are many reasons for this:

Practice your telephone skills using the short English conversations provided below that focus on several everyday situations. Print these telephone scenarios for use in class or share the telephone conversations with your friends online. For example, you could Skype your friend, navigate to a telephoning English practice page, and rehearse together by each taking a role, exchanging roles, and practicing a few times. 

Telephone Tips

Practice each dialogue with a friend or classmate a few times. Next, write your own telephone dialogues, go into another room, and use your smartphone to call your partner. Practicing by using a real phone will make future conversations with native speakers much easier. After you've practiced with a friend, try these tips:

  1. Call local businesses: The best way to get better is by practicing calling various stores or businesses. Before calling, jot down a few notes on the information you would like to find out. Use your notes when you call the stores to help you feel more confident when you speak.
  2. Call yourself: To practice leaving messages, call yourself and leave a message. Listen to the message to see if you can understand the words clearly. Play the recording for a native-speaking friend to see if she understands the message you have left. 
  3. Introduce yourself properly: When on the phone, use "This is..." rather than "I am..." when introducing yourself in English. 

Don't be shy about asking the speaker (politely) to repeat names and numbers to ensure that you get the right information. Repeating names and numbers will help slow speakers down.

Key Vocabulary

Before practicing the following dialogues, familiarize yourself with the following terms, which are common to many telephone conversations.

  • This is ...
  • May (Can, Could) I speak to...?
  • I'm calling ...
  • Hold the line a moment...
  • put someone through...
  • Who's calling...?
  • take a message
  • call, ring, phone

Calling Someone at Work

Caller: Hello. This is [your name]. May I speak to Ms. Sunshine, please?
Receptionist: Hold the line a moment, I'll check if she is in her office.

Caller: Thank you.
Receptionist: (after a moment) Yes, Ms. Sunshine is in. I'll put you through.

Ms. Sunshine: Hello, this is Ms. Sunshine. How can I help you?
Caller: Hello, my name is [your name], and I'm calling to inquire about the position advertised on JobSearch.com.

Ms. Sunshine: Yes, the position is still open. Could I have your name and number, please?
Caller: Certainly, My name is [your name]...

Leaving a Message

Fred: Hello. Could I speak to Jack Parkins, please?
Receptionist: Who's calling, please?

Fred: This is Fred Blinkingham. I'm a friend of Jack's.
Receptionist: Hold the line, please. I'll put your call through. (after a moment)—I'm afraid he's out at the moment. Can I take a message?

Fred:  Yes. Can you ask him to give me a call? My number is 909-345-8965
Receptionist: Could you repeat that, please?

Fred:  Certainly. That's 909-345-8965
Receptionist: OK. I'll make sure Mr. Parkins gets your message.

Fred: Thank you. Goodbye.
Receptionist: Goodbye.

Making a Doctor's Appointment

Caller 1: Dr. Peterson's office. How may I help you?
Caller 2: I'd like to make an appointment to see the doctor.

Caller 1: Certainly, are you ill at the moment?
Caller 2: Yes, I'm not feeling very well.

Caller 1: Do you have a fever or any other symptoms?
Caller 2: Yes, I have a slight fever and aches and pains.

Caller 1: OK, Dr. Peterson can see you tomorrow. Can you come in the morning?
Caller 2: Yes, tomorrow morning is fine.

Caller 1: How about 10 o'clock?
Caller 2: Yes, 10 o'clock is fine.

Caller 1: May have your name?
Caller 2: Yes, it's David Lain.

Caller 1: Have you seen Dr. Peterson before?
Caller 2: Yes, I had a physical exam last year.

Caller 1: Yes, here you are. OK, I've scheduled for 10 o'clock tomorrow morning.
Caller 2: Thank you.

Caller 1: Drink plenty of warm fluids and get a good night's sleep.
Caller 2: Thank you. I'll do my best. Goodbye.

Caller 1: Goodbye.

Making a Dinner Reservation

Caller 1: Good Evening Brown's Grill. How may I help you?
Caller 2: Hello, I'd like to make a dinner reservation for Friday.

Caller 1: Certainly, I'd be happy to help you with that. How many people are there in your party?
Caller 2: There'll be four people.

Caller 1: And what time would you like to make a reservation?
Caller 2: Let's say at 7 o'clock.

Caller 1: I'm afraid we don't have anything available then. We could seat you at 6 o'clock or 8 o'clock.
Caller 2: Oh, OK. Let's make the reservation for 8 o'clock.

Caller 1: Fine, 8 o'clock on Friday evening for four people. May I have your name?
Caller 2: Yes, it's Anderson.

Caller 1: Is that Anderson with an "e" or an "o"?
Caller 2: Anderson with an "o."

Caller 1: Thank you. Great. I have a table for four for the Anderson party at 8 o'clock on Friday evening.
Caller 2: Thank you very much.

Caller 1: You're welcome. We'll see you on Friday.
Caller 2: Yes, see you then. Goodbye.

Caller 1: Goodbye.

Telephoning the School About Your Child

Caller 1: Good morning, Washington Grade School, this is Chris. How may I help you?
Caller 2: Good morning, this is Alice Smith, I'm calling for my daughter, Judy. She's not feeling well today.

Caller 1: I'm sorry to hear that. I hope it's not too bad.
Caller 2: No, no she has a little fever and a cough. Nothing too serious.

Caller 1: Well, I hope she feels well soon.
Caller 2: Thank you. Do you think I could get her homework for today?

Caller 1: Is there any specific class?
Caller 2: I'm especially concerned about math and science.

Caller 1: OK, is it all right for me to give your email address to the teachers? They can then send the homework along later today.
Caller 2: That would be great. Do you have my e-mail on file?

Caller 1: Just a moment... We have chrisp@gmail.com. Is that correct?
Caller 2: Yes, that is correct.

Caller 1: OK, I'll make sure Mr. Brown and Ms. White get your message and email.
Caller 2: Thank you very much.

Caller 1: I hope Judy feels well soon.
Caller 2: She should be fine by tomorrow. Thanks for your help.

Caller 1: My pleasure, have a nice day.
Caller 2: Thank you. Goodbye.

Caller 1: Goodbye.

Asking a Question about a Bill

Caller 1: Good afternoon, Northwest Electricity, how may I help you?
Caller 2: Good afternoon, this is Robert Tips. I have a question about my electricity bill this month.

Caller 1: I'd be happy to help you with that Mr. Tips. Can I have your account number?
Caller 2: I'm afraid I don't have that with me.

Caller 1: It's no problem. I'll just look your name up in our database.
Caller 2: Great.

Caller 1: Could you give me your address as well?
Caller 2: It's 2368 NW 21st Ave., Vancouver, Washington.

Caller 1: Yes, I have your account up on my computer. How may I help you?
Caller 2: The last bill I received seemed too high.

Caller 1: Yes, I see that it was considerably higher than last year. Did you use more electricity?
Caller 2: No, I don't think we used any more electricity than the year before.

Caller 1: OK, I'll tell you what I can do. I'll mark this and have a supervisor take a look at the account.
Caller 2: Thank you. When can I expect an answer?

Caller 1: We should have an answer for you by the end of the week. I'll give you an inquiry number.
Caller 2: OK, let me get a pen... OK, I'm ready.

Caller 1: It's 3471.
Caller 2: That's 3471.

Caller 1: Yes, that's correct.
Caller 2: Thank you for your help.