If you are just learning Japanese or maybe even are an intermediate speaker, making a professional phone call (a call to a business or company) can be a little bit intimidating. This article contains a few tips you can use, as well as some Japanese words and phrases that should help you out.
Speaking on the phone adds additional communication barriers. First of all you can’t see the persons face and gestures. This means you have to have a greater understanding of the language. It is also possible that you could get a bad connection or have times when the phone cuts out. That is difficult enough in your own language, but more so in a second language.
But probably the biggest difficulty to speaking on the phone in Japanese has to do with the use of Keigo. For those who don’t know, keigo is an honorific form of Japanese and actually has a completely different set of words. It is the common method used in any kind of professional setting.
Lastly, you will be dealing with your own nervousness. Worrying that you might misunderstand or not be able to speak adds additional stress that can make your mind go blank. I have experienced this many times.
Make Japanese phone calls with ease
1. Don’t be afraid
If you are nervous you will have difficulty speaking. Just remember it is okay to make mistakes. If they don’t understand what you mean, then just explain it a different way (even more practice). It can be scary, but the more you do it the easier it gets.
Each phone call you make is a chance to practice. Don’t pass it up. It can be easy to ask a friend to make the phone call for you, but it will be much more helpful for you if you try and do it yourself. Once you realize you can do it, you will gain a lot of confidence.
2. Getting past keigo
There are actually two ways around this. The first is to practice and become familiar with using keigo. If you plan to live in Japan for a an extended time this is a good idea.
The second is much more simple. Just ask them kindly to not use keigo. Also, don’t feel bad about asking them to repeat or slow down. It is very common for support to speak very fast because they are basically saying the same things to each customer. Just keep asking them to slow down.
3. Speak slow and clear
When speaking on the phone silence can be a bit scary, and you may feel that you need to reply immediately. Take your time and think about exactly what you want to say. It is better to speak slowly and concise with good pronunciation and make sure they can easily understand.
It is also very helpful to plan out exactly what you need to accomplish before you make the phone call. Even to the point of planning out the phrases you want say. The more your prepare the better things will go.
Give it a try
If the opportunity presents itself, give it a try. The more you do it the easier it gets.
When I was working in Tokyo as an admissions counselor, I occasionally had to speak to parents who only spoke Japanese. At first I was a bit intimidated and asked my co-workers to make the calls for me. Eventually though, I decided that I would only get better if I did it myself. What I found, was that it was not nearly as difficult as I thought.