Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
English how to talk on the phone

Do you feel lost when you have to make calls in English?

Do you panic when you pick up the phone and you aren’t sure what to say?

Many people, even natives, feel anxious when they are about to make a phone call.

We’re going to talk through how to be prepared for these calls, what you can do to practice, and how to turn every phone call into a learning opportunity.

We have helped students build this skill in our live events and immersion adventure programs at All Ears English.

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This listener has a question and a story about making calls that you can likely relate to.

Hi ladies!

I love your show! I came to the US three years ago, I’m an International student and I work and study here. I work in an accounting firm, and I usually just do my work silently in my cubicle. I don’t talk to my coworkers much because I don’t feel very comfortable with my English.

Recently my supervisor has been giving me more tasks, including making calls. I have to call vendors and employees regularly. Every time I have to make a call I feel like I’m going to have a heart attack. I sit right near my coworkers and they can all hear me. I feel so embarrassed! Usually people can understand what I’m saying, but I get nervous every time. Sometimes people don’t understand me, and that’s even worse.

Can you please help me to overcome my panic? I hate to feel like this every time I’m going to get on a call. I would love to feel more confident. By the way, before I came to the US I worked for a big company. I know how to talk to people, but I get very nervous about making calls here. I’m just never sure of myself.

Thank you for your help!


Managing An Experience That Makes Us Nervous

Being nervous before phone calls happens to everyone.

Even natives feel a bit nervous before they get on the phone and take a call.

It’s a unique experience and you want to say the right thing.

We’ve all been in this situation, and it can be difficult.

You may feel like the listener and feel isolated because you’re unsure, even though you’re sitting among coworkers.

Maybe try to reach out to these coworkers so that it takes the stress out of the calls when you have to be on them.

This is a great way to make connections, and it’s as simple as approaching your coworkers.

They may help you, this may raise your confidence, and it may change your whole perception.

You may be projecting something like “I’m not a good English speaker” and by assuming that failure before you start, you are creating a bad situation for yourself.

Don’t go in with that bad perception or assume the worst–most people can relate with this situation.

Great Ways To Practice

As you probably know by now, the best way to get better at anything is to practice.

If you want to get better at making phone calls, then the best way to do that is to practice.

This may sound silly, but there are some great ways to get in some practice.

There are some great steps to help you when you are in this situation, and these are easier than you might think.

  1. Ask a friend to chat on the phone with you: This is a great way to get some practice and it only takes a few minutes per week. Set up a call for 15-20 minutes per week and just talk to your friend in English. There is no judgement and this is happening with somebody that you trust and feel close to. This allows you to practice in a safe environment. Then you can use that to build your confidence and that could carry over into your work environment and life in general.
  2. Call customer service: It could be calling the number on the back of your cereal box to give your feedback. It could be calling into where you just had your car serviced and telling them about the experience. It doesn’t matter who or what you are calling for, but rather you are just calling to practice using your English. It’s an easy way to reach out and make a phone call to get in some practice and experience in this area.
  3. Instead of doing a Google search, call someone: Even if you can find all of the information online, still make the call. You can call a local business to find out directions or more information before you make a purchase. It can be that you are calling to gather information to make the right decision. There are always things that you can do to get on the phone and have a call to practice and get more information.

These are all great ways to practice, and that’s key to getting better.

Think of unique ways that you can get in some practice and then make them a part of your routine.

The more that you practice, the easier it will get and the less anxious you will get when making phone calls.

Tips To Making The Most Out of Your Call

When you are going to make a call, you want to be prepared.

All of the methods outlined above will help you to get in some practice.

There are also ways to go into your calls prepared and ready to make the most out of each experience.

  1. Write down your talking points before you call: This is something that even natives can benefit from. This doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, but rather it can be a rough outline or idea of what you want to talk about. If you have your talking points written down then you know what you plan to say in advance. This helps you to think through and be prepared for whatever you are going to talk about.
  2. Reflect on past calls: Think about what made past calls so bad so that you can learn from this. Consider what went wrong, what you had to repeat, or what you seemed to struggle with. This is a great learning experience so that you can determine what went wrong so that you can overcome it moving forward. If you froze on the phone, think about what caused that so that you can prevent it from happening again. This is a great way to re-frame a negative experience and turn it into a positive one for the future. What could I do to make it better?
  3. Make a vocabulary list: Practice this before you call into a business or service. Think through the words and phrases that you want to get across. It may be more technical words or phrases that help you to be fully prepared. You can always look up some vocabulary words that you can use on a phone call.

You can put these tips to good use, and even add some to your own list.

The more prepared you are, the more successful the phone call will be.

You can even use telephone practice in the Connected Communicator, which can be a great tool.

There are some great videos to mimic a phone call that you can use to help you.


You can be in control of a phone call, and it’s really about preparation.

Bring yourself through a mindset shift to make this a positive experience.

Every call is an opportunity to learn and get better. You can keep learning phone skills on this blog such as how to get off the phone quickly in English.

Take a moment to reflect, take notes, and be better prepared as you move forward with future calls.

This is a great learning opportunity and one that you can turn into a positive experience that you can use throughout your life.

Click here to learn more business English skills.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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