Speaking on the telephone

Article reviewed: 2013/01/21 | Next review due: 2014/08/09

If English is not your mother tongue, it can often be difficult having a phone conversation, even if your English is of a good standard.

Here are some tips that can help you during your first telephone conversations in English to help you understand and be understood.

Phonetic letter alphabet

To make sure that your name / address are spelt correctly, it’s always useful to know the NATO phonetic alphabet:

A Alpha
B Bravo
C Charlie
D Delta
E Echo
F Foxtrot
G Golf
H Hotel
I India
J Juliet
K Kilo
L Lima
M Mike
N November
O Oscar
P Papa
Q Quebec
R Romeo
S Sierra
T Tango
U Uniform
V Victor
W Whiskey
X X-ray
Y Yankee
Z Zulu

Be prepared!

Write down the phonetic spelling of difficult names so that you have them in front of you for your conversation.
For example, for ‘Pierre’, you can say:

Pierre, spelt: Papa, India, Echo, Romeo, Romeo, Echo.

Telephone numbers

Unlike in France, English people spell out telephone numbers one number at a time, whereas in France, telephone numbers are said in pairs.

For example:

In France - 01 15 43 43 12 12

“The telephone number is: zero-one, fifteen, forty-three, forty-three, twelve, twelve”

In England - 01543 431 212

“The telephone number is: oh-one-five-four-three, four-three-one, two-one-two.”

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