Sunday, December 27, 2009

Talking on the Phone

Part 1: Phone Call in Japan

Even though you start understanding a language better, it is always difficult to talk on the phone in a that language. You can't use gestures which help a lot most of the time. Also, you can't see the other person's facial expressions or reactions. You have to listen very carefully to what the other person says. Talking on the phone in Japanese might be especially harder, since there are some formal phrases customarily used in phone conversations. (The Japanese normally talk very politely on the phone unless talking with a friend.) Let's learn common expressions used on the phone. Don't be intimidated by phone calls. Practice makes perfect!

Phone Call in Japan

Most public phones (koushuu denwa) take coins (at least a 10 yen coin) and telephone cards. Only designated pay phones allow international calls (kokusai denwa). All calls are charged by the minute. Telephone cards can be purchased in almost all convenience stores, kiosks at train stations and vending machines. The cards are sold in 500 yen and 1000 yen units. Telephone cards can be customized. Some companies even use them as marketing tools. Some cards are very valuable, and cost a fortune. Many people collect telephone cards just like postage stamps are collected.

Telephone Number

A telephone number consists of the three parts, for example, (03) 2815-1311. The first part is the area code (03 is Tokyo's), and the second and last part are the user's number. Each number is usually read separately, linking the parts with the particle "no." In telephone numbers 0 is often pronounced as "zero," 4 as "yon" and 7 as "nana" to reduce confusion (as 0, 4, 7 and 9 each have two different pronunciations). If you are not familiar with Japanese numbers, click here to learn them. The number for directory enquiries (bangou annai) is 104.

The most essential phrase is "moshi moshi." It is used by the caller when connected. It is also used when one can't hear the other person well, or to confirm if the other person is still on the line. Although some people say "moshi moshi" to answer the phone, "hai" is used more often in business.

If the other person speaks too fast, or you couldn't catch what he/she said, say "Yukkuri onegaishimasu (Please speak slowly)" or "Mou ichido onegaishimasu (Please say it again)." "Onegaishimasu" is a useful phrase when making a request.

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