Telephone English – how it feels

I called a company and a bird-like voice answered by saying Annika something or other. On hearing my English voice she seemed to have a nervous breakdown right there on the phone.

‘Errr sorry. I errr. Well, oh you want to talk to Bert Larsson? He’s not here. Can I take a message perhaps or can you call back later some time?’

Her English was not bad. And her pronunciation was very good. But I could imagine she was a shivering wreck on the office floor drowning in her own sweat.

Errr. (OH MY GOD! ENGLISH!!!!), sorry (I feel awful, why did I have to pick up the phone right now and let’s warn him I am not good at this). I errrr (Where’s my English? It’s disappeared! What do I say now? I can’t believe I’ve got gymnasiekompetens!). Well (when in doubt always say ‘well’. It gives you time to think….. a very useful word, which of course means nothing just now). You want to talk to Bert Larsson? (But he’s not here! Oh my God what do I say now?). He’s not here. (there, that was easy enough. Klara besked!) Can I take a message perhaps? (Oh no! I didn’t mean that! Not a message! I won’t even understand his name; let alone what he is calling about! No, I didn’t mean that about the message. Quick! Before he starts….) or can you call back (Please call back! Say yes – anything but don’t leave a message!) later some time (hopefully after 3.30 when I‘ve gone to pick the kids up from dagis)

By Colin Moon from Secretary Magazine.

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

One thought

  1. This is hilarious! I remember when I lived in Italy I would be so worried about trying to speak on the telephone in Italian; I would call someplace and immediately ask “parla inglese?” and if the response was “Si” I’d immediately just start speaking in Italian! And if the answer was “no” I’d just go tongue-tied and stumble. Somehow the knowledge that I could lapse into English took the pressure off my Italian skills and left me comfortable, and since I spent about 70% of the day speaking Italian anyway it would just tumble out that way.

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