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Have you ever had problems understanding native English speakers on the telephone? If so, you are not alone. All English learners have difficulties understanding people on the telephone. This is for a number of reasons:
- People speak too quickly
- People don't pronounce the words well
- There are technical problems with the telephones
- You can't see the person you are speaking with
- It's difficult for people to repeat information
- Immediately ask the person to speak slowly.
- When taking note of a name or important information, repeat each piece of information as the person speaks. This is an especially effective tool. By repeating each important piece of information or each number or letter as the spell or give you a telephone number you automatically slow the speaker down.
- Do not say you have understood if you have not. Ask the person to repeat until you have understood. Remember that the other person needs to make himself/herself understood and it is in his/her interest to make sure that you have understood. If you ask a person to explain more than twice, he will usually slow down.
- If the person does not slow down, begin speaking your own language! A sentence or two of another language spoken quickly will remind the person that he is fortunate because he doesn't need to speak a different language to communicate. Used carefully, this exercise in humbling the other speaker can be very effective. Just be sure to use it with colleagues and not with a boss!