Making a phone call in German can be downright nerve-wracking. German natives speak quickly and get right to the point, which can be intimidating if you’re new to making calls in German.
Here are five ways you can prepare yourself for any phone call auf Deutsch to help boost your confidence and your skills at telefonieren.
Get your introduction down cold.
Be ready to introduce yourself before you get on the phone. Start with a greeting, say your last name, which company you’re calling from (if applicable), and with whom you’d like to speak or what you’re calling about.
When you’re new to making calls in German, practice this a few times before you dial. It will help you feel more at ease and help you concentrate on getting the information you’re calling to get.
Get right to the point
Skip “how are you” and all small talk.
It’s really that simple. Germans don’t do small talk like Americans do. If you ask a German “Wie geht es Ihnen?” they might tell you the truth, which you might not want to hear. So think about diving right into the topic.
Ask your German teacher or a trusted colleague to help you practice getting right to the point. It might feel really strange at first, and it’s better to get over the awkwardness with a trusted colleague than with a screener or hiring manager.
Share all the numbers
In keeping with getting right to the point, it’s important that you have any documents you might need ready to go. If you’re calling about a job advertisement, have the Referenznummer at hand.
To give yourself another boost, practice saying the numbers out loud before you make the phone call. You’ll already know an important part of the phone call well, which will help keep your call clear and professional.
Check for clarity when you need to
When you don’t understand what’s been said, you can use a few key phrases to ask for clarification that are short or also to-the-point.
Wie bitte? is like saying „Pardon?“ or „Excuse me?” It clarifies that you didn’t hear the other person.
Das habe ich akustisch nicht verstanden is useful when the line crackles or breaks up. It makes clear that you were paying attention, but something prevented you from being able to understand them.
Habe ich Sie richtig verstanden? [Repeat what they said in your own words.] This phrase is excellent for checking that what you think you heard is really what s/he said. So begin with Habe ich Sie richtig verstanden? And then continue with the information you’re checking on, for example Die Lieferung kommt Freitag an?
Throw in one nicety per conversation
A nicety is a wonderful way to show professionality and friendliness in formal, business conversations.
You could write these on an index card and keep them near your phone and start peppering all your phone conversations with them. Here are a several ideas:
- Ihnen eine schöne Woche! – I wish you a lovely week!
- Ihnen ein schönes Wochenende! – I wish you a lovely weekend!
- Herzlichen Dank, dass Sie sich die Zeit genommen haben. – Thank you so much for your time.
Write out the bits of information you are calling about so you make sure you ask all the questions you need to. You can check them off quickly as you go through the conversation.
Also, if the person you are calling is new to you, you can jot down their name (and anyone else you speak to) without having to ask again. If you need to write any notes, you’ve already got a paper in front of you. At the end, you have the information you needed and a record of your phone call. Gut gemacht!
Nicole Warner teaches business professionals and serious hobbyists how to speak like a German from their very first lesson in a private, online classroom. Check out her German learning blog at GermanWithNicole.com.