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  1. #1
    Airone is offline Newbie
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    Default Telephone English for advanced student

    I have a private student who is a senior manager. He is quite upset because he feels that he makes a poor impression when he speaks English on the telephone and so he came to me for help.

    So far I have noticed the following:

    1. Excellent knowledge of grammar and vocabulary; very few mistakes.
    2. Good pronunciation but trouble with /ʊ////ʌ//ə//h//ɪ//r/ sounds.
    3. Tendency to talk too fast when nervous;tendency to repeat same word many times when unable to formulate sentence fast enough.

    So far I have recommended the following:

    1.SLOW DOWN.
    2.Listen to own answering message and re-record until it sounds like a message you would like to hear (assuming that it doesn't already, which may be the case)
    3. Practice phonecall (what you are going to say, possible questions and responses) beforehand.
    4. Try speaking on the phone in front of a mirror and try to relax and if possible smile.
    5. Call public-service telephone numbers in the US and ask for information to gauge own proficiency at expressing self with a neutral third party; also become more relaxed speaking telephone English.
    6.Address problem areas in phonetics with teacher (me).
    7. In the future we will record his telephone conversations and then go back and identify ways to improve his telephone English.

    Given that the student is a busy professional with a family, he does not have time to listen to tons of movies or news broadcasts to try to "pick up" accent, concatenation and "flow". I think my student's problem is partly psychological, as he does not forgive himself for making any mistakes and when the person he is talking to does not respond favourably, my student assumes it is because he speaks poor English. Furthermore, his self-consciousness is reflected in sped-up speech, which makes him harder to understand and makes him appear nervous.

    Does anyone have experience with this kind of request? I don't really consider it ESL per se, but rather a form of speech therapy. I don't feel I am out of my league helping this student, as I am interested in phonetics and I am willing to experiment until I find something that works, but I do suspect that the causes of his unhappiness may not be solvable by me or indeed any English teacher.

  2. #2
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    English-coach is offline Member
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    Default Re: Telephone English for advanced student

    I would have your classes over the phone...or even with cell phones in different rooms if you are in an office. Telephoene classes need to be very planned out so that the student knows where you are going, but I think they are very good at helping students BELIEVE that can speak on the phone...when their confidence seems to be the main issue.

    Do some role play situations over the phone. Get him to tell you the typical situations that happen over the phone and call him and pretend to be a collegue or someone. You have to get pretty creative but it is really fun. I have done this a lot with students who work over the phone and they respond very well.

    I think the best thing is making problems for them. If you know they have difficulty giving directions ask for directions. :) It makes them work hard and sweat a little but it is safe with you on the other end of the phone. :)

    Hope that helps
    Diana
    LEARN ENGLISH BY USING IT: ANSWERS & MOTIVATION FOR ANY ENGLISH LEARNER

  3. #3
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Telephone English for advanced student

    Can you record any phonecalls? If it's too commercially sensitive, can you get him to ring someone you know or a service and record that?

  4. #4
    Airone is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Telephone English for advanced student

    Good suggestions English Coach and Tdol; actually almost all of our classes are in fact over the phone, with a sit-down class every two weeks or so. I routinely record calls at my regular job to use as teaching aids, so I of course suggested the possibility to him: both recording his calls to me, as well as recording his calls to others, which in the beginning would be public information numbers in the US and UK. Further, I suggested that in his free time he call up such numbers and ask for specific information in order to get impartial third-party confirmation that he is in fact intelligible, as I suspect he is undervaluing his own capacity.

    Next week we'll meet and we'll work on phonetics/pronunciation. I'll also drop off one-half of a number of pre-made information gap role plays, with the ultimate goal of graduating to something a bit more combative that is more similar to the types of calls he seems to be having trouble with.

  5. #5
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Telephone English for advanced student

    Does he do face-to-face business with clients?

  6. #6
    Airone is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Telephone English for advanced student

    Yes, definitely. Part of his job is to convince clients to choose his firm over others, and he wants the skill set necessary to convince native English speakers to do this. His principal discomfort is on the phone, but when I asked him if he felt uncomfortable speaking in his native language on the phone or in person, he said that he was actually a very confident speaker in his L1. I thought of listening to him speaking in L1 (either recorded or live) to see what his "natural" rhythm, speed, verbal tics etc are so I could better help him develop a natural speaking style in English.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Telephone English for advanced student

    Thanks for the respondents. I gained more insights on how can I be an effective online tutor.

  8. #8
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Telephone English for advanced student

    Quote Originally Posted by Airone View Post
    art of his job is to convince clients to choose his firm over others
    Is he cold calling or do they come to him?

  9. #9
    Airone is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Telephone English for advanced student

    They come to him I'm pretty sure. Why? Are you referring to preparing a script pre-call?

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