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  1. salvador.dal1950's Avatar
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    #1

    Telephone Conundrum

    Hello folks,

    I've been facing a rather unusual problem. I'm perfectly able to understand what a native person is saying if I have him/her in front of me or if I'm listening to the radio. The problem is that every time that I have a conference or talk with people in English on the phone, I don't understand a word of what they are saying, but I can understand in the same situation if they speak Spanish (my native tongue). They can understand what I say but not the other way around. It seems that unless there are perfect conditions (the telephone lines have always less quality than the real thing or the radio) I'm not able to understand.

    Do you have any advice on this?

    Thank you.

  2. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Telephone Conundrum

    I can sympathise completely. I speak (well, I used to speak) almost fluent French, having been brought up by two parents who were pretty much bilingual. Nonetheless, I have never been comfortable with French over the phone. I put it down to the fact that I have realised that I lipread when people are speaking to me (I'm not deaf, by the way!). I have no idea why that is but, to this day, I will do anything to avoid having a telephone conversation in a foreign language.

    I realise that doesn't help you solve your problem but I thought I'd at least show that I share your pain.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  3. salvador.dal1950's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Telephone Conundrum

    It feels nice to hear that someone else has the same problem. I don't know what to do with this really, is not something that you can practice on your own and improve with time.
    Last edited by Rover_KE; 03-Mar-2015 at 22:55. Reason: Deleting unnecessary quote.

  4. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Telephone Conundrum

    Interestingly, for me at least, I was always very good at listening comprehension at school during French lessons and I can understand what's being said in my Spanish lessons online. However, those are completely different situations. I think part of the problem is that I am so busy thinking about what I'm going to say next in my second/foreign language, that I don't really concentrate on what the other person is saying. You're right that it's very difficult to practice this on your own. I guess the only thing to do is to do it in real life. Make those phone calls. Take the plunge.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  5. salvador.dal1950's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Telephone Conundrum

    Yes, I'll make them and in the process I'll make a fool of myself. Why does it have to be so complicated?!!!

  6. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Telephone Conundrum

    Well, I am terrible at taking my own advice. However, I can only tell you that on the odd occasions that I have had to make a phone call in French or Spanish, it has been fine! I have been surprised each time. The person on the other end of the phone has been very understanding and some of them have purposely slowed down their speech because they realised I was not a native speaker. I still dread those phone calls but I have to admit that they never go as badly as I expect. You might feel like you've made a fool of yourself but I would bet good money that the person on the other end of the phone doesn't think that you did.

    If we didn't do things that scare us or that we think will make us look/feel ridiculous, we would never do anything!
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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    #7

    Re: Telephone Conundrum

    Quote Originally Posted by salvador.dal1950 View Post
    It feels nice to hear that someone else has the same problem. I don't know what to do with this really, is not something that you can practice on your own and improve with time.
    The situation is fairly common among language learners but it's not at all irremedial and there's a lot you can practise on your own and hopefully improve with time. Firstly, there are quite a few course books available to practice general telepnone skills in English like specific vocabulary or grammar patterns. Secondly, (and probably more importantly) you may want to think about how your conversations in English and your native language are different. Once you have worked out what is different, you wil be able to train it in English but long before you have mastered it, you'll feel confident and relaxed making a call. (In my case it was asking all possible types of questions, including echoing.)

    ps. Btw, have you ever talked on Skype? If yes, how was it?

  7. salvador.dal1950's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Telephone Conundrum

    My problem is neither the "telephone jargon" (I'm well versed in it) nor how to carry on a conversation. It's the actual sound that comes out of the speaker, it's impossible to understand to me. I haven't used Skype, but I doubt that the sound quality would be better than an actual phone call.

    I'm utterly hopeless.

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    #9

    Re: Telephone Conundrum

    Technically speaking, I fairly doubt the sound quality at Cambridge exams can be better than that on the phone.
    Anyway, why not try Skype to see what might be the real problem?

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