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10 Phonetastic Phrases to Help You Crush Your First Japanese Phone Conversation

The telephone rings.

It’s your native Japanese friend.

At first, you’re psyched that she called you up!

Panic sets in.

Those thousands of Japanese words and phrases you’ve studied become a jumbled mess in your head.

Even after you’ve spent years studying Japanese or flown halfway around the world to live in Kyoto, the phone conversations in Japanese can still be intimidating.
 

 

Why You Should Learn How to Have Japanese Phone Conversations

Talking on the phone in your native language can be difficult for some people.

Talking on the phone in a foreign language can be downright terrifying.

It’s not like talking face-to-face where you can rely on non-verbal cues such as body language, distance, and expressions to help decipher the conversation. With a phone conversation, you have to rely solely on your spoken language skills.

Phone conversations also require quick thinking.

If you’re studying while watching anime, you can press rewind if you miss something.

If you’re reading a 漫画 (まんが) comic book and you come across a word you don’t know, you can stop and check your dictionary.

With a telephone conversation, you don’t have the time to relax. You have to respond quickly or the other person might give up on the conversation.

Sounds scary?

Don’t worry!

Japanese telephone conversations usually follow a simple pattern and use a small number of common phrases.

Here are 10 common phrases that are used during Japanese telephone conversations.

If you can master these phrases, you should have no trouble getting through your first Japanese telephone conversation with flying colors.

10 Phonetastic Phrases for Your First Japanese Phone Conversation

1. もしもし

You’ve taken the plunge and picked up the phone. Now it’s time to get the conversation started.

もしもし (hello), which comes from the polite verb 申す (もうす — to say), is the standard greeting used to start a Japanese phone conversation. While it’s not unusual to include common greetings such as おはようございます (good morning), こんにちは (good afternoon) or こんばんは (good evening) in a telephone conversation, these greetings are never used to start a conversation.

もしもし is used by the receiver to indicate that they’ve answered the phone, and it’s often used by the caller to confirm that they’re ready to speak.

Example:

トム (とむ): はい、もしもし。
Tom: Yes. Hello?

田中 (たなか): もしもし。
Tanaka: Hello.

2. 〜さんですか

With the initial greeting out of the way, the caller will probably want to check that they’ve called the right person. There are a few possible phrases the caller might use.

If the caller is pretty sure they’ve got the right person, they might simply say:

〜さんですか。
Is this 〜 ?

If the caller is unsure whether or not they’ve got the right person, they might use the polite phrase:

〜様、いらっしゃいますか。 (〜さま、いらっしゃいますか。)
May I speak to 〜 ?

They might also ask:

〜さんのお宅ですか。 (〜さんの おたくですか。)
Is this the 〜 residence?

To confirm that they’ve got the right person, you can simply say:

はい。〜です。 
Yes. This is 〜.

Example:

田中: トムさんですか。 (たなか: とむさんですか。)
Tanaka: Is this Tom?

トム: はい、トムです。 (とむ: はい、とむです。)
Tom: Yes, this is Tom.

3. 〜の〜と申します

Now that the conversation has started, it’s time for introductions.

Japanese telephone conversations generally require polite Japanese. Close friends and family will probably introduce themselves with 〜です but most other people will use the polite phrase:

〜と申します。 (〜と もうします。)
This is 〜.

If it’s a business conversation, the caller will often include their company in their introduction by using this phrase:

〜の〜と申します。 (〜の〜と もうします。)
This is 〜 from 〜 .

Example:

田中: グローバルネットワークの田中と申します。 (たなか: ぐろーばるねっとわーくの たなかと もうします。)
Tanaka: This is Ms. Tanaka from Global Network.

4. いつもお世話になっております

It’s your new boss!

Make sure you make a good impression by following proper telephone protocol.

It’s common to follow up an introduction with the phrase:

いつもお世話になっております。 (いつもおせわに なっております。)
Thank you for your continued support.

This is one of those Japanese phrases that doesn’t translate well into English. The literal translation would be “thank you for your continued support,” but it’s often used even when there’s no formal “support” between the parties. It’s best not to think about the meaning and to just get used to using it.

いつもお世話になっております can be used by both parties in the conversation.

Example:

トム: いつもお世話になっております。 (とむ: いつもおせわに なっております。)
Tom: Thank you for your continued support.

田中: いつもお世話になっております。 (たなか: いつもおせわに なっております。)
Tanaka: Thank you for your continued support.

5. 今、少し時間がありますか

Ms. Tanaka probably wants to let you know about your first day of work.

But first she’s going to check that you have time to talk.

Close friends might use the more casual phrase:

今、大丈夫ですか。 (いま、だいじょうぶですか 。)
Can we talk now?

Your new boss will probably use a more formal phrase such as:

今、少し時間がありますか。 (いま、すこしじかんが ありますか。)
Do you have time to talk now?

You can reply:

はい、大丈夫です。 (はい、だいじょうぶです。)
Yes, that’s fine.

Example:

田中: 今、少し時間がありますか。(たなか: いま、だいじょうぶですか。)
Tanaka: Do you have time to talk now?

トム: はい、大丈夫です。(とむ: はい、だいじょうぶです。)
Tom: Yes, that’s fine.

6. もう少しゆっくり話してください

Ms. Tanaka has started telling you about your first day, but she’s speaking too quickly.

You don’t want to miss any important information, so it’s a good idea to ask her to speak a little more slowly.

If you were in an extremely formal situation, you could use a phrase such as:

恐れ入りますが、もう少しゆっくりお話しいただけませんか。 (おそれいりますが、もうすこし ゆっくり おはなしいただけませんか。)
Sorry to bother you, but would you mind speaking a little more slowly?

But for a telephone conversation with your new boss, the appropriately formal phrase is:

もう少しゆっくり話してください。 (もうすこし ゆっくり はなしてください。)
Could you speak more slowly please?

Example:

田中: 明日の打ち合わせは午前8時半から始まります。 (たなか: あしたの うちあわせは ごぜんはちじはんから はじまります。)
Tanaka: Tomorrow’s meeting starts at 8:30 in the morning.

トム: すみません。もう少しゆっくり話してください。 (とむ: すみません。もうすこし ゆっくり はなしてください。)
Tom: I’m sorry. Could you speak more slowly please?

7. うん / ええ / 分かりました

Details are coming thick and fast, but you’re doing a great job of keeping up.

In Japanese phone conversations, dead air is very uncomfortable. It’s important for the listener to constantly let the speaker know that they’re paying attention.

You can say はい (yes), although you have to be careful. はい with a rising intonation (はい?) is often used to indicate that you missed some information.

It’s much safer to use a short, sharp うん (yes) or ええ (I see)。

But うん and ええ are used with friends and family. For business situations, this polite response should be used:

はい、 分かりました。(はい、わかりました。)
Yes, understood.

Another option for polite or business situations is the humble form of 分かりました, which is:

かしこまりました。
Understood.

Example:

田中: 明日の打ち合わせは午前8時半から始まります。 (たなか: あしたの うちあわせは ごぜん8じはんからはじまります。)
Tanaka: Tomorrow’s meeting starts at 8:30 in the morning.

トム: はい、 分かりました。(とむ: はい、わかりました。)
Tom: I see.

田中: 8時までに事務所に来てください。 (たなか: はちじまでに じむしょに きてください。)
Tanaka: Please come to the office by 8:00.

トム: 分かりました 。(とむ: わかりました。)
Tom: Yes.

田中: 事務所の場所はナカジマビルの2階です。 (たなか: じむしょの ばしょは なかじまびるの にかいです。)
Tanaka: The office is on the second floor of the Nakajima Building.

8. もう一度言ってください

You’ve understood just about everything, but you need a slight clarification.

You can ask someone to repeat something by using the phrase:

もう一度言ってください 。(もういちど いってください。)
Could you say that again?

Example:

トム: すみません。 ビルの名前をもう一度言ってください。 (とむ: すみません。びるの なまえをもういちど いってください。)
Tom: Sorry. Could you say the building’s name again?

田中: ナカジマビルです。 (たなか: なかじまびるです。)
Tanaka: The Nakajima Building.

トム: はい、わかりました。(とむ: はい、わかりました。)
Tom: Okay, I’ve got it.

9. よろしくお願いいたします

You’re doing well!

You’ve got all the details for your meeting and the conversation is coming to a close, so it’s time to thank your boss for calling.

Another Japanese phrase that doesn’t translate well into English is:

よろしくお願いいたします。(よろしくおねがいいたします。)

It’s a very common phrase that is used in a variety of situations where people are working together. In this situation, it means “I’m looking forward to working with you.”

Just like いつもお世話になっております, it’s important to focus on the context in which the phrase is being used rather than the meaning.

Example:

田中: それでは明日、よろしくお願いいたします。 (たなか:それではあした、よろしくおねがいいたします。)
Tanaka: Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow then. I’m looking forward to working with you.

トム: よろしくお願いいたします。(とむ:よろしくおねがいいたします。)
Tom: I’m looking forward to working with you.

10. 失礼します

While people often use the phrase さようなら (goodbye) when they say goodbye face to face, it’s never used on the phone.

The correct phrase to use is:

失礼します。(しつれいします。)
Sorry for bothering you.

Or the slightly more formal phrase:

失礼いたします。(しつれいいたします。)
I apologize for bothering you.

Both parties can use the same phrase to conclude the conversation.

Example:

田中: 失礼します。 (たなか:しつれいします。)
Tanaka: Sorry for bothering you.

トム: 失礼します。 (とむ:しつれいします。)
Tom: Sorry for bothering you.

Put Your Phrases Together for a Japanese Phone Conversation

トム: はい、もしもし。
Tom: Yes. Hello?

田中: もしもし。トムさんですか。
Tanaka: Hello. Is this Tom?

トム: はい、トムです。
Tom: Yes, this is Tom.

田中: グローバルネットワークの田中と申します。
Tanaka: This is Ms. Tanaka from Global Network.

トム: いつもお世話になっております。
Tom: Thank you for your continued support.

田中: いつもお世話になっております。今、少し時間がありますか。
Tanaka: Thank you for your continued support. Do you have time to talk now?

トム: はい、大丈夫です。
Tom: Yes, that’s fine.

田中: 明日の打ち合わせは午前8時半から始まります。
Tanaka: Tomorrow’s meeting starts at 8:30 in the morning.

トム: すみません。もう少しゆっくり話してくさい。
Tom: I’m sorry. Could you speak more slowly please?

田中: 明日の打ち合わせは午前8時半から始まります。
Tanaka: Tomorrow’s meeting starts at 8:30 in the morning.

トム: 分かりました。
Tom: Understood.

田中: 8時までに事務所に来てください。
Tanaka: Please come to the office by 8:00.

トム: 分かりました。
Tom: Understood.

田中: 事務所の場所はナカジマビルの2階です。
Tanaka: The office is on the second floor of the Nakajima Building.

トム: すみません。ビルの名前をもう一度言ってください。
Tom: I’m sorry. Could you say the building’s name again?

田中: ナカジマビルです。
Tanaka: The Nakajima Building.

トム: はい、分かりました。
Tom: Okay, I’ve got it.

田中: それでは明日、よろしくお願いいたします。
Tanaka: Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow then. I’m looking forward to working with you.

トム: よろしくお願いいたします。
Tom: I’m looking forward to working with you.

田中: 失礼します。
Tanaka: Sorry for bothering you.

トム: 失礼します。
Tom: Sorry for bothering you.

Congratulations!

You’ve finished your first phone conversation in Japanese. It wasn’t that hard, was it?

As you continue to practice phone conversations, you’ll find that your Japanese language skills will grow faster than ever before.

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