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French Vocabulary – Phone Language Posted by on Jul 6, 2009 in Vocabulary

I once worked in a call center and was responsible for making the calls to French-speaking Québec.  Although I had just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in French, I was a bit intimidated the first time I had to make a call.  I mean what was I supposed to say to these people??? And the fact that I had to remind them of their debts and their obligation to pay them ASAP was not so comfortable either. In any case, I quickly got used to making the calls. I thought I would share this experience with all of you since you may just have to either answer a phone or make a phone call in French some day.
So, if you ever do have a need for French phone vocab, well, here are some ideas:
First of all, use ‘vous’ if you’re not sure who is on the phone. This is the way the phone was answered at my university office in Paris: ‘
Central College, Bonjour!” Now, I find that really simple and it works quite well for any type of office really. You could say, “(Company Name), Bonjour!”. But, you will probably have to add who is on the phone…in other words, your name. So, you could say, “(Company Name) Bonjour! (Your Name) à l’appareil“.
If you are making the call from your office, you will probably want to say something like this: “Bonjour, pourrais-je parler à (person’s name you want to speak to)(Could I speak with…?) or “Bonjour, je voudrais parler à (person’s name you want to speak to)” (I would like to speak with…). When they ask you who’s calling (C’est de la part de qui?), you can say: “C’est (your name) de la part de (company name) à l’appareil”. They might tell you “Ne quittez pas” which means to please hold or “Je vous le passe” which means I’m transferring you. If you’re not very lucky, the line might be busy for the person you want to speak with and they’ll say, ‘La ligne est occupée”. If the person is not there, you can ask, “Pourrais-je laisser un message? (Can I leave a message?) …but then for the message, you’re all on your own! 😉

Now, if you are in a private home, you can just answer the phone by saying Allô? That’s really simple!

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  1. Laura:

    What a great topic! One other thing people might want to get more comfortable with when making/receiving business calls is reciting and hearing phone numbers. I remember being told while on study abroad in France NOT to say my phone number as individual digits (“People will think you’re stupid!”) but to say each pair of digits as a number, so 01 45 49 19 92 is zero-un quarante-cinq quarante-neuf dix-neuf quatre-vingt-douze. I learned to count in French I but then used numbers very little, so I had to adjust to saying numbers that way and comprehending them accurately when someone said them to me.

  2. Paulo Henrique:

    Nice Post about using the telephone in french!! 🙂

    thank you for these tips!! =)

  3. Chanda:

    I’m glad you found the post useful, Paulo! Thanks Laura for your input…tu as tout à fait raison!

  4. Ali:

    Salut , c’est tre’s bien..continue

  5. Roxanne:

    Thanks so much! I’ll be working on an inbound campaign at a Call Center starting Monday, but this post is still very useful. I feel stupid asking my collegues how to answer the phone. Very useful!

  6. Chanda:

    Salut Ali! Ça me fait plaisir que vous aimez bien les articles.

    Thanks Roxanne for the comment. I’m so glad that you found the article useful to you in your everyday life. Using language in our daily lives is the best way to make it our own and thus, learn it well. Hope all goes well with your new job!

  7. James:

    I am going to start taking calls at my call center next weeks, and I’m soooo scared. But this post definately helped. If you have any other tips, please post. =]

  8. Chanda:

    Believe me James, I know what you are going through. I also worked at a call center and had to make collection calls in French!! Don’t be scared…I’m sure you’ll do fine! Je te dis merde! (in the show business sense…good luck!)

  9. Simon:

    Hi, recently move to France and forgotten all my school french, just starting to look for jobs, I freeze on the phone, I found this blog very encouraging,
    Thanks 🙂

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