Good phone manner is an essential part of working in a Japanese office, and handling phone calls is one of the testing grounds of your Japanese skills – you can no longer rely on the gestures and facial expressions you may use in face-to-face interactions, and your listening skills are paramount because you don’t have the luxury of visual context. On the flip side, work phone calls usually fall into patterns which you can practice (though you obviously can’t meet every contingency) and unlike in-person conversation, you can write out what you want to say in advance.
Today’s post is the first in a series of articles on practical office Japanese based around language samples taken from an actual office etiquette manual (yes, I have one in my possession, and you too can learn the secret rituals of the Japanese office!). Even Japanese people can have trouble adjusting to the change in politeness required for office phone calls, but remember, it is just a matter of practice, so find a Japanese speaking friend and practice! (But you’ll have to wait for Part Three of the series or the call will be very one-sided…..)
Part One Calling and asking for someone
-Speak slowly and clearly
-Put a smile in your voice
-Be prepared to spell out your name slowly , e.g. 「ジャ・ス・プ・リ・ザ」
-Just as Japanese people “spell” their names by reference to other kanji, e.g. for the name 加地 （かじ）： 「加えるの加に地方のち」, there may be occasions when you need to do the same, for example when the connection is bad. When required, I say the following: 「忍者のジャ、寿司のス、プリンのプ、理解のリ、正座のザ」. Be careful which kanji you choose – when spelling out the name Banner for example, 「馬鹿のバ」would not be a wise choice.
-Use a sincere tone - don't jut throw it out
-If it is before 10am you can throw in おはようございます before いつもお世話になっております。
When you don’t know the name of the person you are after, state your business and ask for the person in charge:
Just a short lesson today – Part Two will cover calling a person directly, Part Three will be receiving and forwarding a call and Part Four will deal with explaining that the person asked for is not available.