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Talking on the Phone
Part 1: Phone Call in Japan
More of this Feature
Useful Expressions

Related Resources
Vocabulary: On the Phone
Vocabulary: Useful Expressions

From Other Guides
How to Use Public Phones in Japan

Page 1 of 2

Even when you start to understand a language better, it is still difficult to use when talking on the phone. You can't use gestures, which can be helpful at times. Also, you can't see the other person's facial expressions or reactions to what you are saying. All of your effort must be spent listening very carefully to what the other person is saying. Talking on the phone in Japanese might actually be harder than in other languages; since there are some formal phrases used specifically for phone conversations. The Japanese normally talk very politely on the phone unless speaking casually with a friend. Let's learn some common expressions used on the phone. Don't be intimidated by phone calls. Practice makes perfect!

Phone Call in Japan

Most public phones (koushuu denwa) take coins (at least a 10 yen coin) and telephone cards. Only specially designated pay phones allow international calls (kokusai denwa). All calls are charged by the minute. Telephone cards can be purchased in almost all convenience stores, kiosks at train stations and vending machines. The cards are sold in 500 yen and 1000 yen units. Telephone cards can be customized. Occasionally companies even them as marketing tools. Some cards are very valuable, and cost a fortune. Many people collect telephone cards in the same way postage stamps are collected.

Telephone Number

A telephone number consists of the three parts. For example: (03) 2815-1311. The first part is the area code (03 is Tokyo's), and the second and last part are the user's number. Each number is usually read separately and the parts are linked with the particle, "no." To reduce confusion in telephone numbers, 0 is often pronounced as "zero", 4 as "yon", 7 as "nana" and 9 as "kyuu". This is because 0, 4, 7 and 9 each have two different pronunciations. If you are not familiar with Japanese numbers, click here to learn them. The number for directory enquiries (bangou annai) is 104.

The most essential telephone phrase is, "moshi moshi." It is used when you receive a call and pick up the phone. It is also used when one can't hear the other person well, or to confirm if the other person is still on the line. Although some people say, "moshi moshi" to answer the phone, "hai" is used more often in business.

If the other person speaks too fast, or you couldn't catch what he/she said, say, "Yukkuri onegaishimasu (Please speak slowly)" or "Mou ichido onegaishimasu (Please say it again)". "Onegaishimasu" is a useful phrase to use when making a request.

We will learn useful expressions for telephone conversation on the next page!

Next page > Useful Expressions > Page 1, 2

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