Practice with Practical Exchanges

Sometimes it’s the most common situations that create the most stress for a language learner. Speaking on the phone can raise one’s level of anxiety and drop the level of confidence. If one has little practice making calls, leaving voicemail, and answering the phone, it’s hard to build comfort with this skill.

At a public live stream, I recently invited random students to hop on camera with me for role play. They had to ask to speak to me, take my call, or leave voicemail. One common pitfall was to translate from the L1. Falling back on what sounds right in the L1 didn’t always lead to a natural exchange in the L2. Luckily, the classroom is a place for practice, so we had the freedom to restart conversations multiple times until a more natural exchange unfolded.

If you have the chance and desire to test your students’ ability to handle themselves on the phone, give them the edge with a reference sheet. You can share my Everyday English_phone_handout. Students can also refer to a YouTube collaboration video I participated in (2016). When I set up each role play, I explained which role the student was going to play and I suggested a purpose for the call.

Another situation students had asked me to help them prepare for was ordering food at a restaurant. Again, I used role play, and we built up a word bank as went along. Whether students are role playing with you or with each other, give them the benefit of my Everyday English_restaurant_handout or a similar reference sheet. Handling exchanges at a restaurant brings culture into play. If students aren’t familiar with etiquette in U.S. restaurants, take the time to discuss the Q&A at the top of my handout.

More Everyday English handouts to come!

Featured photo by SansWilliamsPhoto. Retrieved from

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