Japanese Conversation

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Expressions used for telephone conversation

Talking on the phone

Because you can't see the person you're speaking to on the phone, it makes it more difficult to understand what the person is saying in Japanese. Especially, Japanese people tend to use honorific expressions when speaking to a stranger on the phone. If you call a company, a store, a ryokan etc., your call will be answered by someone using honorific expressions, and this will make communication difficult.

Typical examples are shown in Dialogue 1 and Dialogue 2 above.

Dialogue 1Mrs. Moriはい。もりです。
Dialogue 2Tokyo Denkiはい。とうきょうでんきで ございます。

In Dialogue 1, when Mrs. Mori answered the phone, she said Mori desu. In Dialogue 2, however, when the receptionist at Tokyo Denki answered the phone, she said de gozaimasu instead of desu. De gozaimasu is much politer than desu, taking the so-called honorific form.

Dialogue 1Mrs. Moriいま でかけて います。
Dialogue 2Tokyo Denkiたなかは いま でかけて おります。

Dekakete imasu is the phrase for someone being out but the receptionist at Tokyo Denki used the word orimasu instead of imasu. This is the humble form of imasu.
In addition, instead of saying Tanaka-san, she said Tanaka wa without adding -san. When addressing someone who is within one's own unit, such as a family and a corporate organization, to outsiders, -san is omitted.

This chapter introduces some expressions typically used in telephone conversation and most of them are in the honorific form. These honorific expressions are also used in other contexts than on the phone but here let's learn them as telephone-related expressions.

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