Telephone Spanish 1.2: Communication problems

Answering the phone in Spanish

¿Hola? ¿Me oyes?

Learning how to speak on the phone in Spanish 2

This lesson is concerned with the typical communication problems that sometimes come up when making a phone call, either formal or informal.

We are going to be building on the telephone phrases which we learnt in the first class, so if you get lost at any point, make sure to go back and check out that class first.  

We’ve included some sample conversation for you to listen to. They are voiced by native Spanish speakers: Carolina with a typical Madrid accent, and Katia who is from Catalonia.

After finishing the lesson you will be able to deal successfully with these problems and functions:

  • We can’t hear the person we are speaking with very well.
  • Asking the other person to repeat something.
  • Asking the other person to spell a name.

Problemas de comunicación.

Let’s see a first example and the corresponding notes.

Conversation 1

Ana está hablando con su amiga Eva. De repente, Ana no puede oír a Eva.

Ana. … ¿Entonces vas a venir a la fiesta?

Eva no dice nada.

Ana. ¿Eva? ¿Me oyes?

Eva. Ahora sí. Es que voy en el metro y tengo mala cobertura. ¿Qué decías?

Ana. Que si vas a venir a la fiesta.

Eva de nuevo no contesta.

Ana. ¿Hola? ¿Eva? ¿Hola?

Eva está fuera de cobertura.

Notes

1. When we talk on the phone and at a given moment we cannot hear the other speaker, there are different ways to check whether the connection is ok:

  • ¿Eva?/¿Sra. Rodríguez?

We will use their first name or surname depending on whether the call is formal or informal.

  • ¿Hola?  

This is also quite usual when it comes to checking the proper functioning of the line. Once you are used to speaking Spanish on the phone, this line will come to you naturally, I assure you!

  • ¿Me oyes?
  • ¿Me oye?

These are, respectively, informal and formal Spanish for “Can you hear me?” – Notice the final s in the informal phrase.

2. When Ana can hear Eva again, the latter says “tengo mala cobertura”. This means she is in an area where the phone reception is poor. In Spanish  “estar fuera de cobertura” means being out of range or having no signal.

Conversation 2

The following is an example of other communication problems -this time the call is formal.

Ahora Ana habla con su banco.

Atención al cliente. Banco de Europa. Buenos días. ¿En qué puedo ayudarle?

Ana. Hola. Les llamo porque tengo problemas con la aplicación móvil del banco.

At. al cliente. Perdone, la oigo entrecortada. ¿Puede repetirme la pregunta?

Ana. Sí, digo que tengo problemas con la aplicación móvil.

At. al cliente. Ahora la escucho mejor. ¿Dice que tiene problemas con la aplicación?

Ana. Sí, efectivamente.

At. al cliente. ¿Puede darme su nombre completo?

Ana. Ana Rodríguez Ewaen.

At. al cliente. Ana Rodríguez… perdón ¿qué más?

Ana. Se lo deletreo: E de España, W, A, E de España, N de Navarra. Ewaen.

At. al cliente. Gracias. Voy a ver a qué se debe el problema. Por favor, permanezca a la espera

Notes

1. In this dialogue, the customer care representative tells Ana: “la oigo entrecortada” which means “you are breaking up”. When there is a loss in the sound quality, in Spanish we can also say La llamada se corta or Te oigo entrecortado/a.

2. When the sound quality improves, the representative says “Ahora la escucho mejor”. Remember that escuchar is Spanish for listen and does not mean the same as oir. However, it is a very common mistake among native speakers to use escuchar instead of oir, which is the right verb. So do not be surprised if you ever hear phrases such as No te escucho or ¿Me escuchas?

3. Ana’s second last name is unusual – that is why the representative has trouble understanding it and asks Ana to repeat it: “… perdón, ¿qué más?”. Ana offers to spell it and uses names for the letters that might be misunderstood by the representative:

  • E de España – E for Echo
  • N de Navarra – N for November

As a rule of thumb, when spelling a name, an unusual word  or even a sequence with letters, you can say the name of the letter + de + any word beginning with that letter, though it is quite common, especially in Spain, to use names of cities or countries: T de Toledo, D de Dinamarca.

Summary

In this lesson we have studied the typical communication problems that we might have when talking on the phone and the different ways to tackle them, whether the call is between friends or relatives or more formal.