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I invite you to join me at my new site, You will learn Reduction and Linking, the secret to sounding like an American. Every week, you'll find a new "secret" of Authentic American Pronunciation.


Leaving a Phone Message




  1. Teach the formula for leaving an answering machine message. (audio links above)

  2. Students call teacher's office or home & leave an answering machine message.

  3. Teacher records the messages.

  4. Publish the messages on a web page.

  5. As an in-class audio exercise, have the students listen to the messages as a "contest."


  1. Listen to a message.
  2. Write down the full name & phone number you hear.
  3. After you have collected 10 (or whatever number teacher chooses) names & phone numbers, check with each person to see if you wrote their name & number correctly.


The first person to have 10 CORRECT names & phone numbers.

Message 01 ... Message 02 ... Message 03 ... Message 04 ... Message 05 ... Message 06 ... Message 07 ... Message 08 ... Message 09 ... Message 10 ... Message 11 ... Message 12


In an ESL class, I have never had a "winner." So far, students have not been able to collect 10 "correct" names.

Students begin to realize that no one can win the contest. This automatically leads to a discussion of what they need to do to improve.

Student Comments

  1. You can't depend on visual cues.
  2. There's no second chance to explain myself.
  3. This is the first time I've heard what I sound like on the phone.
  4. The voices on the messages are my classmates & I still didn't understand them. Imagine what happens when we're talking to strangers.
  5. Cell phone & answering machines aren't always the highest quality, so you have to speak even more carefully to make up for that.
  6. I need to spell my name carefully.
  7. "C" & "Z' -- they sound the same; I need to say "z as in zebra" when I spell my name.
  8. I need to speak more slowly on the phone.

This exercise lets students discover for themselves how important it is to speak carefully & clearly on the telephone.


Telephone Numbers esl-lab
Answering Machine Messages esl-lab