Moshi Moshi (もしもし) – Japanese Phone Etiquette
Speaking in Japanese on the phone is a next level challenge for most students. Here’s our handy guide for some key phrases that you need to know.
While our students love having an opportunity to practice their Japanese skills, one of the biggest challenges is always answering the phone. In person conversation is a great way to practice because you can rely on body language and other visible cues from your speaking partner. However, on the phone you rely only on the voice, so it can be incredibly intimidating for new students. We’ll cover some of the basics in phone etiquette to get you on your way.
“Moshi Moshi” as “Hello”
You’ve likely heard moshi moshi before, the expression used by Japanese people when they pick up the phone. The word moshi is derived from the verb “to say” in humble Japanese: (申す).
The important thing to remember is that moshi moshi is primarily a casual expression, and you should use it with your friends and family. The common follow-up is “yes, this is (your name)”:
もしもし、はいマイクです。(Hello, yes this is Mark.)
Casual phone calls are a great way to practice your phone conversation skills, since your Japanese friends will likely try to help you out and communicate more effectively. If you run into problems on the phone, here are some key phrases to remember:
- If the speaker speaks too fast for you:
すみません、もっとゆっくり話してください。(Please, could you speak more slowly?)
- If you did not understand the explanation:
すみません、もう一度お願いします。(Please, could you repeat that?)
- If you don’t understand anything:
すみません、（全然）わかりません。(I am sorry, I do not understand any of that.)
When NOT to use “Moshi Moshi”
If you are receiving a professional phone call, you should not use moshi moshi. In this situation, はい (“yes”) is used as “hello”. You typically state your name and/or company name when answering the phone in this way. As with everything else, you can upgrade your politeness level depending on your situation.
はい、ジョンです。(Hello, this is John.)
はい、コト・ランゲージアカデミーです。(Hello, this is Coto Japanese Academy.)
はい、コト・ランゲージアカデミーのアニタです。(Hello, this is Anita at Coto Japanese Academy.)
Cultural note: speed is important when it comes to answering the phone in Japanese offices. You should always try to answer the phone as soon as it rings. If it rings 3 or more times before you pick up, you should apologize for being late to answer:
お待たせしました、コト・ランゲージアカデミーでございます。(Sorry to keep you waiting, this is Coto Japanese Academy.)
“Thank you for your Ongoing Support / for Working with Us”
Another key business phrase you can use is o sewa ni natte orimasu “thank you for your support”. You can use it as a very polite greeting when answering the phone or after taking knowledge of the caller’s identity. In this last case, you can add itsumo (“always”). In Japanese culture, you should always care to share your appreciation for someone’s work.
お世話になっております。コト・ランゲージアカデミーでございます。(Thank you for your support, this is Coto Japanese Academy.)
いつもお世話になっております。(Thank you for your (continuous) support.)
Here’s a look at some other possible phone call situations, and the phrases that go along with them:
Redirecting a call
At work, if the phone call needs to be forwarded to someone else, you can use:
かしこまりました、少々お待ちくださいませ。(Yes (I understand). Just a moment, please.)
The person you’ve forwarded the call to will say:
お電話変わりました。(The call has been forwarded.)
You likely know the phrase chotto matte kudasai. You can use the more formal version of that during a phone call where you need to place the caller on hold.
少々お待ちくださいませ。(Please wait a moment.)
Bad connection call
We all know how awkward it can be when you’re on a phone call with a bad connection. You can use these phrases should this happen to you while on a phone call in Japanese:
すみません、聞こえますか. (Excuse me, can you hear me?)
恐れ入ります。お電話が遠いようです。(Pardon me, it seems the phone is far. (bad connection))
Ending the phone call with friends can be done with a simple “see you later”:
またね (See you)
あとでね (See you later)
バイバイ (Bye bye)
At work, you’ll use the more formal method:
失礼します。(Please excuse me.)
Learn more about how to use of complex polite phrases in our Business Japanese Course.
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