Telephone role plays

Speaking English on the telephone is difficult for learners for many reasons and even high-level students often feel uncomfortable with the unpredictability of telephone conversations.

Paul Kaye

These role cards present a series of simple situations for pre-intermediate and intermediate-level learners, working in pairs. They could also be used for higher levels, who should be encouraged to elaborate on the conversations and make them more natural. You can download the role cards below.

These cards can be exploited as practice after looking at telephone language, as a spontaneous speaking exercise, or as a diagnostic for you to see what your learners know.


If you are using these cards as practice, you will need to have prepared your students with some common telephone expressions.

Before the class, prepare enough photocopies of the role cards for each pair of learners to try each role-play situation - there are 10 in all.


  • Put the learners into pairs.
  • If you can, organise pairs of chairs back to back. If not, ask learners to stand back to back. This means they cannot see their partners' faces or gestures.
  • Hand out pairs of role cards, e.g. 1a and 1b, to each pair. Demonstrate one situation with two volunteers if you wish.
  • Ask your learners to role-play each situation. As they finish one situation, take the cards back and give them another. Don't worry if some pairs finish quickly - some situations are shorter than others.
  • Keep this rolling role-play going as long as you wish. Monitor and note mistakes or interesting language for discussion afterwards if you can.
Language Level


Submitted by MjeWalker on Tue, 11/08/2016 - 09:40


Thanks for the activity. Have just completed with an ESP group (lawyers office) and it went really well. It's a good idea to first provide them with the typical telephone phrases that they need (last week in my case), then be on hand to monitor to provide any key vocabulary when they get stuck.

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