Many new immigrants answer the phone in their own language. A Korean might answer, “Yabusayo?” Chinese might answer, “Wei?” Their thinking may be that most people who call them speak their language and those who don’t will understand they are simply answering in their own language.
English speakers, however, may be as likely to assume Yabusayo is the name of the restaurant. Wei may be assumed to be the last name of the person who has just answered.
I’ve always made a case for “hello” being a fairly universally understood telephone greeting.
Even if your students do not plan to answer the phone in English or ever record a voice mail message in English, it is worth practicing voice mail messages to increase familiarity. Feel free to click on the voicemail exercise below to view it large on your computer and download it. You can also download the audio that follows to play on your computer for a little listening exercise.