Learn the NATO Phonetic Alphabet

Why should you consider teaching your children the NATO phonetic alphabet? Whether you are trying to overcome confusion when spelling over the phone, have an interest in Ham radio as a hobby, or you have a mariner or pilot in the family, the NATO Phonetic Alphabet can be useful to know.

The NATO Phonetic Alphabet (“Alpha Bravo Charlie”) is the most widely used spelling alphabet for business and telecommunications in North America and Europe. It is more accurately called the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet.

A spelling alphabet (also known as a voice alphabet, radio alphabet, or telephone alphabet) is a set of words used to stand for the letters of an alphabet in oral communication. Each word in a spelling alphabet typically replaces the name of the letter with which it starts (acrophony). It is used to spell out words when speaking to someone not able to see the speaker, or when the audio channel is not clear.

Spelling alphabets are especially useful when speaking in a noisy environment when clarity and promptness of two-way communication is essential. The NATO Phonetic Alphabet is widely used in aviation, navigation, maritime applications, law enforcement, emergency management, the military, amateur radio, and other industries that use radio communications.

Whereas the names of many letters sound alike, the selected words in the NATO phonetic alphabet are as distinct from each other as possible, to minimize the likelihood of ambiguity or mistaking one letter for another.

For example, if a burst of static cuts off the start of the letter J, it may be mistaken for A or K. Similarly, the lack of high frequencies on standard telephones often makes it hard to distinguish an F from an S.

For this reason, customer service agents are often trained to use a spelling alphabet to make them better understood over the phone when they have to read off a series of letters.

The NATO phonetic alphabet will make it that much easier for you and your kids to be clearly understood if you find yourselves in a similar situation of having to spell out a series of letters, especially over the phone.

NATO Phonetic Alphabet

Alpha
Bravo
Charlie
Delta
Echo
Foxtrot
Golf
Hotel
India
Juliet
Kilo
Lima
Mike
November
Oscar
Papa
Quebec
Romeo
Sierra
Tango
Uniform
Victor
Whiskey
X-ray
Yankee
Zulu

Click here for PDF copy to print out.

Did You Know…? The NATO phonetic alphabet is defined by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This spelling alphabet evolved from the procedures of several different Allied nations during World War II. See several other variations of the phonetic alphabet at http://home.earthlink.net/~malcolmhamer/alpha.htm.

SEE ALSO:
Chemists’ Phonetic Alphabet
Medical Phonetic Alphabet

Learn the NATO Phonetic Alphabet (and others) with a flash card game.

Cut out the NATO Phonetic Alphabet to put on the side of your computer monitor or by the telephone.

NOTE: The NATO Phonetic Alphabet is not the same as the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) used by linguists as a notational standard to accurately and uniquely represent each of the sounds of human speech.

Here is the NATO Phonetic Alphabet with its corresponding IPA notations: http://natoalphabet.net/nato-alphabet.pdf

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