Monday, May 24, 2010

Use the NATO Phonetic Alphabet for Greater Clarity

The NATO phonetic alphabet (or ICAO spelling alphabet) was finalized in 1956, developed so that individual letters and numbers can be easily understood over the radio. The history of this alphabet is really fascinating; it grew out of several military phonetic alphabets. However, it's not just useful for the military, or aviation. I think it could be really useful for communicating in day to day life since I have trouble distinguishing individual letters when someone is spelling something to me.

Scotty had the idea to start using the NATO phonetic alphabet after I expressed my frustration with constantly getting the letters in a game's serial number wrong. He was reading them off to me and naturally I kept mixing up certain letters. S and X, M and N, and many others that can be tricky to differentiate. He made up a sign that listed the NATO phonetic alphabet and put it between our computer desks. Now when we need to spell something out to each other, which happens for computer game serial numbers, web addresses, etc., we can refer to the list (or try to memorize it - I'm getting better, but I'm not quite there).

Note: Scotty does know how to fingerspell in American Sign Language, but verbal communication is easier when I'm looking at a computer screen trying to type what he's spelling as he spells it.

I can think of lots of ways the phonetic alphabet could help me with other people. Lots of people spell things to me on a daily basis, and if they knew the alphabet, things would go much more smoothly. But considering the logistical nightmare that it would be to try to explain it to people and get them to use it, I think I might keep it just in the family for now.

Here is a PDF of the sign Scotty made for us, and the alphabet is listed below.
Alpha
Bravo
Charlie
Delta
Echo
Foxtrot
Golf
Hotel
India
Juliet
Kilo
Lima
Mike
November
Oscar
Papa
Quebec
Romeo
Sierra
Tango
Uniform
Victor
Whiskey
Xray
Yankee
Zulu

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the .pdf - it's now printed out and on our fridge. Our family uses the phonetic alphabet for the same reasons as you. My 13 and 12 year old almost know it by heart, and this visual reminder will hopefully consolidate it in their minds.

    Whenever possible I use it with strangers too. I refuse to say "P for Peter".

    ReplyDelete
  2. Judy, that's great. I'm glad the PDF is useful for you! :)

    ReplyDelete

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