Learn the Phonetic Alphabet


Have you ever noticed, when youre on the phone, that you often need to spell things out?

Your name, for example, or maybe the name of the street you live on.

Letter names, over the phone can be unclear and hard to distinguish,

and not just for non-native speakers.

So, there is a specific set of words corresponding to each letter of the alphabet

to make spelling over the phone much easier.

Today, well learn this set of words.

Smith is the most common last name in the United States.

It’s my last name.

But even though it’s so common, often, over the phone, people don’t understand me.


I think it’s because unvoiced sounds like SS and TH don’t carry well over the phone.

And we have so many letter names that rhyme: B, C, D, E, G, P, T, V, Z

or A, J, K, or I, W

also that sound similar: M, N, or F, S, X

So many misunderstandings can happen when spelling.

A system was developed in the 1950s by the International Civil Aviation Organization

to put a word with each letter.

Apparently the letters were chosen for understandability

based on hundreds of thousands of comprehension tests

involving 31 nationalities.

So no matter what your accent is, youll probably be understood using this alphabet system.

Let’s get started.

For the letter A, you can use the wordalpha’.


B as in Bravo.


C as in Charlie.


D as in Delta.


E as in Echo


F as in Foxtrot


G as in Golf


H as in Hotel


I as in India


J as in Juliet


K as in Kilo


L as in Lima


M as in Mike


N as in November


O as in Oscar


P as in Papa


Q as in Quebec


This can also be pronounced this way: Quebec.


R as in Romeo


S as in Sierra


T as in Tango


U as in Uniform


V as in Victor


W as in Whiskey


X as in X-ray


Y as in Yankee


Z as in Zulu


So if someone asks you to spell your name, you can say:

R as in Romeo, A as in Alpha, C as in Charlie, H as in Hotel, E as in Echo, L as in Lima.

Or you can just say the word: Romeo, Alpha, Charlie, Hotel, Echo, Lima.

Just the other day, I found myself needing to give a confirmation number over the phone.

I was in the process of making this video, but I hadn’t yet memorized all of the right letter names.

Sure. W as in West.

I as in Innocent.

I messed up the target words.

Couldn’t remember them all. I’ll have to study my video.

Luckily, by the time I had to give another confirmation number, I had looked them up.

Sure. It’s Y as in Yankee,

U as in Uniform,

L as in Lima,

P as in Papa,

C as in Charlie,

X as in X-ray.

Using these specific words for letters will help increase your understandability on the phone.

If youre new to my channel, welcome.

I make a new video every week to help non-native English speakers communicate better in English.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel and sign up for my mailing list, both free,

to keep up on the weekly lessons.

If youre ready to start doing some real work on your spoken English and listening comprehension,

check out my book at RachelsEnglish.com/book

or my online school and courses at RachelsEnglishAcademy.com

That’s it and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English!