How the phonetic alphabet helps communication

How the phonetic alphabet helps communication

The phonetic alphabet helps communication by clarifying similar sounding letters using code words to clearly identify and differentiate between all the letters of the alphabet. 

What is the phonetic alphabet?

The phonetic alphabet is a list of approved code words that represent a specific letter that started with that word. For example, if we use the phonetic alphabet, the word ‘Alpha’ could signal the letter ‘A’ while the word ‘Bravo’ could signal the letter ‘B,’ and so forth. Each letter of the alphabet is signalled by an approved list of corresponding code words. In other words, the phonetic alphabet is used as a means to indicate through symbols or code words what speech sounds or letters sound like. This way, people are better able to distinguish between sounds and words that happen to rhyme or sound similar. 

The phonetic alphabet was developed to improve the clarity of communication and was widely adopted by professional communicators, usually in the police, military and other armed and emergency forces to accurately identify letters and words when communicating initials, abbreviations or the precise spelling of words.  

How the phonetic alphabet improves communication?

The phonetic alphabet helps communication in two major ways. It helps to accurately represent the pronunciations of sounds and languages where different letters have similar pronunciations or regular pronunciations are simply impossible. The phonetic alphabet also helps communication in situations where precise, simple and intuitive instructions need to be given, mostly in the military and armed forces. 

The phonetic alphabet was adapted to be used by multiple languages around the world. Since its inception, the phonetic alphabet has evolved and has since been standardized internationally. Countless nations, organizations, private agencies and individuals make use of the phonetic alphabet. The sounds of speech of all languages around the world can be written in a rather limited but universal phonetic alphabet called the International Phonetic Alphabet. Using the International Phonetic Alphabet, people from around the world can communicate with each other, even if it is basic words, phrases or even letters. 

For example, letters that have similar pronunciations, letters that sound the same are represented by different code words which means interpreters of communications and easily identify the content of said communications. Take the letters ‘B’, ‘D’ and ‘E’, when pronounced out loud these letters can be confused for one another, which is why the phonetic alphabet uses the code words “Bravo”, “Delta” and “Echo” respectively, to clearly distinguish between these letters.  The code words do to sound similar in the slightest which means no-one can confuse or misinterpret and message or set of communications.

Military application of the phonetic alphabet

During the first half of the 20th century, many different spelling alphabets have come in and out of use. The “Able Baker” alphabet was widely used by the U.S. military in World War II, but because it contained so many word pronunciations particular to American English, after the war, the North Atlantic Treaty organization (NATO) and the U.S. military introduced a common alphabet, the NATO Military Alphabet still used today. 

The phonetic alphabet is an extremely useful tool servicemen and women use to identify specific letters in a message or set of communications transmitted via radio, telephone or encrypted messages. The phonetic alphabet can also be signalled via flags, lights and Morse Code which makes it possible to exchange messages, signals and communications through various different platforms. Military application of the phonetic alphabet has also helped servicemen and women improve the clarity of sensitive, encrypted or urgent communications, and they have even created their own slang language based on the phonetic alphabet.

The phonetic alphabet can be used in varying contexts because it is a universal language system, and with the International Phonetic Alphabet, even people who speak different languages have the chance of understanding one another. 

Think about learning the phonetic alphabetThe phonetic alphabet is not only useful in a career in aviation or the military, it can improve the clarity of communication in so different situations so why not give it a go. Here is a really amazing free resource to help you get started. Once you see how much fun it is, you will want all your friends to learn it with you, trust us!