The German phonetic alphabet (Funkalphabet)

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Since living in Germany I've often had difficulty trying to spell out reference numbers over the phone. This is when talking to a mail-order company, for example. I'll say "N" and they'll understand "M".

 

Vowels are particularly troublesome. Especially the German letter "E" which is pronounced like the English "A", or the German "I" which is like English "E".

 

Another three letters that bother me are: "Ipsilon", "yot", and "doppel-fow" for Y, J, and W respectively. The first two I often used to get muddled up or pronounce wrongly.

 

So recently, finally, after years of living here, I decided to learn the German phonetic alphabet. The English one I'd learned years ago in the army cadets. The German one is different, however. And they don't seem to teach it in German language class (at least mine never did).

 

So perhaps you might also find it useful to learn. At the very least you should learn your surname, particularly if it's non-German sounding or contains lots of vowels. You probably don't need to bother if you're called "Schmidt".

 

German phonetic alphabet - known in German as the "Funkalphabet" or "Buchstabiertafel":

 

Anton, Berta, Cäsar, Dora, Emil, Friedrich, Gustav, Heinrich, Ida, Julius, Kaufmann, Ludwig, Martha, Nordpol, Otto, Paula, Quelle, Richard, Siegfried, Theodor, Ulrich, Wilhelm, Xanthippe, Ypsilon, Zeppelin

 

English phonetic alphabet - included for reference:

 

Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, Indigo, Juliet, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Québec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Whisky, X-ray, Yankee, Zulu

 

Further reading:

 

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I have a lot of problem with my first name as it has three vowels. I might try this next time if you are sure I won´t get funny looks! :)

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You won't get funny looks. It's common practice to use it. Particularly to distinguish "Martha" and "Nordpol".

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e and i are the toughest.. I can get a German to say them, and to me, they sound exactly the same. I've only just now kind of figured out the difference.

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You won't get funny looks. It's common practice to use it. Particularly to distinguish "Martha" and "Nordpol".

Knowing me, I will probably end up saying Nordbad.

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"doppel-fow" for W

Never heard that before. "vay" for W, "fow" (as in fowl) for V

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Renia, if you say "ich buchstabiere" before you start spelling your name it gives them a chance to get their heads together. Germans who think nothing of gluing all their numbers together IN REVERSE (einundzwanzigvierundneunzigsiebenundfünfzigzweiundsechzig) and rattling all this off at top speed when they're giving you a phone number are sometimes a bit slow in grasping spelling. Mwahaha, my revenge for all those phone numbers.

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One of the first things I learnt when I came to Germany. I needed it for work, but found it really useful outside of work too. As Ed Bob says, it's perfectly normal to use it.

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I always lapse into the English (NATO) phonetic alphabet - its suprising how many people at the other end of a telephone do understand it.

 

One of my greatest successes about 10 years ago at my previous employer was dictating instructions over the phone on how to use the VI-Editor to remove an entry for a faulty but not essential disk to a guy at Munich Polizeipräsidium on a Sunday evening. This worked because he knew the Nato alphabet & he did EXACTLY what I told him...

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Ah, yes. Thanks. I've checked it there, and remember now. Österreich will work as well.

Ärger is another one not in the list above.

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This has been a life saver for me - otherwise my first name is CONSTANTLY misunderstood to be Kat's daughter's name, and my last name, well, those vowels lead to too many problems.

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This has been a life saver for me - otherwise my first name is CONSTANTLY misunderstood to be Kat's daughter's name, and my last name, well, those vowels lead to too many problems.

My husband called you different variations of your first name for a whole weekend...next time we can spell it for him :)

 

This post also gets my vote for most useful of the year or month!

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