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Using The International Phonetic Alphabet

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by WX4W, Mar 6, 2019.

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  1. WX4W

    WX4W Ham Member QRZ Page

    Using The International Phonetic Alphabet

    Eliminating confusion and demonstrating excellence in operating technique.
    Hearing.JPG Almost from the time the telephone was invented people have had a need to unambiguously understand one another under less than ideal conditions. It’s one thing to talk face to face yet quite another to understand each other over weak, noisy and otherwise challenging conditions. Telephone spelling alphabets were developed to improve understanding when communicating under difficult conditions. Because of this I want to make the case that as trained Radio Amateurs we all need to use standardized spelling alphabets and in particular the International (NATO) phonetic alphabet.

    Prior to World War II many nations used their own versions of spelling alphabets. Starting in 1941 the United States Army and Navy standardized an alphabet across all branches and that became known as the “Able Baker” Phonetic Alphabet. As militaries found the need to ally themselves with other militaries and organizations across the world it became clear that International standardization was needed.

    Skipping ahead to the point of this discussion is that the International (NATO) Phonetic Alphabet is now the accepted standardized alphabet used by English speaking radio communications professionals in Aviation, Military, EMCOMM and others. Certainly we, as Amateur Radio operators working under less than ideal communications conditions, need this as much as anyone.

    The 26 Code words in the NATO alphabet are as follows:

    Alfa, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliett, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November,

    Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whiskey, X-ray, Yankee, Zulu.

    Using these words under challenging conditions helps the operator get the message when only hearing partial words because the operator knows what to expect. If an operator hears a partial word, like “…ay” the trained operator will likely assume X-ray was the intended word when an improperly trained operator may have used Norway for the letter “N”. This nonstandard phrasing adds confusion, can cause delays for repeats and may cause inaccurate transcription of the intended message. These issues are greatly minimized when using standard phraseology.

    Contest operators should be the quickest to adopt this use as it can expedite the contest exchange. However, I hear many casual contesters using non-standard phraseology which most often causes delays and repeats in crowded band conditions. No one wants delays when running rate is King!

    When working DX stations, the accent of the operator can make some words hard to understand. But when using the standardized alphabet, a DL station that pronounces Whiskey as “Viskey” is easily understood. In aviation a pilot with a tail number N3656Y will always hear Yankee, never Yokahama regardless of the county he is operating. It’s this consistency that minimizes misunderstandings due to accents or conditions.

    As amateur radio operators we pride ourselves as being trained professional communicators and it is very embarrassing when we do not adhere to these standards. The impact of having radio operators who are not trained in standard procedures can cause embarrassing problems. For example, Ham operators assisting in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina were reported …”to have excellent go-kits and technical ability but were seriously wanting in traffic handling skill. In one case it took almost 15 minutes to pass one 25 word message.” (source – Sant Andrea, Steve “When Not to Operate” P.74 April, 2010 QST)

    Please help spread the word to improve our skills and increase our efficiency and professionalism in this great hobby. 73 from Whiskey X-ray Four Whiskey!

    Curtis Foote – WX4W
    KJ7ISA, KN4GPE, N7KO and 70 others like this.
  2. AG5CK

    AG5CK Ham Member QRZ Page

    KN4SKF likes this.
  3. SV0SGS

    SV0SGS Ham Member QRZ Page

    I would also like to add that fellow ops, when naming times, use UTC. This is especially useful for us ops outside of the US. Every op knows his local time difference related to UTC, I hope. Nets that list their times in local time (how many time zones in the US?) cause unnecessary computation and confusion and wasted air time as participants try to figure out what is their local time vis a vis the net's local time. Radio amateurs should be able to handle UTC.
    KJ7ISA, N7KO, KN4LFC and 26 others like this.
  4. WA7PRC

    WA7PRC Ham Member QRZ Page

    Trained? Need? In almost five decades, I've never heard that all hams are trained to use any phonetics. And, I've never heard of any requirement for hams to use any specific phonetic alphabet.
    K7MH likes this.
  5. KQ6XA

    KQ6XA Ham Member QRZ Page

    Mispronunciation of "Quebec" causes a lot of confusion.

    Q is "Keibeck".
    It's not cubic.

    (Q is KEIBEKU, not KYUBIKU , in Japanese)

    If you want to hear the correct phonetic alphabet pronunciation, tune into 11175.0 kHz USB sometime :)

    The Phonetic Alphabet

    Last edited: Mar 7, 2019
    AI6IN, KK5R, N4AHO and 17 others like this.
  6. WN1MB

    WN1MB XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Ruh roh...

    Familiarity with UTC was dropped along with the Morse requirement...

    ...and having some clue how to construct a simple dipole antenna.
    KE5ES, AE8W, MM6PMQ and 16 others like this.
  7. 9A5BWT

    9A5BWT XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Sounds like you are splitting hairs and you are part of the problem.
    N7KO, W8QAS, KJ4IQE and 32 others like this.
  8. WA7PRC

    WA7PRC Ham Member QRZ Page

    You and the OP incorrectly presume a "problem" exists in this HOBBY. However...

    Thanks for your opinion...
    ...and, have a nice day. :p
    K5HS, NL7W, K7MH and 1 other person like this.
  9. ZL4IV

    ZL4IV Ham Member QRZ Page

    He is correct, non standard phonetics is a pain under difficult conditions. Learn the correct usage is a great help. It's not just being able to say them it is also figuring out when listening. I can always tell when somebody gets my call correct that they know this, the ones that don't always asking to repeat and quite frankly I give up because this short QSO is going nowhere but to create frustration, best leave this operator to a day when it's 5/9.
    VK2LO, KN4LFC, KK5R and 19 others like this.
  10. AF7GN

    AF7GN Ham Member QRZ Page

    The reason this has become problematic that so many new hams pass their tests by memorizing the test questions which is encouraged by established hams that cannot be bothered to Elmer the neophyte. That was one reason many years ago several hams and I started instructing hams over a 12 week period from the basic fundamentals of electronics, safety and part 97 while including the phonetic alphabet, q-codes, operation and and how to be ham. Never once did we teach the test. In fact we combined the Tech and General with outstanding results of 92.7% success rates. We also stayed in contact elmering as needed these hams long after they were licensed.
    As hams we need to get out there and elmer as necessary, if you see a problem do something other than ignore or complain. Be part of the solution.

    Joe Gunderson AF7GN
    KE5ES, KJ7FTC, KN4LFC and 35 others like this.

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