Why learn the phonetic alphabet

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This little article explains why I decided to learn the phonetic alphabet. Some of you might wonder why this can be useful in a modern world where most communication goes via the internet, because after all the phonetic alphabet is/was most used in the amateur radio community and other somewhat noisy communication methods. But read ahead and you might understand why knowing the phonetic alphabet can turn out to be useful in certain situations.

Click this image to enter the Phonetic Alphabet page.A while ago somebody asked me if I could clean up the harddisk of a used laptop he was going to sell, this was something I said yes to. When I was about to start the cleanup process, I thought that instead of uninstalling programs and deleting files, it would be a better solution to run the supplied recovery cd instead. This way the new owner would have a totally fresh Windows installation, another reason was that it would be both quicker and easier for me to do things this way as well.

After running the recovery cd and booting Windows for the first time, the Product Activation screen appeared. I chose to activate Windows via internet, but was then informed that this version of Windows didn't pass the verification test, and that I had to call Microsoft customer support in Norway to activate Windows manually. I followed the instructions given on the screen and called customer support, then I was informed that the only person available at the moment did only speak english, and that I could get help from her if this wasn't a problem, otherwise I would had to wait for a while. Since I consider my english to be fairly good, I agreed to get help from her.

Then I was supposed to give her a long code which consisted of a lot of numbers and letters, the numbers went well, but the letters turned out to be problematic. The thing is that although I can pronounce words fairly correct in english, letters in the alphabet is another story since I don't have much experience with this. So after I had given her the code, she read it back to me and it was all wrong! Then I did a second attempt by telling her to pick the first letter in the words I gave her, and this time it went better, but there was still some problems. This was probably due to the fact that I used some words that were not very common + I probably didn't pronounce these words entirely correct. After the third attempt all went fine, and I was given a new long code in return which I had to enter in the activation window. Then I could finally activate Windows.

After I had done all this I started thinking about how much time and frustration I could have saved myself from if only I had known the phonetic alphabet, so that's why I decided to learn it. And it turned out to be relatively easy since I already did know some of the letters.

Still not convinced? Well try to imagine that you were to give your name over the phone to somebody in a foreign country, are you really sure this would turn out to be absolutely not problematic at all? I can take my own name as an example: My first name is Roger, and it should be quite straight forward if it wasn't for the fact that it can easily be mistaken for the name Rodger. So spelling my first name by using the phonetic alphabet would be like this: Romeo Oscar Golf Echo Romeo. With my last name which is Håseth things get even more complex, the correct way to spell it would be like this: Hotel Alpha Sierra Echo Tango Hotel. You may notice that I used Alpha instead of Ågot or Åse for the Å letter, this was because in this example I would have been talking to a foreigner who probably wouldn't have understood the Å letter anyway. The correct procedure in such situations is to pick the letter in the international alphabet which resembles the most instead

So there you have it, maybe you now have a reason to learn the Papa Hotel Oscar November Echo Tango India Charlie alphabet :-)

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