Words for letters of the alphabet as used by telephonists

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Vocabulary / Vocabulario Español-Inglés' started by Guiriundercover, Feb 4, 2006.

  1. Guiriundercover Member

    U.K. (English)
    Please, do any of you know the "official" words used by telephonists to represent each letter of the alphabet in Spanish? I suspect this may vary from country to country, and in parts of Latin America the system may be different. The only ones concerning me are those used in Spain and all seem to be names of places. I know some of them, but if anyone could fill in the blanks or correct any that I've got wrong that would be great.

    (Also if anyone knows the ones used in the UK it would be helpful if they could post them, too. Thank you!)

    Irlanda (while we're on this one, what's this "i latina" business?)
  2. SpiceMan Senior Member

    Osaka 大阪
    Castellano, Argentina
    I'm not sure exactly what you're talking about but...
    I latina = letter I.
    Y griega = letter Y.

    Maybe the glyph "I" is roman, and "Y" is greek? I don't know.
  3. Hi,

    Here are the words used in the UK


  4. Here is what I found while googling. Spanish words used by radio operators.


    I don't know if these are used by telephone operators.

    Please excuse missing accents and any spelling errors. Non hablar Español.

  5. Jellby

    Jellby Senior Member

    Spanish (Spain)
    I don't think there's anything as an "official list". Usually people say the first word they can think of with each letter, often a city or a country... or they use the international words (Alfa, Bravo, Charlie...).

    Personally, I find it funny when people use a word for every letter: "pe de perro, a de Ávila, erre de ratón...". I understand that sometimes it's needed when two letters are similar (b and p), or when the quality of the sound is not good, but sometimes it's overdone: "hache" and "jota" are quite difficult to misunderstand :D

    By the way, does anything similar exist for numbers? I know the ancient Indians (in Sanskrit times) used some "metaphors" for numbers, such as: "eyes" for 2, "seasons" for 4, "fingers" for 5...
  6. mhp Senior Member

    American English
    Well, I can tell you that I've never heard anything used for numbers. The typical practice if a person doesn't understand a number is to raise the voice and repeat the number which can lead to more confusion
    -No It's a FIVE, FIVE
    -Fifty five?
    -No just one FIVE
  7. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi modus borealis

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    We say "niner" instead of "nine", to distinguish it from "five" over a connection full of static. It can depend a bit on the connection, but usually if we're working with numbers we use one at a time (ie, three-five instead of thirty-five).

    This is really interesting - I had no idea that the Spanish used a separate phoenetic alphabet. One wonders whether the French also have one... In my naivety I'd thought everyone used the alpha/bravo version.
  8. WillyLandron

    WillyLandron Senior Member

    English United States
    We don't use all of these in the US. It's common for people to use some on the phone especially when they are spelling there names:

    B as in boy
    C as in Charlie
    D as in David
    F as in Frank
    M as in Mary
    N as in Nancy
    P as in Peter
    S as in Sam
    T as in Thomas
    V as in Victor

    are the most common ones. The other letters are pretty indistinguishable. But S and sound like F, D cound sound like T, and M can sound like M over the phone to Americans.

    They tend to be names because Bictor, Domas, Nary, and Mancy are not usual names.
  9. I think we aren't looking for 'numbers' here. More the spelling of place names, as when you ask the operator for a telephone number in, for example, Auchterader, Scotland. The operator asks 'how do you spell that?' You reply is your own way, such as 'A for apple, u for umbrella, c for Charlie, h for Harry, t for Tommy, e for egg', etc. etc. The operator may then check your spelling using the standard phonetic code, and ask 'Is that correct?'

  10. mhp Senior Member

    American English
    Thank you la reine victoria,

    I was answering the previous question. Sorry for not making that explicit.

  11. Mea culpa mhp,

    I didn't notice the previous one. Sorry.

  12. Guiriundercover Member

    U.K. (English)
    Thank you for your answers. I know there is an "official" system (though where it comes from is anyone's guess) because in Spain I had just gradually picked in up from talking to clients, but would like to have it all written down in its entirity. Most of them probably don't get used all that much. The most commonly used ones tend to be "Barcelona" and "Dinamarca" because the D and B sounds are so easily confused, (likewise S and F) so if you are spelling a word out to someone over the phone they commonly interrupt you and ask, "disculpe, ¿ha dicho B de Barcelona o D de Dinamarca?" But I may be interviewing for a job in a call centre and just wanted to be prepared for the interview and make sure I knew the whole list. As for numbers, over the phone it's also easy to mix up "sesenta" and "setenta" so people often say "seis cero" instead. I did notice that, but I'd never thought about there being a system for numbers too.
  13. belén

    belén Senior Member

    Spanish, Spain, Catalan, Mallorca
    I don't think there is an official list..but what happens is that common words get repeated.

    We say D de Dinamarca or D de dedo very often. But if you say D de domingo is also fine.
    It really called my attention to find out, in one of my first German classes, that the spelling must be always done with the same nouns. It surprised me that children learn that in school. We do not here. We improvise. But after hearing the most frequently used words for certain letters, those are the ones that get used more.
    Of course, there is the aeronautical alphabet, but that's the international one.

  14. tigger_uhuhu

    tigger_uhuhu Senior Member

    mexico city
    spanish-mx ct
    Aquí las líneas aéreas, agencias de viaje y otras usan el mismo alfabeto, pero en español:
  15. belén

    belén Senior Member

    Spanish, Spain, Catalan, Mallorca
    Las líneas aéreas, tengo entendido que tienen que usar el mismo en todo el mundo, es decir, no pueden decir "golfo" sino "golf" ya que así les obliga el organismo internacional de aviación (del que ahora mismo no me sale el nombre)

  16. Hakro

    Hakro Senior Member

    Helsinki, Finland
    Finnish - Finland
    In Finland we use the English (international) words ("Alpha, Bravo, Charlie" etc.) in aviation; when ordinary people are speaking in telephone they use generally known Finnish first names.
  17. Alundra

    Alundra Senior Member

    Nueva York de la Mancha
    España - Castellano
  18. tigger_uhuhu

    tigger_uhuhu Senior Member

    mexico city
    spanish-mx ct
    Tienes toda la boca llena de razón, Be, pero podemos usarlo en inglés o en español. (Yo trabajo en una línea aérea ;) )
  19. Jellby

    Jellby Senior Member

    Spanish (Spain)
    ¿No serán "Quebec" y "Zulú"? ¿O es que se pronuncian a la inglesa (y entonces la que choca es "Unión")?
  20. belén

    belén Senior Member

    Spanish, Spain, Catalan, Mallorca
    Yo trabajé en una línea aérea durante un tiempo también y nos hacían "cantar el alfabeto" tal como te decía en el otro post. En fin, dejémoslo en que es una cuestión cultural como tantas otras.

  21. tetewilson

    tetewilson Senior Member

    Alcalá de Henares (España)
    Castellano - España
    Es cierto, las palabras clave para deletrear según el ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) se establecieron para facilitar las comunicaciones tierra-aire vía radio, en los primeros tiempos de la aviación, la calidad de las comunicaciones por radio era un poco peor que ahora ;) y además, a cada extremo del canal podía haber una persona con una lengua materna tal que fueran diferentes entre sí y diferentes de la empleada en la comunicación a la vez. El juego de palabras clave se definió con una serie de palabras clave en inglés (Charlie, Foxtrot...) y castellano (Bravo, Sierra, Tango...).

    By the way, SpiceMan, your suspicions were right: "I" is latin and "Y" is greek. Many spanish words starting with "J" used come from latin where they used to be written with an "I" (i.e. "Julio" and "Iulius"). "J" is an arabic heritage in spanish. "Y" is called "Upsilon/Ypsilon" in some other languages (i.e. german), which sounds quite greek, doesn't it? :)

  22. Battle Member

    Spain - Spanish
    Here you have some examples but there are a lot of them.

    I hope it is helpful.

  23. GiggLiden

    GiggLiden Senior Member



    Could the "i" you're asking about be the upside-down exclamation mark (¡) ??

    With a sans-serif typeface, that often gets to be very confusing.
    (With a serif typeface, you'd see the difference)


    Could the "i" you're asking about be the upside-down exclamation mark (¡) ??
  24. Guiriundercover Member

    U.K. (English)
    Thank you for all your replies, and thank you, Battle, for your helpful list. 'Sorry for being so vague in my question about the "i latina." What I meant was (but of course nobody can be expected to read my mind and I should have expressed myself better), why is it that for most other letters they use a word, but for "i" they often just say "i latina?" Is it just because it is unmistakable for anything else? I don't often hear people say Irlanda or Italia; they just say I latina, whereas in the UK version there is a definite word for each letter and if you are using the "system" you use it for all letters, not just some. I don't get that.
  25. belén

    belén Senior Member

    Spanish, Spain, Catalan, Mallorca

    There are two letters called that sound like "i" (pronounced like the English "e"), one is called I latina and it is this one "I" and one is called Y griega and it is this one "Y"

    If you say "I latina" you don't need to say "i latina de irlanda" because the surname "latina" already gives you the clue that you are talking about "I"

    If you say "Y griega" you know it is "y"

    On the other hand you can say "I de Italia" "Y de Yugoslavia", your choice.

  26. Guiriundercover Member

    U.K. (English)
    Oh, I see, Belén! Suddenly it all makes sense. Thank you.
  27. Perroviajero

    Perroviajero New Member

    Ags, Mexico Spanish/English
    Hola a todos,
    Actualmente estudio la licenciatura en turismo y trabajo en una agencia de viajes, por la experiencia les puedo decir que este alfabeto es el que usamos entre lineas aereas, hoteles y agencias de viajes en todo mexico.

    A alfa
    B beta
    C coca
    D delta
    E eco
    F fox
    G golfo
    H hotel
    I india
    J julieta
    K kilo
    L lima
    M metro
    N nectar
    O oscar
    P papa
    Q quebec
    R romeo
    S sierra
    T tango
    U union
    V victor
    W whiskey
    X extra
    Y yankee
    Z zulu

    Como otro dato el alfabeto que refieren al principio es usado en los servicios de la milicia en estados unidos

    Espero les haya servido de algoo
  28. gs3 Member

    One "official" system? You gotta be kidding! As they say: "The good thing about having standards is there are so many of them to choose from".

    There is no such thing as a universal "official" alphabet but rather standard or official allphabets for specific groups like aircraft communications, nautical, army, navy, ham radio, etc.

    The most widely adopted, intact or with slight variations, is the NATO Phonetic Alphabet
    As far as I have experienced, Spanish phone operators certainly do NOT use this NATO international alphabet and use instead (from memory) América (or is it Ávila), Barcelona, Cáceres, Dinamarca, España, Francia, Gerona, Huesca, Italia, . . . Which makes sense and is more understandable if you are speaking Spanish between Spaniards.

    In any case, it is mostly the customer who needs to spell the name of the destination of his call and he is free to use whatever alphabet he chooses. Telefónica are tyrants but they do not require the customers to learn their "official" alphabet (yet). They probably supply their operators with a handy alphabet card but I doubt it is compulsory in any way. Just a memory aid.

    All this reminds me of a *very* old joke my dad used to tell. A Cockney wants to place a call to Ealing and the operator asks him to please spell the name to which the man replies (you have to tell the joke with a strong cockney accent, otherwise it makes no sense):

    Ealing, E - A - L - I - N - G

    E for 'Enry, what's me name,
    Hay, what's 'orses eats,
    Hell, where's we's all going to,
    I for Angel which we ain't,
    N for norange which we sucks,
    an' G for Gawd-bly-me. :)

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