The Phonetic Alphabet in Germany Posted by Larissa on Oct 16, 2018 in Language
Over the past few months I have been using the telephone more and more at work, which means when someone wants to spell their name or address to me they use the phonetic alphabet (also known as Funkalphabet). At first I was completely unprepared and once they started to spell something I would begin just writing the whole word down instead of the letter. Here is a post to help you learn the phonetic alphabet in German and also a bit about the history of it.
There are different names for the phonetic alphabet in Germany. This could be die Buchstabiertafel (the letter table), das Telefonalphabet (the telephone alphabet) or das Funkalphabet (the radio alphabet). It started in 1890 but instead of names for the letters they would have numbers. For example A would be 1 and to spell a word you would then say drei (3), eins (1), zwanzig (20). This was published in the Berliner Telefonbuch.
In 1903 the phonetic alphabet changed from numbers to names. The names were easier to remember than the numbers and less mistakes were made when giving someone information on the phone. The names used for the alphabet were biblical, and since then have not been changed too much.
Here is the phonetic alphabet:
ß Eszett (Scharfes S)
I still find “Ida” difficult, as I always think you spell it like “Eder” – which is a typical German last name. The German and Austrian phonetic alphabets are very similar so you could also use this alphabet if speaking Austrian, there are only a couple of different words. Do you use the phonetic alphabet in your language?
Thanks for reading,
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