Learn the Phonetic Alphabet Easily

Hotel Echo Lima Lima Oscar!

That’s right – we just spelled out the word Hello to you using the phonetic alphabet, specifically the NATO Phonetic Alphabet.

Learning the NATO Phonetic Alphabet is incredibly helpful in many scenarios. When you’re spelling your name out to someone over the phone, you can use phonetic letters to easily spell your name out without any confusion between letters.

For example, the letters B and V are often confused with one another when pronounced over the phone. There’s a lot less confusion between the two when you use their phonetic equivalents, Bravo and Victor.

The Gentleman’s Playbook is going to help you learn and become effective at using the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. We’ve got some learning tactics you can take advantage of, as well as a reference card you can come back to when you need.

Uses for the NATO Phonetic Alphabet

First off, there are a few reasons you want to learn or at least have an easy reference card for the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. Some scenarios you’ll find the phonetic alphabet helpful in are:

  • Call-heavy workplaces
  • Phone calls for personal reasons (think doctor’s offices, calling your bank when there’s a problem, providing your email to someone, etc.)
  • Understanding what’s going on when someone starts spelling something out to you, as we did at the start of this article.

Study Tips to Easily Learn the Phonetic Alphabet

Just like any other information you want to memorize, you’ll have to do some studying.

This doesn’t have to be complicated, and more times than not, you can easily learn the phonetic alphabet just by using it frequently.

First, we are going to go over some tactics you can use to learn the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. Then, we will provide you with a phonetic alphabet card you can save and print out for easy reference on the fly.


A great way to begin learning the phonetic alphabet is by simply making flashcards.

Buy yourself some index cards and on one side, write the normal letter as you know it. Flip the card over and then write the phonetic version.

learn the phonetic alphabet easily with flashcards

For example, for the letter T, you would write T on the front, and on the back, you would write Tango.

Do this for all 26 letters in the alphabet, using the phonetic alphabet reference card we’ve included in this post below.

Once you’ve got all letters and their phonetic equivalents on your flashcards, organize them in alphabetical order, phonetic version up.

Simply read each phonetic letter out loud, taking your time. Do this as many times as you need to become comfortable and familiar with the words.

Next, invert the flashcards so that the normal letters are facing you; instead of looking at Alpha at the top of your flashcard deck, you should just be looking at A.

Now, try to go through each letter, saying the phonetic equivalent of the word from memory. You’ll miss many of them, and that’s okay.

Put the ones you get correct in one pile and the ones you get wrong in a separate pile. Once you get through, go through the incorrect pile, placing the ones you get correct into the correct pile and then the ones you missed again into a new incorrect pile.

Repeat until all cards are in the correct pile. Shuffle the cards so they are no longer in alphabetical order. With the normal letters facing up, repeat the process over and over until you have them all memorized!

Phonetic Alphabet Reference Card Print Out

Right-click the image below, click “Open Image in New Tab.” Now, go to the tab the image opened in and, on your keyboard, hold down the CTRL button and hit the P letter on your keyboard to print the image. You can use this as a reference card for the NATO Phonetic Alphabet.

If you’re on a smartphone, you can hold down on the image to save it to your gallery and then email it to yourself, or just send yourself a link to this article to open it on your desktop.

phonetic alphabet reference card

Many people who have call-heavy jobs will tape phonetic alphabets to the bottom of their computer monitors, or in front of their office phone, that way it’s easily seen and can be referenced quickly.

We hope you find this phonetic alphabet reference card useful!

Practice Using the Phonetic Alphabet

Outside of having a phonetic alphabet reference card and using your flashcards, a great way to fully memorize the phonetic alphabet is to practice using it.

Think of some random words. If you can’t think of any, just Google “words of the day” and pick some words you find. Write them down on a piece of paper, then try to write the phonetic version of the words.

For example, if we wrote down the word Playbook, we would then write its phonetic spelling from memory as best as possible. If we were to get everything correct on the first try, we would spell it like this: Papa Lima Alpha Yankee Bravo Oscar Oscar Kilo.

Learn Your Name in the Phonetic Alphabet

When learning the NATO Phonetic Alphabet, The Gentleman’s Playbook recommends memorizing the phonetic version of your name as soon as possible, that way you’re equipped to spell it at any moment you need.

It would also be beneficial to learn important info you share frequently, such as your email address or your partner’s name and email address.

What is the Purpose of the Phonetic Alphabet?

Many people often wonder, “What is the purpose of the phonetic alphabet?”

Luckily, the answer is quite simple – the purpose of the phonetic alphabet is to guarantee clear communications during wartime. It’s been widely adopted in professional and personal settings for its efficiency in communicating spelling over the phone.

what is the purpose of the phonetic alphabet

Making sure you learn the phonetic alphabet, specifically the NATO Phonetic Alphabet is a helpful tool in your arsenal that will only make your life easier!

Can You Learn the Phonetic Alphabet?

We’ve given you all the tips and tricks we have, now it’s your turn! Can you learn the Phonetic Alphabet? (We are pretty confident you can)!

Again, there are lots of reasons to learn the phonetic equivalents of the letters in the alphabet, such as:

  • Working at a call-heavy job
  • Spelling your name or email over the phone for things like doctor appointments, paying bills, etc.
  • Knowing what’s going on when someone starts saying random words when you ask them to spell something out for you!

Feel free to use this page as a resource for yourself or your organization if you’re a business leader trying to help your team learn the phonetic alphabet!