Tips for learning the military alphabet

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The Military Alphabet, otherwise known as the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet, is a set of acrophonically selected codewords assigned to each of the 26 letters of the alphabet.

It is used as a communication tool to convey highly sensitive and specific information via radio and other auditory channels in an accurate and uncomplicated manner. You know from your own experience just how hard it is to talk on the phone when you’re in a crowded room.

Hearing the person on the other end of the line can be extremely difficult, especially when spelling out letters (as so many of them can sound very similar when phonetically pronounced) and that’s with a clear line to them! Imagine being in a war zone, or a fighter pilot in the air, or even just a serviceman or woman stationed in a remote place with extremely poor reception and you are in very high stakes situations where miscommunications can cost lives.

Having a universally understood and easily distinguishable set of words that can help mitigate any risk of misunderstandings can be the difference between life and death, and is a vital tool for everyone to have basic knowledge of.   

The international standardized version of the alphabet was established in the 1950s during the Cold War era as a result of confusion caused by numerous different versions of an alphabet being used simultaneously by various different military departments amongst different countries. After a number of iterations, trial and error, and inputs from a variety of English, Spanish and French-speaking countries, the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) finally established the military alphabet that is internationally used today. 

What are the best tips for learning the military alphabet. 

Visual devices


You don’t need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to studying. Flashcards have been a longstanding student’s companion when its crunch time and you need to do some serious studying, and they have been so because they are inexpensive, simple and really do work.  We suggest that to study using flashcards, you write out one of the 26 letters on one side of a card, and the corresponding codeword on the other. Mix the cards up, keeping the individual letters on the same side, and keep testing yourself until you get them all right! 


Mnemonic devices

When studying, individuals find that there are a variety of different methods of studying that either work for them or don’t. Mnemonic devices, otherwise known as memory devices which uses a variety of either visual or acoustic cues to  rhyming words, or acronyms

Poems or rhymes

Making up a poem or rhyme to remember each word can be very helpful, especially if they have some relevance to your own life. You can spend time thinking up some poems or rhymes, and all the while – you’ll be learning!

Written study 

For some people, repetitive writing out of a phrase or series of information is the best way to learn. You could even try and run mock written tests for yourself by listing the alphabet out of order on a piece of paper and trying to get as many of those as you can. Running practice written tests. 

Musical techniques

When it comes to the human brain, the evidence for music as an effective memory tool is manifest very clearly in the alphabet song we were taught as children. Whatever your version, it’s because of the ABC song that we can most likely remember every letter and note of it still today. Song is an extremely powerful learning aid, so make up a jingle for yourself and get learning! 


Lastly, the most important technique of all is to practice. Practice with your friends and family and in your day to day life. The only way to effectively learn anything is to practice it over and over again until you get it right, whatever your chosen study technique. The military alphabet is, fortunately, a very simple set of distinct and unique words, of which you already have the foundational knowledge of the alphabet to start you off! Ultimately, you should just choose a study technique that works for you and go for it!