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I want to learn the aviation alphabet, and when searching the Internet on how to, I see a plethora of approaches, so I thought of asking here!

If it's primarily opinion based, let me know.

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    $\begingroup$ The best way is probably to start off knowing the marine alphabet. Then it's trivial! $\endgroup$ Oct 31 '18 at 14:25
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    $\begingroup$ If it's anything like the Brooklyn Alphabet it's unprintable @gsamaras. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Oct 31 '18 at 14:33
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    $\begingroup$ The marine radio alphabet is the NATO phonetic alphabet, so it's identical to the aviation radio alphabet. So if you already sail or otherwise use the sea, there's nothing new to learn (but some different pro-words, of course). $\endgroup$ Oct 31 '18 at 14:37
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    $\begingroup$ Practice, practice... There is no shortcut or substitute for repetition. Read off signs and license plates while driving. $\endgroup$ Oct 31 '18 at 18:08
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    $\begingroup$ I am not sure if it is the easiest way. But the quickest and most permanent way is to join the military. You will know it in no time. Or, else... 😁 $\endgroup$
    – Dean F.
    May 21 at 16:39

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Presuming you're referring to the ICAO Alphabet* , (alpha, bravo, charlie, delta, echo, etc.) the easiest way (in my experience, from learning it as a disambiguator for phone work) is repetition, same way you learned the alphabet as a child, or the same way you'd memorize a poem. Get a written list of the letter names, read them through several times a day, and over time, start reciting without reading.

Do this several times a day for a week, you'll be close if not there. A second week and you should start to think in phonetic alphabet. A third week and you'll wonder why everyone doesn't think in phonetic alphabet.

*corrected from comments, originally International Phonetic Alphabet, which is a whole different thing.

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    $\begingroup$ Once you can recite it in order, practise by spelling out (in your head, if you're not alone) things you see in daily life. For example, if you drive, spell out each car number plate you follow. You might need a different source of letters if you're in a country where the plates are all-numeric, but I'm sure you can use some imagination... $\endgroup$ Oct 31 '18 at 14:34
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    $\begingroup$ I think that I just figured out the next pick-up line for a girl.. "Wanna hear your name in Aviation Alphabet?"... Damn, I did that already for the lady I met on Saturday, got half of them correct, I think! :) $\endgroup$
    – gsamaras
    Oct 31 '18 at 14:36
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    $\begingroup$ Billboards and road signs work as well as licence plates. $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Oct 31 '18 at 14:37
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    $\begingroup$ @TobySpeight - that's exactly what I did! I did it so much, I still read them that way now. Even when I don't want to... :/ $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Oct 31 '18 at 16:24
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    $\begingroup$ The problem with billboards and road signs is that, while you'll pick up on echo and alpha pretty quick, it'll take you a while to learn juliet, quebec, x-ray and zulu... $\endgroup$ Oct 31 '18 at 16:36
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Cheatsheet

Study like it's schoolwork!

I've found that quizzing yourself in a similar way to studying for a test is the best way to learn. I've had to learn a few different alphabets for different reasons, but there's always good resources online. I'd recommend two tests that I always give to beginners.

Beginner Quiz: https://www.sporcle.com/games/g/alpha_en

Intermediate Quiz: https://abg.ninja/alphabet

Ignoring the childish UI, these are actually great ways. Begin with the first link, and type in all of the letters that you know. This will very quickly show you which ones you know, and which you don't. Once you've figured out the ones you don't know, check a chart, attempt to memorize them, and try the test again. Rinse and repeat until you've memorized it fully, and can do it an hour after looking at the chart (so the information isn't remembered solely for being fresh in your mind).

After you've done this, use the second link I sent you to improve your usage, and to string multiple letters together. Continue until you're comfortable.

It's incredibly helpful to read the letters out loud while doing these tests.

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  • $\begingroup$ That seems like a good idea. However, "The webpage at sporcle.com/games/g/alpha_en might be temporarily down or it may have moved permanently to a new web address.". In any case, the second one works, so +1. $\endgroup$
    – gsamaras
    Oct 31 '18 at 15:47
  • $\begingroup$ @gsamaras Glad I could help - webpage is there for me. Make sure you copy the entire link, including the "https://" and "www." $\endgroup$
    – M28
    Oct 31 '18 at 15:48
  • $\begingroup$ One thing. It is pronounced KAY-beck, not kwee-BECK. $\endgroup$ Oct 31 '18 at 22:23
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My favorite method for memorizing that kind of stuff is to create flash cards with a picture that can be associated with the word. You might have to use your imagination for find a suitable image for each letter, but once you do, the memorization efficiency goes way up.

Another option is to make flash cards with the letter and its phonetic word in a huge font so it takes up an entire page. You will find you are able to recall the "image" of the word more easily than just the information itself. I use that method for memorizing operating limitations where it's just a numerical value you have to store in your head.

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  • $\begingroup$ I have photographic memory, +1 $\endgroup$
    – gsamaras
    Oct 31 '18 at 21:04
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    $\begingroup$ Off topic, but there is a neat method to memorize Morse code if you're so inclined. You create a list of phrases with a cadence that matches the letter.and memorize the phrases. For A, I used "A Chooo" dot dash... B is "Brown Choc-co-late" dash dot dot dot... C is "Charlie Charlie" dash dot dash dot... D is "Dag nabbit!" dash dot dot... E is "Eh" dot... F is "Funny Handle" dot dot dash dot. and so on. Not that much practical use to be sure. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Oct 31 '18 at 21:45
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I can recommend the (free) site http://radioalphabet.com/, specifically the Flash Cards tab. It provides you with a word, listed vertically with an input box besides each letter, and requires you to write the second and third letter of the word for each letter (which are unique amongst the words). It then automatically jumps to the next box, allowing you to practice quickly recalling the words for each letter.

After you have used it for a little, the Statistics tab provides you with hit and miss rates for each letter, so you can know which ones to focus on memorizing. I personally schedule repetitions in my calendar, using the principle of spaced repetition learning mentioned in insysions answer, so I increase the time until next repetition if I get everything right.

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  • $\begingroup$ That's super!!! $\endgroup$
    – gsamaras
    Oct 31 '18 at 22:32
  • $\begingroup$ @gsamaras: Glad you like it. :-D $\endgroup$ Oct 31 '18 at 22:44
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Make drawings (it doesn't matter how good you can draw). Use whatever comes to your mind first. For example: for Charly I think of Charly Brown. For Mike its another comic figure called Mike, but unlike Charly he is very tall, so these two side by side look very funny. They together (funny view remember) are visiting Quebec in November...

... where they meet Romeo and Juliet who are dancing Tango.

Take just a few at a time. Make each of them tell a little story. Stick them where you can see them several times a day. Bathroom for example.

If your brain has something to visualize its more likely that you will remember.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you story teller! $\endgroup$
    – gsamaras
    Nov 1 '18 at 9:53
  • $\begingroup$ Very similar to the methods my wife used to use to teach American 8th graders some Spanish. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Jun 22 at 16:19
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The best way is by listening and having software score you. I wrote just such a page here:

http://www.qa76.net/npa

It's free. No gimicks. It's just something I wrote for fun because I couldn't find anything like it.

It has a leaderboard. You can speed it up or slow it down. You can ask for short or long messages.

I like to use it during boring meetings at work. The background interference from the meeting makes it more challenging!

Use it in good health!

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I had the same problem. The easiest way to me to remember all the letters is with the car plates. It's fun and also keeps you practice the alphabet without a specific order, that's important too.

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This answer could be viewed as much like this other answer to the same question, but taken one step further.

The other answer said

Make drawings (it doesn't matter how good you can draw). Use whatever comes to your mind first. For example: for Charly I think of Charly Brown.

Well, when I was a kid in middle school, and already quite obsessed with aviation, I used the phonetic alphabet to make my own personal secret written alphabet. For example, "Charlie" was a simple zig-zag squiggle that resembled the two pointed ears of a cat, because a member of my extended family had a cat named Charlie. "Mike" was a vertical line with a dot on top, like a lower-case letter "i" but without the space below the dot, resembling a hand-held microphone like a singer might use. "Alpha" was associated with "Alpha Romeo" and was depicted by a very simplified representation of some feature of a car (it happened to be a steering wheel, represented by a circle with a slash through it.) And so on and so forth-- some of the codes were downright silly, but that didn't matter, because they were still memorable to me for one reason or another. The symbols were so simply drawn that a) they could be drawn just about as fast as the actual normal letters, and b) anyone not in on the "secret" that this was all based on the phonetic alphabet, would never guess what object they were supposed to be depicting, even in cases where the actual object would have been familiar to almost anyone (unlike the specific cat named Charlie.) The harder the symbols are for anyone else to figure out, the better (after all, it's supposed to be a code), so long as there's just enough there to jog your memory sufficiently.

(But at the end of the day, it is still just a simple substitution code, so don't entrust to it any secrets that you truly hope to take to your deathbed! Of course, tricks like using phonetic spellings rather than actual spellings, omitting some of the vowels from some words, etc, will help address this issue.)

So, invent your own secret personal written alphabet based on these little esoteric hieroglyphics that are keyed to the phonetic alphabet, and practice spelling our whatever strikes your fancy-- your name, lists of the names of your friends and foes, and so on and so forth. A great way to practice the phonetic alphabet instead of working on your actual class work like you are supposed to be doing--

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What works for me (and by no means suggests optimality) is having a card close on hand (in this case in our fire truck) with the names in alphabetical order. While talking on the radio it’s easy to refer to the card when necessary, and having read the words out aloud in context they tend to stick. That said, we’re volunteers and don’t get a great deal of practice on the radio so a different approach might be more appropriate to ‘frequent fliers’ who are using the alphabet daily.

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  • $\begingroup$ When you say “names”, are you referring to the police and emergency services phonetic alphabet. It is not the same as the FAA/IAO/NATO alphabet. $\endgroup$
    – Dean F.
    May 21 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ NATO is what we use (NZ), it may vary by jurisdiction. I’m aware of the APCO alphabet but to the best of my knowledge it’s more or less obsolete, possibly to streamline inter-agency operations. $\endgroup$
    – Frog
    May 21 at 20:31
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Spaced repetition learning. E.g. https://www.memrise.com/course/31682/nato-alphabet-3/

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    $\begingroup$ It's best to explain further rather than just providing a link, in case the link is inaccessible. $\endgroup$
    – fooot
    Oct 31 '18 at 19:57
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    $\begingroup$ I disagree that this is a link-only answer. The fundamental answer is "use spaced repetition", a well-known learning technique which one can easily find information about once they know that's what they're looking for. A detailed description of that general learning technique is probably out of scope for a site about airplane stuff. $\endgroup$
    – Sneftel
    Nov 1 '18 at 13:20

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