Radio code (alpha, bravo, charlie, etc) for other Spanish.

As part of my day job I take phone calls from clients, 95% of whom are from outside of the U.S. Inevitably, one of the first steps of the process is to refer callers to our company website, the address of which seems to be comprised of those letters most likely to be misheard when spoken over the phone. This is not so much a problem when the client possesses a good grasp of English, because one can always use radio code to clarify each letter. I was born and raised on Army bases, so rattling off whiskey-echo-bravo-sierra-indigo-tango-echo is almost second nature. My coworkers get by well enough on a=apple, b=beetle, etc.

The problem comes with the callers whose English is more limited, the majority of whom are Spanish speakers. What I’d like to do is put together a list of “initial” words for spelling out our website – words that are more likely to be distinguished clearly by the Hispanophonic ear. Any assistance my fellow Dopers can provide in this area would be greatly appreciated.

Two other things. First, I won’t need initial words for every letter of the alphabet. Our web site address uses only the following letters: a,b,c,f,i,n,o,s,w,z. Secondly, our Spanish-speaking callers come from all over the place – Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Central America, South America, or the mother country herself. So the words selected should be as universally understood as possible.

Thanks in advance!

use

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICAO_spelling_alphabet

It sounds like the OP finds that to be insufficient. I’m sure it would be fine if his/her customer base were all former pilots in their respective air forces. But I can tell you from experience that even English speakers have trouble if they haven’t been exposed to it.

I found this:
http://www.proz.com/forum/linguistics/42462-spanish_phonetic_alphabet.html
by searching for “spanish spelling alphabet”. I presume you’re using the correct Spanish pronunciation of the letters, especially for vowels (“i” sounds like “e”).

And finally, I can’t pass up this opportunity to offer up my own spelling alphabet, devised for maximum misunderstanding:
Aisle
Bip
Czar
Djinni
Eulogy
Felt
Genie
Hour
Isle
Juan
Knight
Lip
Mnemonic
Night
Oedipus
Phil
Qatar
Rip
Svelte
Tsar
Urn
Veldt
Write
Xmas
Yttrium
Zip

I think you can improve that a bit:
Aisle
Bip
Czar
Djinni
Ewe
Felt
Genie
Hour
Isle
Juan
Knight
Light
Mnemonic
Night
Our
Phil
Qatar
Rite
Svelte
Tsar
Urn
Veldt
Write
Xmas
Yew
Zip

I’d like to add “Cue”, “Kew” and “Queue”, but that spoils some of the other matches

ham radio operators use it world wide.

some people doing international phone calls of technical information also use it.

I was told once there was a variation of the ham radio alphabet that managed to use two-syllable words for every letter without duplicating any of those syllables (i.e., if A is alfa, no other letter would have an al or a fa as one of its syllables).

Anyone heard of this before?

Or you could just use the ones from the Barenakedladies’ song Crazy ABCs (from their kids album, the one they put out right before Steven Page’s drug conviction) (couldn’t find a YouTube link for a BNL performace)

Aisle
Bdellium
Czar
Djinn
Euphrates
Fohn
Gnarly
Hour
Irk
Jalapeño
Knick-knack
Llama
Mnemonic
Ngomo
Ouija board
Pneumonia, pteradactyl, and psychosis
Qat
Argyle
Saar
Tsunami
Urn
Vraisemblance
Wren, wrinkly, and who
Xian
Yperite (sp?)
(Zed)

I remember a comedian discussing how bad he was at coming up with words for letters:

K as in … Khaddafi
Q as in … Qaddafi

So you’re up to, what, 1 percent of the population?

Brian Regan. (And he also had the letter G as well to give a word for. Guess which word he came up with. Go on, guess.)

the point being that ham radio operators are; children to elderly, people with wide education and skills, many know no English beyond the alphabet and simple conversation. it can’t be too hard to learn and use if those people can do it world wide.

How does that help the OP? Is he supposed to teach every caller the ICAO spelling alphabet? He needs a solution for the 99 percent of the callers who don’t know it.

Another comedian used to do a skit where he called the operator and asked for the number for his friend, who because I can’t remember his name is for the purpose of this exercise, Anderson:

It is an international alphabet, people in Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Central America, South America (places in the OP) already use it. People new to it can find it in books in libraries or on the net.

There’s your solution, Kizarvexius. Teach the ICAO spelling alphabet to each of your callers. Problem solved.

No, he doesn’t have to teach them, he just has to refer them to the local library or internet connection. And wait by the phone until they get back. (Which shouldn’t take long, as it’s easy to learn.)

To the OP : It wasn’t entirely clear if you can switch spelling alphabets based on region. If you need to use words that are only in English, you could cover a fair number of the letters with English words that have Spanish cognates.

My customers are actual librarians who are sitting in a library. With an internet connection. They still don’t get it. Some do; and then I can omit the “A as in” portion.

I think I was looking for something more along the lines of:

A=Antonio
B=Bolivia
C=Carlos

Does that list of letters really include everything you need to spell out? You never include the http on the front or the .com/org/net on the end? I suppose those letters would be enough if your address was www.abcsz.info or similar.

I agree that the ICAO alphabet is useless for this. It may be geographically universal, but it sure isn’t common knowledge among ordinary folks worldwide.

My advice would be to use first (given) names. Antonio, etc. I don’t know enough Spanish proper names to finish the job, but a Spanish baby name book (or website) would be an easy place to find a bunch of candidates.

Spanish speakers often use geographical names or common firstname: it doesn’t have to be the same list all the time, people may even use two different codewords for the same letter in the same word.

B and D are particularly confusing: “B de Barcelona” or “B de Bogotá” and “D de dedo” (which is alliterative and cacophonic, but for that very reason carries the message home real well) are what I’ve heard most often for those. And no, last I looked, “finger” wasn’t a place’s name.

We basically do it on the fly. I could be speaking with someone one day and spell my username as “Navarra, Almería, Valencia, Álava”, with someone else the next say and it would be “Navarra, Argentina, Vitoria, Argentina otra vez”.

For the letters you need:
Argentina
Bogotá
Caracas
Fernando
Ignacio (if that’s hard to pronounce, Israel)
Nadie
Oviedo or Oaxaca (ask a Mexican how to pronounce this one, as it’s not pronounced like one might think)
Santiago
Whisky
Zapato, Zaragoza, Zacatecas