ELMER TIP OF THE WEEK: Using Phonetics, Part 2.
Last week we looked at use of the phonetic alphabet to communicate anything which must be spelled out: call signs, other mixed letter/number groups, proper names and uncommon words. It was noted that use of standard phonetics is considered good practice. Remember that amateur radio spans all cultures and languages of the world. It is also very diverse, ranging from public service and emergency communication to learning about other cultures, chasing awards, contesting, and making contacts in a seemingly infinite number of ways. With so much diversity, developing standard, universally understood operating procedures has many benefits.
That said, there are times when temporarily substituting a different phonetic can be helpful. An example would be the last letter of my call sign (G) when talking to an operator in Central or South America who may be just learning the phonetic alphabet or struggling with the English language. Substituting the longer word Guatemala, clearly enunciated, can be more effective than Golf in that case. Good practice would be to try standard phonetics first and use something else only when encountering difficulty. For example if I have tried standard phonetics twice and the other operator is still having trouble getting it I will try an alternate only for the specific letter or letters that are not being understood. Don’t switch phonetics for a letter that has already been correctly understood! This may lead the other operator to think he got it wrong and try to change it. I always revert to standard phonetics for the next contact. Those who find themselves enjoying aspects of amateur radio where alternate phonetics can be an asset will learn when and what to use as they observe what works (and doesn’t work) for others.
One other point about phonetics is worth noting. Some repeater owners and repeater clubs frown on the use of phonetics. We should try to respect their wishes and fit in when we become aware of their preferences. Phonetics are very welcome and encouraged on the N1BUG 147.105 repeater. Not everyone has perfect hearing. Understanding letters that sound alike can be a real challenge regardless of mode. Many new hams start out on FM and repeaters. Some go on to other aspects of amateur radio where phonetics are much more important. I see repeaters as a good place to learn and practice universal operating techniques and skills that may be useful here as well as elsewhere throughout amateur radio.
Remember it is often kinder to elmer than to overlook.