I often have trouble giving my name over the phone.
'Dean,' I'll say.
'Bean?' they'll respond. (At least I think that's what they've said.)
'No, Dean,' I'll repeat, stressing the 'Deee,' bit.
'Team?' they'll reply, not stressing the 'Deee,' bit.
It's at this point that I go back to my childhood, and use a nifty little method which my mates and I taught ourselves when we were about 7- or 8-years-old.
'Delta, echo, alpha, November,' I'll say with a flourish.
It's the NATO and International Aviation Phonetic Alphabet and it's really useful to know, especially if your name has a lot of the tricky letters that all sound remarkably too similar: B, C, D, E, G, P, T, V (and Z if you're in the United States).
But what do I do here in Spain? Can I shout, 'Delta, echo, alpha, November,' down the phone and expect Pedro or María to understand. The answer is, 'probably, no.' So what do I do? Well, the real answer is I panic as I fail to think of any Spanish words starting with a 'D'. So the next obvious question is, 'Do the Spanish have their own version which I could look up and (more importantly) learn?'
And the answer is, 'Sí!'
In fact, it's not just Spain which has its own version as you can see here: Phonetic Alphabets (Selection) But it's Spain which I'm obviously going to concentrate on.
So what do I say if 'D-E-A-N.' is misheard on the phone?
And if I need to spell 'Jeremy'?
So, if you want to be really helpful to your parents, on your next trip to Spain, when they need an address (your hotel, a restaurant, the street that the bus to the airport departs from… in ten minutes…) have a go at learning the Spanish phonetic alphabet. Here it is, with a few notes on what all the words mean and how to pronounce them:
Antonio. (I wonder if women say Antonia?)
Chocolate. Yes, strangely, the Spanish list also has an entry for ‘ch’ which used to be a letter in its own right. I'd be tempted to use 'Carmen, historia'.
Francia. (Spanish for France).
Gerona. Town and province in the North-East, on the coast bordering France.
Historia. History. (In case you weren’t sure.)
Inés. (The Spanish version of Agnes.)
José. (Pronounced Ho-seh).
Lorenzo. (Spanish for Laurence.)
Navarra. Autonomous community in northern Spain.
Oviedo. Capital city of Asturias, on the North coast.
Querido. (Means ‘dear,’ at the start of a letter, but also, ‘darling’.)
Tarragona. Capital city of the province of the same name.
Ulises. Boy’s name. Spanish version of Ulysses.
Valencia. Capital city of the province of Valencia in the Autonomous Community of… Valencia! New York, New York? So good they named it twice? Hah! What about Valencia (the city), Valencia (the province), Valencia (the autonomous community)!! So good they named it three times! (With apologies to Gerard Kenny.)Washington. Washington?! Interestingly enough (well, I thought it was interesting), Spanish doesn’t have any words beginning with the letter ‘w’. Any words you do find in a Spanish dictionary will be foreign (what are often called 'loan' words). My dictionary has ten entries: walkie-talkie, walkman (I guess there’ll be nine in the next edition), Washington, wáter (meaning toilet), waterpolo, wátman (meaning ‘cool’!?), whisky, Winchester, windsurf and WWW.
Xiquena. The name of a castle in Murcia. Pronounced Chic-en-ah.
Yegua. A mare. Pronounced Yeh-gwa.
N.B., I've posted what is essentially the same article on primary and secondary sites this week.