How to Memorize the NATO Phonetic Alphabet

I’m sure you have heard of the NATO phonetic alphabet before. If you have never heard of it, you probably have at least seen it in movies. You probably have heard someone say something to the effect of “Charlie Foxtrot Alpha Bravo”. The NATO alphabet is a system for specifying which letter is being said clearly. It is used by the United States Military and every other country in the NATO agreement.

The purpose of the NATO alphabet is to clarify which letter is being said. For example, if you are ever on the phone, you may try to spell a word out clearly to the person on the other end. You may say, “b as in boy.” Or, you may say “c as in cat.” The NATO alphabet bypasses this by assigning a specific word to each letter. It assigns the word “alpha” to “a,” bravo to “b,” and so forth for the rest of the alphabet. The notable thing about the NATO alphabet is that each word is distinct from every other word in the alphabet. In other words, each word was picked because it is hard to confuse with the rest.

Before you begin, you will need to know the memory palace technique that I cover in this post. Additionally, you could also use this system to assign letters to images using a similar structure as the major system. However, the major system is definitely not required for this tutorial.

The Process

Lucky for us, the NATO Phonetic Alphabet has very easy words to convert to images, so all we need to do is find a place to store all 26 of the images. Here is the list of words:

Alright, so now we are going to have to create an image for each word. Here are the images I used:

  • Alpha: I imagined a alpha wolf leading a pack of wolves
  • Bravo: I think of a crowd applauding and saying “bravo!”
  • Charlie: I just picture my friend Charlie
  • Delta: I imagine a triangle which is the symbol for delta in Greek
  • Echo: I think of an echo bouncing through a cave
  • Foxtrot: I think of a fox trotting
  • Golf: this one is really easy. I just imagine a golf club and ball
  • Hotel: this one is easy too. I think of a hotel
  • India: For India, I think of the country on a map
  • Juliet: I imagine Juliet from Romeo and Juliet. Specifically, I imagine the balcony scene.
  • Kilo: I think of a kilogram weight
  • Lima: I picture a lima bean
  • Mike: I just think of my uncle Mike
  • November: This one was the hardest for me, but eventually, I thought of Movemember, the event where men grow out their facial hair. Specifically, I thought of the depiction of this from the show The Office.
  • Oscar: For Oscar, I imagine an Oscar award
  • Papa: I imagine Papa Bear from the Berenstain bears
  • Quebec: I picture the city of Quebec
  • Romeo: I imagine Romeo from Romeo and Juliet (specifically the scene where he cries of Juliet’s supposed death)
  • Sierra: I imagine a Sierra Nevada beer
  • Tango: I think of two people tangoing
  • Uniform: I just imagine a military uniform
  • Victor: I picture someone on the first place podium
  • Whiskey: I just imagine a bottle of whisker
  • X-Ray: I picture a X-ray result
  • Yankee: I imagine the Yankees baseball team
  • Zulu: I think of a Zulu tribe

Now, I recommend, that you try to make your own images for these names you are storing, but it’s okay to reuse some of these since they are so basic.

Wrapping it Up

Obviously, you are now able to use the NATO phonetic alphabet to spell words out. This is definitely something that is useful to know, and if you ever plan on going into the military or sailing, you will need to know this. Additionally, if you want to professionally spell words for people, you are now able to!

Like I brought up earlier, this is also useful if for some reason you would like to assign letters to images. For some reason maybe you want to associate “a” with tree, then you could assign the letter to the word like you do in the major system.

Now, some readers may be wondering: how do I remember directly which letter goes to which image because I just remembered the list, not associations? And that is a good question. Luckily, the list is short enough, and each word is distinct enough (different starting letter and distinct sound) that you should be able to pick it up quickly with some review.

Thank you for reading, and if you have any questions, just comment below!

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