20

I just had to tell a long booking number over the phone, and realized that some characters like V/B can be hard to convey.

So, I want to learn exactly how each letter is currently taught in Japanese schools.

For every case where there are variants (like for H or Z), please select only one, the one that will be the most understood and induce the least amount of ambiguity when spoken as part of a meaningless booking number.

Please also indicate what moras must be stressed.

  • This isn't a problem exclusive to English<->Japanese. Where I'm from, we usually use whole words to convey letters if ambiguity is a problem - e.g. Victor instead of Vee, Bravo instead of Bee. – Luaan Jul 15 '16 at 8:56
  • @Luaan it's called the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet. – OrangeDog Jul 15 '16 at 13:02
  • @OrangeDog I didn't necessarily mean that, I just took the closest thing in English I've seen used before - we usually use names instead. But yeah, the NATO alphabet is certainly well designed to allow you to pick up a letter in noisy environments. – Luaan Jul 15 '16 at 13:07
21

I share your experience. Sticking straight to the katakana pronunciation below, I have never had the problem of someone not understanding me any more. I believe this is the pronunciation currently taught in Japanese schools.

A: エー【HL】
B: ビー【HL】
C: シー【HL】
D: ディー【HHL】
E: イー【HL】
F: エフ【HL】
G: ジー【HL】
H: エイチ【HLL】
I: アイ【HL】
J: ジェー【HHL】
K: ケー【HL】
L: エル【HL】
M: エム【HL】
N: エヌ【HL】
O: オー【HL】
P: ピー【HL】
Q: キュー【HHL】
R: アール【HLL】
S: エス【HL】
T: ティー【HHL】
U: ユー【HL】
V: ブイ【HL】
W: ダブリュー【HLLLL】
X: エックス【HLLL】
Y: ワイ【HL】
Z: ゼット【HLL】

In all cases the pitch drops after the first mora (which is high, or "stressed"). This is how you should read them as single letters or multiple unrelated letters. As an acronym, the main drop in pitch happens on the last letter only, e.g. URL ユーアールエル【LHHHHHL】. (This is just the same as in English, where the last letter is stressed, so it is not something you need to try to remember separately.)

  • Between D and G, what is the difference? – Felipe Müller Jul 15 '16 at 15:36
  • 1
    @FelipeMüller "di" vs. "ji". In technical terms, "d" is plosive, "g" is affricate. – hobbs Jul 15 '16 at 20:33
  • 1
    acronym は、[ユーアールエル]{HHHHHHL}とか[ユーエスエー]{HHHHHL}(それとも[ユーエスエー]{LHHHHL}?)とかっていうような気がするんですけど・・([ユーアールエル]{LLLLLHL} とかだとなんか関西弁みたいな。。」) – Chocolate Jul 16 '16 at 5:27
  • 実際発音すると、「ユーアール」は「エ」より低くて、「ル」より高い気がしますが、どうですか。 – Earthliŋ Jul 16 '16 at 6:36
  • そおですねー・・細かく書くと「ユ↗ーアー↘ル↘エ↘ル」って、なだらかに上がってなだらかに下がってくる、みたいな・・ – Chocolate Jul 16 '16 at 10:39
6

I agree with Earthliŋ for the most part. Though I have never heard of Japanese students being taught and official "Katakana-ized" version of the English alphabet. Generally they seem to be taught to imitate native pronunciation as closely as possible.

I use and hear the following variations regularly:
Disclaimer: I live in Kansai.

  • A - エイ
  • D - ディー or デー (in musical contexts) or デイ (as an abbreviation for "day")
  • H - エイチ or エッチ (usually referring to intercourse)
  • J - ジェイ
  • K - ケイ
  • V - ブイ or ヴイ
    (This is a bit of a tricky one, for people who have
    lived overseas ヴイ seems to be used more)

If someone has trouble over the phone understanding ブイ, you might like to try saying it a bit less staccato, like "bwee".

  • W - ダブルユー or ダブル (as in www.google.com - ダブル・ダブル・ダブル ドット)
  • 4
    ゼッ ......? – Chocolate Jul 15 '16 at 6:54
  • My question is not so much about listing the different pronunciations of each letter (which could be an interesting but separate question), and more about "select[ing] only one, the one that will be the most understood and induce the least amount of ambiguity when spoken as part of a meaningless booking number". It would be great if you could, in the context of Kansai, choose for each letter the one pronunciation that satisfies this, thanks a lot! :-) – Nicolas Raoul Jul 15 '16 at 6:56
  • @chocolate woops... deleted! – sazarando Jul 15 '16 at 7:03
  • 1
    @NicolasRaoul In that case, I think Earthliŋ's answer has the most standard information. I just wanted to add in some alternate pronunciations that might be useful. So, if someone doesn't understand エイチ for some reason, you might say エッチ, or if someone doesn't understand ブイ for some reason, you might try ヴい. – sazarando Jul 15 '16 at 7:06
  • 2
    Considering that many Japanese can't distinguish ブ from ヴ, I think there isn't anyone who will not understand ブイ but understand ヴイ. – Earthliŋ Jul 15 '16 at 15:04

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