Apologies in advance if the title of my question is unclear. Please edit if you can think of a better way to phrase it!

From time to time, you need to explain how a foreign name is spelled in katakana. Example: The first name Bart is commonly written as バート.

Imagine that you are applying for a credit card on the telephone. What is the correct way to explain this katakana spelling?

Example: 名{な}(ファーストネーム)はバートです。バ、(?)、ト。

How to explain that the first katanana character () has a long vowel?

Related topic: How to explain a small vowel? Example: Tio might be written as ティオ. How to explain the small ? Normally, I would say テ、小{ちい}さいイ、オ, but I'm not sure if this is correct.


1 Answer 1


If you can pronounce バート correctly in the Japanese way, that's it. Simply elongate バ as it is actually spelled. As long as your pronunciation is clear, no one will be confused between バート and バト. (Read this and this if you have doubts.) The same for ティオ. By the way, conveying kanji over the phone can be much trickier.

If this fails and you do need to explain, you can say バは伸{の}ばします ("Ba is elongated").

If this fails and you do have to tell the spelling character by character, the symbol is called 伸ばし【のばし】棒【ぼう】 or 長音符【ちょうおんぷ】, so you can say "カタカナでバ、伸{の}ばし棒{ぼう}、ト". For ティオ, yes, "テ、小さいイ、オ" works perfectly.

If everything above fails, there is something like this as a last resort, but I doubt you would ever need this.

  • Good point about kanji! If I need to "spell" kanji, I do some research in advance to find simple words that most native Japanese speakers will know that include the specific kanji.
    – kevinarpe
    Feb 25, 2021 at 13:59

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