Germans will change their phonetic alphabet

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Spelling is easier with reference words. The Germans also have their own letter code, but with a Nazi heritage. They want to get rid of him.

Germans will change their phonetic alphabet

Provided by Deutsche Welle

“M” as Maria, “O” as Otto – there are situations when, for example, in a telephone conversation it is important to spell out the surname, street name or some other word correctly. “Könnten Sie buchstabieren?” – “Can you spell it?” – will be asked, for example, when making an appointment with a doctor in Germany. To avoid auditory errors in everyday life, of course, you can resort to reference words prompted by intuition. But in professional use, there is a special letter code. So, in the navy or in aviation, the ICAO universal phonetic alphabet is used. In addition, in many countries there are separate phonetic alphabets that make it easier to work in a business area, for example, in economics or administration. The Germans also have their own alphabetic code. He, however, no longer suits them. Why?

The phonetic alphabet of the Germans and anti-Semitism

What the German phonetic alphabet should be is dictated by the DIN standardization institute – this alphabet is the same standard (DIN norm numbered 5009) as, say, the A4 sheet format. They take the matter seriously, since this letter code is included in textbooks and is used in the training of clerical specialists. And for almost a year now, this norm has been revised. Recently, a commission for its development, which includes 15 experts, proposed a new option, since the current one has several problematic nuances.

The reform of the letter code was initiated by Michael Blume, the anti-Semitism commissioner in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg. He is also a member of the DIN Commission and points out that the current set of reference words contains relics from the days of National Socialism. In 1934, all Jewish names were removed from it, so the name Dora was used instead of David, and the word Nordpol (“North Pole”) was used instead of Nathan. Although several changes were made to the code set after World War II, Nathan never appeared in it.

In addition, the modern German phonetic alphabet mainly uses names: 16 masculine and six feminine. This does not correspond to the current reality, according to the commission. And it is impossible to fully reflect the diversity of German society, taking into account all ethnic and religious groups, and even the gender issue.

“D” as Dusseldorf, “K” as Cologne, “F” as Frankfurt

Therefore, now, as a compromise, DIN proposes to take only the names of famous cities in Germany for 32 letters of the German alphabet – such a system for spelling dictation is successfully used in the Netherlands and France. From the cities, they chose mainly those in whose car numbers only the first letter is used. “D” as Dusseldorf, “K” as Cologne, “M” as Munich, “F” as Frankfurt. The marker for “T” could be “Tübingen”. The administration of many cities welcomes this idea. “We will only benefit from increased awareness,” says a spokesman for the relatively small southern German city of Tübingen in an interview with dpa.

Germans will change their phonetic alphabet

For “equality” it was decided to take names from the western and eastern federal states. Most cities are from North Rhine – Westphalia and Bavaria. Escet (ß) and upsilon (y) remain themselves. And the umlauts instead of the reference words “Ärger” (anger), “Ökonom” (economist) and “Übermut” (ardor) will be called by their proper names: A-umlaut, O-umlaut and U-umlaut.

Anyone interested in the reform can leave their comments and suggestions on the special online portal of the DIN Institute. The final version of the letter code will be adopted in mid-2022. Its use is optional. But the DIN commission hopes that the reform will help rethink where a word or phenomenon in German comes from.

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Author: Tatiana Vainman

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