People phonetically spell their name by associating each letter of their name with a word. For instance, phonetically spelling the name, “Sam,” is S for Sierra, A for Alfa and M for Mike. Phonetically spelling names helps people understand how to pronounce names better.
The phonetic spelling of the name “Sam” above uses the U.S. armed services’ phonetic alphabet. Although one can use any word or name to spell their name phonetically, the military's phonetic alphabet is common. The military didn’t always use these exact words to spell phonetically. Prior to 1956, they had a different alphabet.
Just as there are 26 letters in the English alphabet, there are 26 words in the phonetic alphabet. Each letter has its own unique word to emphasize the letter. Pairing the letters with specific words helps communication flow easier because both parties know exactly what letter the speaker is referring to during the conversation.
People find it difficult to spell phonetically because they are familiar with spelling their name with only letters. Even though it is a challenge, it comes in handy when talking over the phone. People who visualize the letters while spelling phonetically have an easier time when trying to spell words. With a little practice and visualization, spelling phonetically becomes second nature, just like spelling with letters.