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Names - Spelling Aloud 1 - Exercises - Listening

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The TP Podcast. Special Episodes. Spelling aloud names and numbers

This is only intended as a spelling exercise. I'll say names and numbers and also offer some useful language around that issue.

Listen! Listen to the text you can read below - TP Podcast - Special Episodes: Spelling Your Name Out Loud external link (October 2008)

Spelling Names Aloud

What's your name? in English means two things: Tell me your name, or Tell me your name and your family name, as in John Smith, or Margaret Simpson. This means that when somebody asks you your name you need to assess the situation: do they need just your name, your given name, your personal name? Or are they asking for your complete name? For instance, iIf a police officer asks you "What's your name?" you should NOT answer with just your given name, "John" or "Margaret"! When the situation is not clear, the best option is to say your complete name, so that the person making the question can pick whatever it is he or she needs!

In Spain people use two family names (also, US second names, UK surnames), our father's family name and then our mother's. Then, it is common that people's given name has several words, and that people actually use a completely different first name in their daily life. A woman called María Jesús is often called Chus. And María de los Dolores turns out to be Lola! María del Carmen is sometimes Carmen, MariCarmen, or Mamen. Common masculine names are: Francisco, which is Paco, and José, which is Pepe! Confusing, isn't it? More: Carmen Irene Esther could be any of the three, or none! Luis Enrique could be Quique (or Enrique) or Luis. So if you see that a Spanish person's ID card says one name and the person is telling you a different name, relax, they're probab ly not lying!

Many Spanish last names, end in "-ez", which means "child of", as in González = child of Gonzalo's, or Fernández = child of Fernando's. It's a very old thing, from Medieval times! Then it is common that many Spanish second names are introduced by the particle "de" (of, belonging to), which originally referred to women belonging to a man via marriage. (If your mum's name was Irene López Garrido, and she had married Tomás Sastre Pons, then she would be called Irene López de Sastre, even though her ID would record her original family names). Then, like in numerous other cultures, a lot of last names are names of occupations (Sastre = Tailor, Panadero = Bread maker, Guerrero = Warrior), or personal traits (Moreno = tanned, Delgado = thin).

In the USA people tend to have a first name (Charles - Charlie), a middle name - which is not a surname, but a second first name! and which is usually mentioned as an initial, as in Catherine Z. Jones. (And what does that letter stand for? Who knows? Do you?) Finally, their second name is just the father's family name.

Let's review the pronunciation of these letters: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z ("zed" in Europe and in US American "zee").

Spanish diacrital signs: with vowels, we only use the acute accent ´, which is like a tiny forward slash over the vowel. Then we've got a consonant, "ñ" (eñe), which takes what in English is known as a tilde ˜ (not Spanish tilde! In Spanish, "tilde" means 'accent' not the wiggly line you write over an N to indicate an "ñ").

How to Succeed in Spelling Your Name Aloud

When we spell aloud, we need to walk in the listener's shoes (empathy!), this is, we need to be aware of the listener. Avoid spelling too slowly. Sometimes it's very confusing! The best option is to use a not-so-slow rhythm and repeat as many times as necessary. Most importantly, before and after your actual spelling, you should say the complete word. And before all that, you should always announce what you are going to do. Here is the general formula you should adapt to your name:

You may be asked: What's your name? Could you please tell me your name? Would you be so kind as to tell me your name? Can you spell your name for me, please? Could I possibly have your name? ...

You can answer: Certainly. Sure. No problem. Of course. And then: My name is ... (say complete name). That's ... (say number of words). I'm going to spell the first word. That's my personal name. ... (Say the complete word). ... - ... - ... (Spell it). ... (Repeat the complete word). The second word is ... (say the complete word). That's my family name. Let me spell it. ... - ... - ... (Spell it). ... (Repeat the complete word). ... (Finish by repeating the complete sequence.)

My name is María Patricia Rodríguez Sarmiento. That's 4 words. The first two are my personal name. The first one is María. M-A-R-I-A. María. It's got an accent on the "i", in case you can add that. The second one is the one I actually use: Patricia. That's P-A-T-R-I-C-I-A. Patricia. My family names are: Rodríguez Sarmiento. The first one, Rodríguez, is R-O-D-R-I-G-U-E-Z. Let me say it again: R-O-D-R-I-G-U-E-Z. There's an accent on the "i" too. Rodríguez. Then Sarmiento is S-A-R-M-I-E-N-T-O. Again: S-A-R-M-I-E-N-T-O. So my complete name is María Patricia Rodríguez Sarmiento.

IMPORTANT: Be brief and informative - Don't give too many explanations as you spell your name. You can do that later. But do announce what you are going to do, briefly. In some situations, you might want to skip telling them about the accents.


My (complete) name is... María del Mar González Sanabria. That's 5 words. Let me spell the first, María. That's M-A-R-I-A, and the I takes an accent (a slanted line on top!). The second word is a particle, it's DEL, D-E-L. The third word is MAR, that's MAR, M-A-R. The next word is the beginning of my last name! González. That's G-O-N-Z-A-L-E-Z. The A has an accent. Then the last word is SANABRIA, S-A-N-A-B-R-I-A. So let me say it all again: María - del Mar - González - Sanabria. Did you get it?

A Spelling Method: Phonetic Alphabets

Some people use complete words to name one letter. In Spain for instance, we say "B de Barcelona", which means "B as in Barcelona" or "B like in Barcelona" or "B for Barcelona". But in English people tend to say the word without mentioning the letter, like this: "BARBARA - Barcelona Argentina Rome...". So they say "Barcelona" and you need to write down just the "B".

There are many phonetic alphabets to do this, but people consistently improvise! Depending on the context, we tend to use words that can be easily understood by our listener, depending on the listener's origin, what we share, where we are... For instance, if I'm a Spaniard spelling for a Chinese person, I'll try to use international well-known English words. Have a look at the Talking People Phonetic Alphabet proposal external link on our TP Forums. We drafted it trying to find easily understandable words in English, in international English!

If you're spelling for someone who speaks English fluently, you could use a wider range: colors, the seasons, the days of the week, animals, food... in any case, words that I know I pronounce correctly! If I'm not sure, I should look for longer words, that cannot be as easily mistaken as monosyllabic words (but there you have "OK", a really short word which is always understood by the listener!).

Listen to some spelling using the NATO phonetic alphabet external link A for Alpha... etc Then, type in your name and listen to the spelling by clicking on "Submit". Learn it by heart!
So if your name is Edward, you should spell it out loud like this: Echo Delta Whiskey Alpha Romeo Delta


Now you should practice spelling. Spell all the time for a while! You can use the names of the members of the 2008 Spanish government, your friends' names, the names of your favorite writers... As you can see below, with the members of the Spanish government in 2007, they decided not to write their second family name, probably to be more international, because most countries use just one family name.

Mª Teresa Fernández de la Vega
Carme Chacón
Magdalena Álvarez
Mercedes Cabrera
Elena Espinosa
Elena Salgado
Beatriz Corredor
Cristina Garmendia
Bibiana Aído

Pedro Solbes
Miguel Ángel Moratinos
Mariano Fernández Bermejo
Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba
Celestino Corbacho
Miguel Sebastián
César Antonio Molina
Bernat Soria

More names...
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, aka (also known as) Goya
Rosalía de Castro
Agustín García Calvo
Arantxa Sánchez Vicario
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