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Zulu ( isiZulu )

Zulu is a Southern Bantu language spoken by about 27.7 million people, mainly in South Africa. In South Africa there are about 11.6 million native speakers of Zulu, and another 15.7 million people speak it as a second language. It is spoken mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, and also in Mpumalanga, Free State, Gauteng and Eastern Cape provinces. There are also about 328,000 Zulu speakers in Lesotho, 108,000 in Eswatini, 37,500 in Malawi, 4,600 in Botswana and 3,000 in Mozambique.

Zulu at a glance

Zulu is one of the national languages of South Africa, and a statutory provincial language in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces. It taught in schools, and used since the 1980s on television, radio and in newspapers. The first full-length feature film in Zulu was released in 2005.

Written Zulu

During the early 19th century Christian missionaries, including J W Colenso, S B Stone, H Callaway and Lewis Grant devised a way to write Zulu. The first Zulu Christian booklet Incwadi Yokuqala Yabafundayo was written by Newton Adams, George Newton and Aldin Grout between 1837-8 and explained the spelling of Zulu words and the history of the Old Testament. The first Zulu version of the Bible was produced between 1845-1883, and the first Zulu grammar book was publish in 1850 by the Norwegian missionary Hans Schreuder. The first novel in Zulu, Insila kaShaka , was published by John Dube in 1930

Zulu alphabet and pronunciation

Download an alphabet chart for Zulu (Excel)

Corrections to Zulu pronunciation by Michael Peter Füstumum

Sample text in Zulu

Bonke abantu bazalwa bekhululekile belingana ngesithunzi nangamalungelo. Bahlanganiswe wumcabango nangunembeza futhi kufanele baphathane ngomoya wobunye.

A recording of this text by Cynthia Nozwelo


All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Sample videos in Zulu

See more videos like this on Wikitongues

Information about the Zulu language

Zulu language lessons

Zulu phrases

Recordings of Zulu sounds

Online Zulu dictionaries

Bantu languages

Basaa , Bemba , Bukusu , Bulu , Chichewa , Chokwe , Comorian , Digo , Duala , Eton , Ewondo , Fang , Ganda/Luganda , Gogo , Gusii , Gwere , Haya , Herero , Ikizu , Jita , Kamba , Kiga , Kikuyu , Kimbundu , Kinyarwanda , Kirundi , Kisi , Kongo , Konjo , Kuria , Lambya , Lingala , Loma , Lozi , Luchazi , Luvale , Makonde , Makhuwa , Mandekan , Maore , Masaaba , Mbunda , Mende , Mushungulu , Mwani , Nande , Nkore , Northern Ndebele (South Africa) , Northern Ndebele (Zimbabwe) , Northern Sotho , Nyamwezi , Nyakyusa , Nyemba , Nyole , Nyungwe , OshiWambo , Punu , Ronga , Sena , Shona , Soga , Songe , Southern Ndebele , Southern Sotho , Sukuma , Swahili , Swati , Tonga , Tshiluba , Tsonga , Tswa , Tswana , Tumbuka , Umbundu , Venda , Xhosa , Yao , Zigula , Zinza , Zulu

Languages written with the Latin alphabet

Page last modified: 17.11.22

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writing a letter in zulu

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Zulu Alphabet

If you're trying to learn the Zulu Alphabet which is also called isiZulu, check our courses about pronunciation, and sound of all letters ... to help you with your Zulu grammar . Try to concentrate on the lesson and memorize the sounds. Also don't forget to check the rest of our other lessons listed on Learn Zulu . Enjoy the rest of the lesson!

Learning the Zulu alphabet is very important because its structure is used in every day conversation. Without it, you will not be able to say words properly even if you know how to write those words. The better you pronounce a letter in a word, the more understood you will be in speaking the Zulu language.

Below is a table showing the Zulu alphabet and how it is pronounced in English, and finally examples of how those letters would sound if you place them in a word.

The Zulu clicks:

Zulu Pronunciation

You saw how a letter is written and might be pronounced, but there is nothing better than hearing the sound of the letters in a video or audio. Below you will be able to hear how the 3 Zulu clicks sound like and how some letters above are pronounced, just press the play button:

The alphabet and its pronunciation have a very important role in Zulu. Once you're done with the isiZulu alphabet, you might want to check the rest of our Zulu lessons here: Learn Zulu . Don't forget to bookmark this page.

The links above are only a small sample of our lessons, please open the left side menu to see all links.

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Zulu language

Zulu (isiZulu) is a southern Bantoid language spoken in the KwaZulu-Natal Province in South Africa (formerly called Zululand). The Zulu people are thought to have migrated to this area along the east coast of Africa and through central Africa before the 16th century. When they came into contact with Khoisan -speaking people, the Zulus adopted some of the vocabulary, and the click consonants of the Khoisan languages. The first grammar of Zulu was published In 1859.

Zulu is closely related to Xhosa , Swati , and Ndebele . The three are mutually intelligible but are considered to be separate languages for political and cultural reasons. In fact, Zulu and Xhosa are similar enough linguistically to be considered dialects of one language, but the Zulu and Xhosa people consider themselves to be different people who speak different languages.


Zulu, is one of the 11 official languages of the Republic of South Africa where it is spoken by 11.7 6 million speakers as a first language and by an estimated 15.7 million speakers as a second language. Zulu is also spoken in Swaziland , Botswana, Lesotho , Malawi , and Mozambique . The population total for all countries is estimated at 27.7 million people ( Ethnologue ). Since Zulu is easily understood by speakers of Xhosa, Swati and Ndebele it is used as a lingua franca from Natal to Zimbabwe , often in its pidginized form called Fanagalo , a trade language that is widely used in towns and mining areas of South Africa.

The status of Zulu, like all other African languages in the Republic of South Africa, is complex. Zulu is used in primary schools up to the second grade and is studied as a subject in both primary and secondary schools up to the tenth grade. At the secondary level, instruction in schools serving Zulu-speaking students is in English. All education at the university level is in English or Afrikaans .

There has been a steady growth of Zulu publications since 1930. The South African Broadcasting Corporation has domestic television and radio in Zulu. A number of newspapers and magazines are published in either Zulu, or in a combination of Zulu and English.

Ethnologue identifies two dialects of Zulu: Lala and Qwabe.

Sound system

The phonology of Zulu is characterized by a simple vowel inventory and a complex system of consonants. Most syllables end in a vowel, and there are no consonant clusters.

There are five vowel phonemes, i.e., sounds that distinguish word meaning. Vowels can be either short or long. Although vowel length distinguishes word meaning, length is not represented in writing, except for â and ä .

Zulu has a complex system of consonants, including some uncommon ones.

1. Clicks Clicks are stops produced with two points of contact in the mouth: one forward and one in the back. The pocket of air produced by the resulting enclosure is rarefied by the sucking action of the tongue. Release of the forward closure results in a pop-like sound. There are five places of articulation at which click consonants occur. In the International Phonetic Alphabet, clicks are represented by placing the assigned symbol for the place of click articulation to the left of a symbol for a non-click sound at the same place of articulation.

Zulu has the following click consonants which can be modified in a variety of ways, such as aspirated, breathy-voiced or nasalized .

2. Implosive consonants Implosive consonants are produced by inhaling rather than exhaling the air.

3. Breathy-voiced consonants Breathy-voiced consonants are produced when the vocal cords vibrate, as they do in normal voicing, but are held further apart, so that a volume of air escapes between them. This produces an audible noise. They are marked with a raised /ʱ/.

4. Ejective Ejective consonants are pronounced with simultaneous closure of the glottis, raising air pressure in the mouth, so that when the sound is released, there is a noticeable burst of air accompanying the release. They are marked with an apostrophe /’/.

Below is a table of Xhosa consonants. The red letters are orthographic representations of the sounds. The inventory is taken from Wikipedia .

Zulu has two tones: high and low.

Zulu is an agglutinative language, i.e., grammatical functions are expressed by adding prefixes and suffixes to stems.

Zulu verbs are highly inflected. Verbs consist of a root plus prefixes and suffixes that represent different verbal categories such as subject and object agreement, tense, causation, reciprocity, negation, and aspect. They appear in fixed order, much like in Xhosa.

The normal word order in Zulu is Verb-Object (the subject is part of the verb compound). Adjectives, possessive pronouns and demonstratives come after the noun they modify.

Zulu, Xhosa, Ndelebele and Swati share most of the basic vocabulary and grammar. Like other Southern Bantu languages, Zulu has borrowed words from the Khoisan languages, and from English and Afrikaans. Compare these equivalents of ‘What’s your name?’ in these four languages:

Below are a few common words and phrases in Zulu.

Below are Zulu numerals 1-10.

Zulu has a Roman-based orthography which was developed by Christian missionaries in the 19th century and adapted to represent the sounds of the language. Dental clicks are represented by the letter c , alveolar clicks are indicated by q, and lateral clicks are written with the letter x . Neither vowel length, nor tones are represented in writing.

Take a look at Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Zulu.

Did You Know?

Zulu words in English


writing a letter in zulu

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Hi please help me write a letter to pay damages that a long over due. My son is 13 years and I need to ask for the family`s pardon.thanks?

Good MorningPlease kindly assist me in writing a response letter back to the groom to be. Thanking you in advanceRegards?

How to write a letter to the bride`s famility requesting permission to initiate the lobola negotiation?

Letter for ukucela (Introduction letter to inlaws prior to lobola negotiation . A breakdown of myself and what my intentions with their child.)?

I have been asked to attend the lobolo negotiations with the father of the bride. I am a whitey and have huge sense of responsibility to participa...

I have a few questions1) who response to the lobola letter?2)who sends the letter?3) why does the family of the groom during umabo get so ma?

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Results for write a letter tell you about my new... translation from English to Zulu

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From professional translators, enterprises, web pages and freely available translation repositories.

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write a letter tell you about my new school

bhala incwadi ngikutshele ngesikole sami esisha

Last Update: 2022-01-25 Usage Frequency: 1 Quality: Reference: Anonymous

letter about my new school

incwadi emayelana nesikole sami esisha

Last Update: 2022-06-07 Usage Frequency: 1 Quality: Reference: Anonymous

letter to a friend' about my new school

incwadi eya kumngane 'mayelana nesikole sami esisha

Last Update: 2021-05-05 Usage Frequency: 2 Quality: Reference: Anonymous

how to write a letter for my friend in zulu

ibhalwa kanjani incwadi yomngane wami ngesizulu

Last Update: 2022-02-07 Usage Frequency: 1 Quality: Reference: Anonymous

letter telling my friend about my new phone i want a paragraph

incwadi etshela umngani wami ngocingo lwami olusha

Last Update: 2020-02-05 Usage Frequency: 1 Quality: Reference: Anonymous

i am writing this letter to inform you about my first term in highschool

ngikubhalela le ncwadi ukuze ngithi ngiyabonga

Last Update: 2022-05-24 Usage Frequency: 1 Quality: Reference: Anonymous

hello snezwi how u going, i'm going great i am writing to you to tell you about my new school

Last Update: 2021-02-05 Usage Frequency: 1 Quality: Reference: Anonymous

my new school is fun and my school is big and l will love to see you came to my school

Last Update: 2021-03-08 Usage Frequency: 1 Quality: Reference: Anonymous

friendly letter hellow lwandlekazi. how are you doing? i'm writing this letter to tell you about my new year at school. i have lots of friends. i am also a prefect. my team went to play netball and we played very well. i'm studying very hard as you know next year is high school. miss you a lot. give my regards to your mum and dad. lots of love. cassidy

incwadi enobungane hellow lwandlekazi. uqhuba kanjani? ngibhala le ncwadi ukukutshela ngonyaka wami omusha esikoleni. nginabangane abaningi. nami ngingumuntu oqavile. iqembu lami laya ukudlala i-netball futhi sadlala kahle kakhulu. ngifunda kanzima kakhulu njengoba wazi ukuthi ngonyaka ozayo isikole samabanga aphezulu. ngikukhumbula kakhulu. mayelana nomama nobaba wakho. uthando oluningi. cassidy

Last Update: 2023-02-04 Usage Frequency: 2 Quality: Reference: Anonymous

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Zulu Letters

Let's now learn the Zulu letters . Knowing these characters will allow you to read and write commonly used expressions and words with ease.

The above letters in Zulu should allow you to read and write the following pages with much ease: popular phrases in Zulu , Zulu homepage , or Zulu Grammar . Zulu quiz and flashcard can also be found on our homepage.


Military Time Chart

The military alphabet (phonetic from alpha bravo charlie delta to zulu).

Most of us know, or at least have heard of the military alphabet in some way. We hear it being used in war and actions movies, video games, and even in comic books and novels. But most people have no idea why it is used, how or why it was formed, or why it has become one of the most effective forms of tactical radio communication – not only in the U.S. – but also across the globe.

In this post, we will discuss more regarding the military phonetic alphabet and its history, and we’ll delve into its components, purpose, and why the specific characters were chosen.

military alphabet, army alphabet, military phonetic alphabet - clear communicaton

A History of the Military Alphabet: The ICAO Phonetic Alphabet

Long before the modern military alphabet was created, the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) had created the first spelling alphabet to be internationally recognized. This was called the ITU Radiotelephonic or Phonetic Alphabet, and it was adopted by the ITU in 1927.

Several changes were made to the original version of the spelling alphabet in 1932. The new and improved version was then adopted by the International Commission of Air Navigation and was used for civil aviation purposes until the beginning of WWII. However, it remained in use by the IMO (International Maritime Organization) until 1965.

Military Letters = Code Word

Before both forces starting using the ICAO phonetic alphabet in 1956, the British and American military agencies had developed their own spelling alphabets.

The British started using the RAF alphabet while the American forces used the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet.

In 1941, in order to have a comprehensive way for communications between all military branches, the American alphabet eventually became known as Able Baker. These were the first two words for the first two letters of the alphabet, A and B, and it was utilized by all branches of the military.

Soon after in 1943, the British modified their phonetic alphabet to be nearly identical to that of the Americans’ Able Baker. The Able Baker system continued to be used by ground and aircraft personnel for civil aviation purposes. However, since many of the sounds were unique to the English language, a new version of the alphabet was developed in Latin America called the Ana Brazil alphabet.

Realizing the need for a universal alphabet, the IATA (International Air Transport Association) created a draft alphabet and presented it to the ICAO in 1947. The drafted version contained sounds the were common in Spanish, French, and English.

After further modifications were made by various approving agencies, a revised phonetic alphabet began being used in 1951.

Revised Able Baker Alphabet

The Modern Military Alphabet

Problems with the above list were soon identified.

Some words were hard to understand under poor radio communications and some words were hard to differentiate, such as Delta and Extra. Many reverted back to the original Able Baker alphabet due to these issues.

Further studies were conducted that lead to the changing of five words within the alphabet: C, M, N, X, and U. The ICAO created a recording of the new alphabet and sent it to all member states in 1955.

The modified version was initiated in 1956 by the ICAO.

In 1959, the ITU mandated the improved version be used by all military, civilian, and amateur radio operators. This version is the most familiar version of the military alphabet since it is still in use today.

Modern Military Phonetic Alphabet

As you have probably noticed, the code words have changed for certain letters over the years.

What is the reasoning for this?

Well, there are two.

First, some languages in various countries do not have the sounds needed to form the words so they can’t be transmitted clearly.

The other reason is because some of the previously used code words sounded similar to other code words that were being used. Eventually, code words were found and selected that resolved both of these issues.

Name Changes

Since the creation of the spelling alphabet, it has undergone several name changes along with character changes. The changes stem from the organization that either created, modified, or utilized the alphabet the most, and they are listed below.

Today, the NATO Alphabet is the most widely accepted and used.

Beyond the NATO Alphabet

There is more to the army alphabet then simply code words for letters. Numbers also had to be clearly communicated, regardless of the quality of the communication connection and surrounding noise pollution. To ensure that a communication that involved numbers were received and understood correctly, the pronunciations of certain numbers were modified to avoid confusion.

Number Pronunciation

The need for the nato alphabet.

When communications have to be sent, received and understood clearly, using the standard alphabet, such as A,B,C,D increased the chances of a message being misunderstood.

For example: If the message being sent was “Rally at grid DM1098”, it could easily be confused for CN1098, EN1098, and many other combinations of like-sounding letters, especially if there is a great deal of noise in the area, such as gunfire or low flying aircraft, or poor communication channels.

However, if the message was transmitted as “Rally at grid Delta-Mike-WUN-ZERO-NINER-AIT”, the chances of the message being confused or misunderstood would be reduced and help to ensure the message was received as it was intended to be received.

Created out of necessity, the military phonetic alphabet has undergone many changes over the past decades. However, it remains as one of the most used forms of voice communications across the globe – especially in various agencies where clear and concise radio and telephone communication is a must.

This internationally recognized and used spelling alphabet can be found in armed forces, civil navigation, maritime operations and law enforcement agencies in hundreds of countries.

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What is lobola in South Africa? Meaning, ceremony, letter, negotiations

Did you know lobola and lobolo mean the same thing in South Africa? Lobola ceremonies have been held in many South African communities for centuries. In the past, the approach was pretty traditional. Some things have since changed.

lobola letter

Many South African couples spend months planning the perfect lobola ceremonies. The custom was incorporated into South African law after independence. It is now governed under the Recognition of Customary Marriages, 1998 (Act 120 of 1998).

What is lobola in South Africa?

Lobolo or lobola is practised in the Swazi, Zulu, Silozi, Xhosa , Shona, Ndebele, and other South African communities. During a lobola ceremony, bridewealth or bride price is paid to the bride's family.

Meaning of lobola

Lobola means bride price . It is a milestone in which a prospective husband or the head of his family gives the head of the future wife's family property to show gratitude for being allowed to marry their daughter.

In the past, the property given was in the form of cattle or livestock. Today, many people are opting for cash.

A look at the history of lobolo shows it started in 300 BC. At the time, it was a token of appreciation given to a bride to build her home.

It also symbolised unity and harmony between two families, i.e. the groom's and the bride's. Traditionally, the token of appreciation was issued in the form of cattle , especially cows.

Lobola prices

There is no fixed lobolo price. However, each community has guidelines for how many cows or money is acceptable. Generally, the number of cows issued is considered the worth of the new bride.

In the past, different factors were considered before paying bridewealth, e.g. age and child(ren). The bride price for a "pure" woman, for instance, was higher than for a woman with a child born out of wedlock.

Today, some of the factors considered are the new bride's education level, her family's social status, and the groom's family's financial muscle. Before the bride price ceremony, negotiations are made.

lobola ceremony

Lobola negotiations

Before the dowry ceremony, families send representatives to negotiate the amount or number of cows to be given to the bride's family. The negotiation prowess of the representatives determines the final decision.

In modern-age society, people can easily access a lobola calculator online. The calculator can give you an estimate. However, the final decision lies in the conclusions made on the negotiation desk.

The end of the negotiations confirms the union of the soon-to-be bride and groom and their families. In March 2021, for example, AKA's lobola negotiations were concluded, meaning he and fiancée Nelli Tembe were officially off the market.

Lobola letter

Before negotiations begin, the groom-to-be should issue a typed or handwritten lobola letter. In the letter , the groom-to-be expresses his desire to speak to the bride-to-be’s family about joining the two families together.

The letter should be polite and genuine. It is usually presented to the girl's family by a trusted member of the groom’s family. In the past, letters would be sent through the mail.

After the woman's family receives the letter, important family members deliberate and come up with negotiation dates that best suit them. They then write a response letter to the bride’s family. The letter indicates when they would like the groom’s family members to visit.

Some response letters will tell the man's family what to bring or what to expect. However, most cultures do not go into detail. The groom-to-be can ask the bride-to-be what to expect. Usually, a percentage of the bridewealth is paid during the negotiations.

What to cook for lobola negotiations

The food to be cooked and served during dowry negotiations vary from one community to another. Usually, tasty traditional meals are prepared.

What happens at a lobola?

After the negotiations, the date for the lobola ceremony is set. In most communities, the final payment of the bride price is paid on the morning of the lobola celebration.

Once this is done, families exchange gifts in the form of hats, blankets, clothes, walking sticks, etc. During the celebrations, plenty of meat is served. Delicious traditional meals are also served.

Usually, it is the groom’s family that throws a party to welcome the new bride. The activities conducted on this special day may vary from culture to culture.

At the end of the day, most brides change into the groom’s traditional attire to symbolise acceptance in her new family. Many couples hold a white or church wedding ceremony after lobola.

Lobola dresses

The traditional attire for lobola varies from one community to another. Normally, people wear traditional outfits which are colourful and celebratory.

Today, most female lobola outfits have a touch of modernisation. Brides and their maids normally show up in elegant and fashionable outfits made of fabric with traditional prints.

Tswana traditional attire for lobola

A look into most Twana couples' lobola pictures reveals they put on their best outfits on the special day. The Tswana community is known for blue outfits. Some couples may choose other colours for the day.

Zulu lobola attire

In Zulu culture , makoti means a newlywed woman or bride. The makoti lobola attire is normally colourful. It features colourful beads.

lobola pictures

Some men also prefer to wear traditional Zulu outfits. Others choose to have African-themed modern outfits.

What does paying lobola mean?

In most South African communities , paying lobola means one is officially off the market. It shows a man has committed himself to a woman.

Does lobola mean you are married?

Lobola itself is not marriage. However, it is a part of the process of getting married under customary law.

Who takes lobola money?

The woman's family receives lobola money in respect of custom.

Lobola ceremonies in present-day South Africa are colourful events. During these ceremonies, the groom's family gives the bride's family money or cattle to appreciate them for giving him a wife.

READ ALSO: Top 20 interesting facts about South Africa you ought to know | Details for travellers recently published interesting facts about South Africa. The country is one of the richest nations in the world in terms of cultural and natural diversity.

Over the years, South Africa has become a favourite tourist destination for travellers from across the globe. People visit to witness its diverse culture, rich history, and natural landscapes.

Source: Briefly News

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ZULU Love Letters Beaded

Zulu Love Letters in years gone by were traditional African beaded messages given by Zulu maidens to their lovers as symbols of their love and affection, each bead color conveyed a different message. In the modern era, Zulu love letters are now often made with images of importance to create love, hope, and awareness, eg Zulu love letters with a beaded Rhino as a symbol to create awareness for these endangered animals....the actual bead color is now of less importance. All our Zulu love letters are made by highly skilled African beadwork women from the rural areas of South Africa.

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Zulu Love Letter Black

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Zulu Love Letter Elephant

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Zulu Time Zone – Z Time Zone (Military Time)

Also known as: z – Zulu Time, Zulu

Time zone map of Z

Zulu Time Zone (Z) has no offset from Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). This time zone is a military time zone.

See full time zone map

Email Time Zone Indicator: +0000

An email sent from someone in the Zulu Time Zone (Z) time zone will have the time zone listed as "+0000" in the headers of the email. (However, "+0000" does not have to be in Zulu Time Zone, as other time zones could have the same UTC offset).

Where and When is Z Observed?

Zulu Time Zone is often used in aviation and the military as another name for UTC +0. Zulu Time Zone is also commonly used at sea between longitudes 7.5° West and 7.5° East.

The letter Z may be used as a suffix to denote a time being in the Zulu Time Zone, such as 08:00Z or 0800Z. This is spoken as "zero eight hundred Zulu".

Some places with the same time as Zulu Time Zone

Only showing up to 16 cities, others may also be observing Zulu Time Zone.

Other Time Zones in UTC +0

Some time zones exist that have the same offset as Z, but can be found under a different name:

List of Military Call Letters and Phonetic Alphabet

From alpha to zulu, here is the full list of military call letters.

 LiveAbout / Ran Zheng

Stew Smith, CSCS, is a Veteran Navy SEAL Officer, freelance writer, and author with expertise in the U.S. military, military fitness, and its traditions.

NATO and the U.S. military use the same phonetic alphabet, and it is widely accepted and used in international radio communications on the sea, air, or land. 

The International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet (IRSA) is its proper name, and it was created by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to help decipher similar sounding letters and numbers between different countries and organizations.

Phonetic Alphabet in the Military

The phonetic alphabet is a list of words used to identify letters in a message transmitted by radio, telephone, and encrypted messages. The phonetic alphabet can also be signaled with flags, lights, and Morse Code.

When on the radio, spoken words from an approved list are substituted for letters. For example, the word " Army " would be "Alfa Romeo Mike Yankee" when spelled in the phonetic alphabet. This practice helps to prevent confusion between similar sounding letters, such as "m" and "n," and to clarify signals communications that may be garbled during transmission.

In military missions, the use of the phonetic alphabet has been used to communicate with the chain of command as to what phase of the mission has been successfully performed. For instance, if a SEAL Team has arrived on the beach and were undetected to continue the mission, they may have designated that as the first "waypoint" and use the code word "Alpha." It will tell the upper-level chain of command where they are and if they are on schedule.

An early version of the phonetic alphabet appears in the 1913 edition of The Navy Bluejackets’ Manual. Found in the Signals section, it was paired with the Alphabetical Code Flags defined in the International Code. Both the meanings of the flags (the letter which they represent) and their names (which make up the phonetic alphabet) were selected by international agreement. Later editions included the Morse code signal as well.

Military Phonetic Alphabet Over Time

Flags and pennants used by navy and sailing vessels worldwide.

The Navy and other seafaring vessels use the visual symbol on the mast of the ship/boats to convey the status of the ship and crew. From emergencies to dredging operations and other occupations being accomplished by the boat and crew, flags are a way of communicating on the open waterways. As seen in the picture, all flags represent the phonetic alphabet and have meanings different than the above chart.

The use of alpha-phonetic symbols is to decrease radio traffic and to communicate status or request assistance in code that can be understood internationally. The more tactical use of alpha-phonetics can be used similarly as code words to mission status, encrypted, and decrease open radio traffic with a line of sight communications with flags and lights.

Here are some common military uses of the phonetic alphabet used in both official military communications as well as the informal:

Watch Now: 7 Tips for Surviving Military Boot Camp

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NATO Phonetic Alphabet

The NATO phonetic alphabet is a Spelling Alphabet , a set of words used instead of letters in oral communication (i.e. over the phone or military radio). Each word ("code word") stands for its initial lette r (alphabetical "symbol"). The 26 code words in the NATO phonetic alphabet are assigned to the 26 letters of the English alphabet in alphabetical order as follows:

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How to Write a Letter in Hassle-Free Steps (With Sample)

letter in printer

Knowing how to write a letter, whether business or personal, is a skill that everyone needs. Sometimes, these letters will be short, informal emails. Other times, they'll be highly polished for corporate correspondence. Learn how to write a letter step-by-step, and review a printable sample letter. Then, explore best practices for writing both formal and informal letters.

Writing a Letter: Step-by-Step

Let's tackle how to write a letter in proper order, from top to bottom. These steps are directed toward a formal letter, though recommended adjustments for informal letters are also included.

For a few more pointers, check out tips on business communication letter writing .

Sample Letter to a Company

Keeping the above formula in mind, the sample letter below illustrates each section of a letter written to a company. Below the sample text, you will find a fully editable PDF that you can use as a template for drafting your own letter.

Abigail LeJeune Branding Ambassadors, Inc. 4568 Highway One Makeup, CA 12709 September 14, 2019 Mr. David Henry Chief Marketing Officer Consulate of Branding 328 Plainway Road San Samon, CA 12808 Dear Mr. Henry: This past weekend, I met one of your staff members, Cody Abercorn. He was manning your company's booth at the Cincinnati Trade Show. Since our booths were adjacent to one another, we had the opportunity to get to know each other rather well. I must say, his professionalism and welcoming attitude toward your visitors was highly encouraging. Visitors were welcomed into your company's booth as if they were entering his home for a Friday evening dinner party. Every guest became a fast friend. Beyond that, they left the booth highly informed on your product line. How often do we receive congratulatory letters, in a sea full of complaint letters? I wanted to make sure you began your week with a highly complimentary letter. I would say you spend a lot of time training your staff and Cody has certainly reaped those rewards. As President and CEO of my own marketing firm, Branding Ambassadors, I wonder if you might consider teaming Cody up with us for a social media marketing campaign? Perhaps we can partner up on a short campaign where we sponsor one another in two to three posts. With over 1.5 million followers, I believe we can join together and support each other's endeavors very effectively. What do you say? Will we take over the Internet and create a marketing movement that is mutually beneficial to our growing companies? Thank you for your time! Sincerely, [Signature here] Abigail LeJeune President and CEO

Printable Sample Letter Template

The template below is provided as a resource to help you format your own letter. You can save or print it for future reference. You can even edit the document once you open it, so you can customize it for your needs.

sample letter template

Example how write letter

Format considerations for different types of letters.

Letters can be either informal or formal. Both types are similar in terms of format, but there are some differences. Informal or personal letters may come in the form of email , but the basic premise remains the same.

Informal/Personal Letter Best Practices

It is important to know how to write a letter of a personal nature. Personal letters are not as formal as business letters and can be handwritten or typed. The tone can be conversational, even using a bit of slang or colloquial terminology.

If you are sending a hand-written letter or an email, the mailing addresses don't have to be included.

informal letter format infographic

Informal letter format

Formal letter best practices.

Formal letters follow a set pattern, as you can see in the example above. One type of formal letter that will be an important part of most people's lives is the cover letter . In a cover letter, as with all business letters, you'll need to use a standard formal letter format.

Follow a similar structure with all business letters and other formal letters, adapting as needed based on the purpose for which you are writing. If you're sending a formal letter in the body of an email, the addresses aren't necessary.

formal letter format

Formal letter format

General writing tips.

Now that you know the steps involved in writing a letter and have had an opportunity to review best practices for both formal and informal letters, you're just about ready to write a letter of your own. With the general steps listed above in mind, consider a few key tips:

Written Communication Skills

Now that you know the basics of letter writing, explore examples of letters and what to include in them for more advice and samples of different styles of letters. Then, discover what P.S. stands for at the end of a letter and how to use it.

Written communication is an important skill to list on a resume. More than that, knowing how to write a letter is an important skill that you will use throughout your life, for both personal and professional reasons. Learn more about what's involved in effective written communication .


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    Knowing how to write a letter is an important task but sometimes a stressful one. Use these helpful tips and examples to make writing your next one a breeze.