How do you like to read a phone number?

Pander pander at
Thu Jan 1 23:32:01 CET 2009

For the thread that could be a mailing list on its own:

I've noticed a funny effect on reading out numbers in different
languages. I'm from the Netherlands and here we say 'eight-and-twenty'
(achtentwintig) for the number 28. In English, you'd say twenty-eight.
This reverse reading is also in German, but not in French. It differs
from language to language.

After spending half a year in an English speaking country, I noticed
that after I came back I had difficulties writing down numbers like this
when someone said them to me. This audio-to-written-conversion task was
difficult for my brain since it was confused whether to use the English
or Dutch reading. I experienced this not only with telephone numbers but
also when writing down numbers from laboratory test in university when
someone else would read out the measurements of the devices.

However, paying in a shop when someone would read out the price of
something is not a problem at all. I asked more people that stayed
abroad for a longer period of time where a language is spoken that also
interchanges the reading of the numbers, if they had the same challenges
and some did.

So when someone says to me, my (eight digit) telephone number is
twenty-eight thirty-four ninety-seven fifty-four, for me, this is not
brain friendly and usually I asked them to read it out like two eight,
etcetera. However, when I have to remember a short number of four
digits, like a postcode, e.g. twenty-four ninety-five, I have no
problem, because this is mapped into the money domain, just like a price
of something. The "tell sell" doctrine. ;)

Do some of you have the same experience?

I would like to suggest not to use this in reading out telephone
numbers, even though this might be your national way of writing/saying
these things. Usually there is not a sound information ergonomic reason
behind it. More the history of how the numbers grew larger in a certain

The brain is perfectly capable of remembering longer groups of digits.
Take for example

  2314 7869

this is faster and easier processed by the brain than

  23 14 78 69



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