How to Learn and Use Morse Code: 10 Steps
Most people have heard of Morse code but don’t really know what it is or how it is used.
Morse code is a really cool form of communication that had a major impact on history and can still be a valuable skill to learn today.
How Hard is to Learn Morse Code?
Learning how to read, write, and use Morse code is not nearly as hard as you may think.
Using the steps outlined below will help you learn the Morse code alphabet quickly and get on your way to becoming fluent in the code.
Let’s look at exactly what this code is, why it is important, and the easiest ways to learn it.
Table of Contents
- What is Morse Code?
- History of Morse Code
- Why Learn Morse Code?
- How to Learn Morse Code
Other awesome Morse code guides you may enjoy!
What is Morse Code?
Morse code is a coded communication system using dots, dashes, and spaces to represent letters, numbers, and punctuation symbols.
It can be communicated using varying lengths of light or sound signals.
A shorter signal is used for the dot and a longer one for the dash.
The value of this system comes from the fact it can be communicated in so many different ways.
Some of the more common ways include using flashing lights and auditory radio signals. Check out this guide on using light for Morse code.
While this communication method is rarely used today, it can still be useful and fun to learn.
History of Morse Code
Learning the history of Morse code can aid in the learning process by helping you understand it better and gain an appreciation for it.
Morse code was originally invented by Samuel F.B. Morse in the 1830s to be used with the telegraph.
Morse’s business partner Alfred Lewis Vail played a large role in helping upgrade this first version of Morse code.
After a few tweaks and changes by other nations, the International Morse Code was created in 1865.
This version helped correct some issues with the code so it could be used internationally.
The use of this Morse code started to really get popular in the 1890s.
The international distress signal SOS was adopted in the early 1900s and was chosen based on the fact that it was easy to recognize in Morse Code.
The code was used widely in major wars such as WWII, the Korean, and Vietnam.
It was also a major help for ships with communication and safety clear into the 1990s.
Today it is mostly just used by amateur radio operators as a hobby or for emergency preparedness.
In 1858, after many failed attempts, a large copper telegraph cable was successfully stretched 2,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean.
This first transatlantic cable allowed U.S President James Buchanan and Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom to communicate briefly. However, this cable quickly broke and had to be later replaced by more sturdy ones.
Why Learn Morse Code?
In the age of texting and the internet, why would you ever need to learn Morse code?
The primary reason you would want to learn Morse code today is for emergency communication. It was created for communication and still has much value as a survival tool and can help when you cannot verbally communicate clear words.
As mentioned before, you can communicate this code over the radio by tapping on something or flashing a signal.
In fact, a US prisoner of war in Vietnam once communicated he was being tortured by blinking the word "torture" in Morse code during a televised interview.
This helped the United States realize their soldiers were not being treated as properly as the Vietnamese claimed.
While this is just one extreme example, other more fun uses could include sending coded messages to friends in class or co-workers in a meeting.
How to Learn Morse Code
Just like any other valuable skill, learning Morse code will take some time, but these steps are exactly what you need.
Following these steps is the easiest way to learn Morse code as you will easily learn the basics and quickly start having fun with it.
Here are the ten steps to learn Morse code!
1. Learn the Basic Signals
There are two main signals used with the code: dots and dashes.
The dots are represented with periods, while the dashes are symbolized with hyphens.
When these signals are written, they are written at the same height on the line, where a hyphen is usually put.
There is a representation of dots and dashes for every letter in the alphabet, as well as some numbers and punctuation.
2. Study The Alphabet
When learning the Morse alphabet, one simple trick to make it easier is to use catchy phrases to help you remember things.
For example, the letter “E” is simply one dot in Morse code, so you could remember this letter with a phrase like “E is easy.” Also, if you look at the letter “T,” you could remember the phrase “cross your t,” to remember it is one dash in Morse code.
Google has an awesome Morse code training program that will help you get started in this way.
This program will teach you each of the letters one by one and give you ideas on remembering them.
If you are on a phone, you may need to download the Gboard app to access the Morse code keyboard.
Once you have gotten the letters down, you can move to the available numbers, punctuation, and special characters.
3. Morse Code Timing Rules
Knowing the timing rules is critical for receiving and sending messages in Morse code.
There are five easy Morse code rules to remember when transmitting dots and dashes:
- The length of a dot is 1 unit of time.
- The length of a dash is 3 units of time.
- The space between the dots and dashes in the same letter is 1 unit of time.
- The space between letters is 3 units of time.
- The space between words is 7 units of time.
4. Practice Speaking It
You can speak Morse code, and the pronunciation rules are pretty simple.
The dot is pronounced like the letter "d"or written "di" unless it is the last dot in the character, then it is "dit."
EXAMPLE: The letter "H" is four dots, so it is written "di-di-di-dit."
Then a dash is pronounced and written "dah."
Speaking it is probably the least common way to communicate morse code, but it is an option.
5. Start Spelling Easy Words
You can use the google morse code program just mentioned, or write Morse code starting with simple words.
If you actually write the dots and dashes to spell simple words, it may help you learn faster.
When you do this, you translate it into your brain and repeat the action with your hand.
You can also challenge yourself by not just writing signals but also spelling them all the way out.
For example, for the letter "R," you can write "di-dah-dit" along with the actual dots and dashes.
6. Listen To Morse Code
Listening to Morse code will be critical in helping you get your dot and dash timing down.
While it is not too difficult, this can help you not go too fast but keep a proper and steady pace.
This will be more useful if you plan on ever using Morse code over the radio.
It can also be a great way to try and challenge yourself once you have gotten a decent understanding of the language.
You can slow down or speed up Morse code recordings to see how fast you can accurately translate a coded message.
This video will let you hear Morse code while learning some letter tracing tricks to remember each letter's translation.
7. Practice On Your Phone
Instead of hopping on mobile games, you could use some of your free time to practice morse code on an app.
There a quite a few good apps that can help you learn it in a way that isn't super boring.
You can also download the app Gboard on IOS or Android to type messages on your phone.
It will only allow you to type the dots and dashes while converting them into your desired letter.
This will help you learn fast, especially if you text a lot. It will take a lot longer to type up a message, but it is a more entertaining way to learn Morse code.
8. Take A Morse Code Course Or Class
If you are like me, you may need some more structured learning to get past the basics of a subject.
A course or a class on Morse code may be just the thing you need to push yourself to the next level of fluency in the code.
You can find audio classes online and may even still be able to find a local amateur radio group in your area.
Joining Morse code groups on Facebook or Reddit may also be a great resource for finding classes and learning in general.
9. Learn All The Ways To Use Morse Code
Part of the beauty of Morse code is that it can be communicated in many different ways.
The code can be sent by sound, using light, tapping, and even by blinking.
For example, to switch your learning up and keep things fresh you could start learning to blink SOS in Morse code.
Learning how to send Morse signals with a flashlight could also be a fun activity with some friends.
You never know which method of sending the code may come in handy one day.
10. Invite Someone To Learn With You
Part of the fun of knowing a code is having someone else who knows it with whom you can communicate.
Morse code is pretty easy to learn but just hard enough that not a ton of people know it.
Not only can it allow you to send coded messages and signals, but this neat skill may come in handy during an emergency.
So if you really want to learn, invite some friends or family to learn with you.
Maybe you could start by learning how to say "I love you" in Morse code!
When you learn and use it together, it becomes more fun, and you are more likely to remember and keep using it.