Archive for the ‘English for ATCs’ Category

Advice about improving your Aviation English and passing an ICAO English test from Aviation English Asia.

Article written by Michael James Egerton

In this article we are going to look at past tenses, and how they can be used to indicate the sequence of events.  We will then look at an example of how they can be used to report an aviation incident, followed by some Aviation English exercises. Using past tenses correctly (and intelligibly so that people understand what you mean) is very important when working with checklists and when reporting information.  You will also find this exercise to be very useful if you have to report information about a video or recording as part of an ICAO English test.

Learn English as it is used in an aviation context

Learn English as it is used in an aviation context

Take a look at the following sentences:

  1. The captain told him to pull out the quick reference handbook and run the checklist.
  2. The aircraft had just leveled off at its cruise altitude of 35,000 ft. when the master caution lit up.
  3. The first officer did so and the flight proceeded uneventfully.
  4. The first officer canceled the warning, scanned the overhead panel, and said, “We have a bleed failure.”

Emergency and abnormal situations such as these occur onboard aircraft every day. They range from life- threatening and highly time-critical to mundane and relatively trivial. Sometimes these situations can be anticipated so pilots have checklists to help them.

Aviation English Exercise 1:

  • What tenses are used in each of the sentences?
  • What is the correct order of the sentences?
  • What clues are in each sentence to help you find the correct order?
  • What other “time phrases” are used?

Structure

There are two tenses used in the sentences above – past simple and past perfect. Here is a description of the function of each:

Past simple is used to talk about

  • actions that are complete in the past – eg The first officer cancelled the warning
  • a specific time in the past (possibly at the same time as another event) – eg The aircraft was at 35,00 ft when the master caution lit up.
  • a sequence of events – eg He canceled the warning, scanned the overhead panel, and said, “We have a bleed failure.”

Past perfect is used to talk about

  • completed action in the earlier past – eg The aircraft had just levelled off at its cruise altitude of 35,000 ft. when the master caution lit up.
  • duration before something in the past

Aviation English Exercise 2:

Think about the procedures you would follow if there was a fire on board the aircraft.  Then consider how such an event could be reported.  Look at the following sentences and reorganise them into the correct order.  The correct answers will be posted on our Facebook Page Discussion Forum.

  1. Thick, black smoke billowed everywhere.
  2. Despite the reduced visibility in the cockpit and the loss of the displays and systems, the crew completed a successful emergency landing and all passengers were evacuated without injury.
  3. The long flight had been uneventful until the aircraft was 240 miles from its destination—then everything seemed to go wrong at once.
  4. Electrical systems began to fail and the glass cockpit displays flickered off and on randomly for over two minutes before going completely black.
  5. A small fire in the front galley could not be extinguished.

Aviation English Vocabulary

Make sure you are familiar with the following words:

billowed  visibility   evacuated   uneventful   flickered   extinguished

You should be able to guess their meaning from context, but if not you can also find their synonyms on the Facebook Page Discussion Forum.

What to do next

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.com. We can help you improve your English whether you are an experienced pilot, a cadet entry pilot, a controller, aerospace engineer or flight attendant, with custom courses designed specifically for your needs. If you haven’t already please join the Aviation English mailing list for instant access to free demonstration units of the ICAO Aviation English Online course, special offers and details of courses in your area.

Of course, feel free to leave a comment or even a suggestion for a future article. We value all of your feedback.

Advice about improving your English and passing an ICAO English test from Aviation English Asia.

Article written/adapted by Michael Egerton

As a pilot or controller, you are no doubt expecting a number of routine exchanges as part of your ICAO English test, but have you considered how you would respond if an unusual situation occurs?  They don’t get more unusual than this incident which occurred in August 2010.  Read the article and then answer the questions.

Crocodile causes panic among passengers and crew

It has been reported that a small airplane crashed in the Democratic Republic of Congo on 24th August 2010, killing all but one of the passengers.  The cause of the accident was an escaped crocodile which created panic among the passengers and crew.

The propeller driven plane was approaching its destination when a crocodile hidden in the smuggler’s hand luggage escaped and caused distress. Passengers stampeded to one side of the tiny plane, causing it to be thrown off-balance.

The original cause of the crash was originally thought to be a lack of fuel but the anonymous sole survivor has revealed their story to the magazine Jeune Afrique.  The crocodile also survived the crash, but was later killed with a machete by authorities.

The reptile was being smuggled by a passenger who had plans to sell it illegally. The sole survivor told authorities that the crocodile escaped as the plane was on its final approach. “The terrified flight attendant hurried towards the cockpit, followed by the passengers.”

The pilots, 62-year-old Belgian Danny Philemotte, who was also owner of the tiny airline, Filair. Philemotte and his first officer, 39-year-old Briton Chris Wilson, were unable to maintain control of the Czech-made L-410 Turbolet once it became unbalanced.  The twin-engine plane crashed into a house just short of the regional airport at Bandundu killing the pilots and 18 passengers on board. The flight had originated in the capital city of Kinshasa.

Experts say that such a crash would be rare. “It’s possible. It’s remote,” John Cox, a former airline captain and now airplane safety consultant, said to ABC News. “You could run the centre of gravity forward where it wouldn’t be controllable. Twenty people at 200 pounds each, it’s possible.”

Comprehension questions

  • When did the incident occur?
  • Where did the incident happen?
  • During which stage of flight did the crocodile escape?
  • How did passengers and crew react?
  • Do you believe that passengers running from one side of the aircraft to another could cause the plane to crash?

Although this kind of incident appears far-fetched- incidents with animals frequently create difficulties for pilots.  To perform well in an ICAO English test (and for aviation safety) you are going to need to be able to describe this kind of situation clearly in plain English.  With professional training from Aviation English Asia you will be able to understand a wide range of unexpected situations that can occur in flight, organise your thoughts and report them clearly and without hesitation. You will also be able to report the routine stuff AND reinforce your aviation knowledge.

Vocabulary

Find synonyms (words that mean the same) for the following words in the article above.

  • member of cabin-crew
  • cleaver
  • fuel-depletion
  • nameless
  • loose
  • began
  • carry-on bags

What to do next

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.com. We can help you improve your English whether you are an experienced pilot, a cadet entry pilot, a controller, aerospace engineer or flight attendant, with custom courses designed specifically for your needs. If you haven’t already please join the Aviation English mailing list for instant access to free demonstration units of the ICAO Aviation English Online course, special offers and details of courses in your area.

Of course, feel free to leave a comment or even a suggestion for a future article. We value all of your feedback.

Advice about improving your English and passing an ICAO English test from Aviation English Asia.

Article written by Michael Egerton

People often look for advice about how to pass an ICAO English test, but don’t very often think about how they could fail it. Strictly speaking you can’t “fail” an ICAO test but you might not meet the required standard, which is for all intents and purposes … not good.  In this article I am going to point out some of the reasons you might under-perform in an ICAO English test. There are many different types of ICAO test and I’m not talking about any particular one but my advice applies to all of them.

Reason One: Not realising the importance of English in aviation

Although you might think that time spent in the aviation English classroom can’t be as exciting as time in an aircraft – it’s not necessarily true. Aviation English is a valid and essential part of flight training for many non native speakers, regardless of their age and experience. Your future career prospects could depend on your proficiency in English. You might scrape through an english test with ICAO level 4 but remember that is the bare minimum requirement.  What level of English do you need to really advance in your career? What level of English do you need for truly safe flight operations?  Many tragic air disasters have been attributed to communication difficulties.  If you want to perform well in an ICAO English test a good first step is realising just how important quality Aviation English training is.

Reason Two: Not giving yourself sufficient time to prepare for an ICAO test

Learning English takes time and the more time you allow for yourself the more likely you are to perform well in the test. Cramming might work for preparing for an exam that tests knowledge but learning a language is different.  You need time to internalise the language, pronunciation is a muscular skill that takes time to develop.  There are some academic theories supporting intensive courses but in my experience intensive courses are only beneficial to those at a very early or very advanced stage. If you are at an intermediate level of English I recommend that you take your time over a course. You will probably enjoy learning English more if you don’t have time pressure.

Reason Three: Doing the wrong type of English course

This is quite tragic as we have heard stories about people who have enrolled on 18 month courses (paid in advance) with brand name English schools who fail to improve at all. It’s even more tragic as their English often gets worse because of the environment they learn in. If you are serious about an aviation career you need Aviation English. Other types of courses and coffee shop English tutors might be cheaper but they will ultimately waste your time and money because they do not effectively address your needs. General English has its place in Aviation English – it’s an essential part but should be practiced within a meaningful context.  This is true whether you are a commercial pilot or ab initio. And when you have the exciting world of aviation, where there are developments and dramas every day, why would you waste time on anything else?

Reason Four: Teachers using inappropriate learning materials

Creating authentic Aviation English learning materials takes a lot of time, specialist knowledge and skill from the Aviation English teacher. There are very few Aviation English learning materials available commercially so Aviation English teachers need to hand craft them to suit your needs. General English course books are designed to appeal to as many people as possible and then mass produced and shipped all over the world. They serve a purpose in that they make General English teachers’ lives easier because they can recycle the lessons with many different students – putting the teacher’s comfort ahead of your learning needs.  Regardless of whether you are in ground school or an experienced pilot you should be using English that is relevant to your life and an experienced Aviation English teacher will be able to create interesting lessons that allow for sufficient practice of that type of language.

Reason Five: Starting an English course at the wrong level

As pilots you may feel pressure to keep up with your colleagues who might have had different experiences in learning English. The truth is that you won’t lose face by starting at a lower level – just accept that you have had different experiences and have different strengths, English proficiency being one of them.  So, if you take a Placement Test and find that you are at a lower level than your friends or colleagues don’t feel any shame in starting a course at a lower level.  Similarly if you have a higher ability than your colleagues you shouldn’t hold yourself back – the result of starting a course at the wrong level is that you will find it too easy and get bored, or find it too difficult and get frustrated – then lose motivation.

Also be aware that franchised schools often try to sell courses that are longer than you really need.  Even worse is when a school gives you a ten minute computer placement test and then tells you your starting level without any assessment from a native English teacher. Instead a consultant who knows nothing about learning English (or how to speak it) tells you your starting level and then how to improve. It’s the blind leading the blind. Usually the student finds a course difficult and struggles consistently and the teacher doesn’t have the heart to tell them that they are at the wrong level, so the student quickly loses motivation.

Get it right: How to perform well in an ICAO Aviation English Test

Motivation is a very important factor in learning English. The genre of aviation is also incredibly motivating for most people so don’t let your passion be affected by making one of the mistakes listed above. Aviation English Asia teachers are skilled in ensuring that learners are keen, motivated and developing good study habits.  Take advantage of our enthusiasm and arrange a free consultation.  We’ll introduce you to an effective course and study plan that is right for you.

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.com. We can help you improve your English whether you are an experienced pilot, a cadet entry pilot, a controller, aerospace engineer or flight attendant, with custom courses designed specifically for your needs. If you haven’t already please join the Aviation English mailing list for instant access to free demonstration units of the ICAO Aviation English Online course, special offers and details of courses in your area.

Of course, feel free to leave a comment or even a suggestion for a future article. We value all of your feedback.

Advice for improving your English and passing an airline’s English test from Aviation English Asia.

Article written by Michael Egerton

Prepare for an airline interview or prepare for your career?

Whether you are applying for a job as a pilot, member of ground staff or a member of cabin crew one of the assessments in which you are required to perform well in is the airline’s English assessment test.  For prospective airline pilots this is likely to be one of various types of ICAO English test taken at a particular stage of the selection process.  For cabin crew and ground staff the airline is likely to have it’s own in-house English assessment, which could be either a specific test which you need to pass in order to proceed which your application, or alternatively your English language proficiency could be assessed during your HR interviews.

In this article I’m going to point out three common mistakes made by many prospective pilots and flight attendants when faced with an airline English proficiency test, and show you how you can avoid making that mistake.  But first of all let’s look at why airlines have English tests in the first place.

Learn English as it is used in an aviation context

Learn English as it is used in an aviation context

Why do airlines have English proficiency tests as part of their selection process?

Airline careers are highly desirable for many young people. Airlines are large organisations that offer great benefits like housing allowance, health insurance and frequent travel to their employees.  Some airlines are national flag carriers so it’s not surprising that airline jobs attract thousands of candidates each year.

In each recruitment drive, the airline has to select the most appropriate candidates for employment, as they will make a significant investment in that candidate’s training and development.  Airline English tests are a valid and very appropriate means to filter out unsuitable (or not yet suitable) candidates.  English is a world language, and a high standard of English will also highlight a candidate’s manners and social behaviour, ie is this candidate a person who is polite enough to deal with our customers, is this a person who we would like to sit next to on the flight deck.  In addition to the aptitude and ability to perform the basic duties of the position, the airline will want to ensure that you have:

  • sufficient language proficiency to meet the requirements of the job.
  • sufficient potential to successfully be trained for the things that you don’t yet know how to do.

So, in plain English, the airline wants to know that you can speak English well enough to do the job properly, and you can understand enough English to be able to learn how to do the things that you can’t.

Depending upon your experience and the position you are applying for the airline will probably not expect you to know everything about handling a big jet, or the procedures needed to carry out an evacuation but they do expect you to have a reasonable level of English.  Airlines are after all, judged on the conduct and performance of their front-line employees.

If you have failed an airline’s English test it’s probably because you haven’t prepared sufficiently for the test, or you have prepared for the test in the wrong way.

The biggest mistakes made by candidates in preparing for airline English tests

Mistake number one – focusing only on the test

It’s a common mistake, and an understandable one.  You have an English test coming up as part of your interview and you might want to get some practice by having a mock test, perhaps by asking a friend to ask you the questions that they were asked last time.  Perhaps if you could remember the answers it will be easier…

If (like us) you live in Hong Kong you will have been bombarded by advertisements for “star tutors” that offer courses focused on passing English tests, eg IELTS, HKCEE etc.  You might be able to pass a written exam by following their methods but if you think that you can pass an airline English test, which will almost certainly be oral you are wildly mistaken.

Speaking English doesn’t work like that.  It takes time to develop a full command of the language, and consistent practice in developing the strength needed to pronounce certain words.  Listening to and understanding different accents is a skill that takes time to develop.  Furthermore, the assessor’s aren’t that stupid – it’s easy to see if someone is trying to remember an answer.  When assessing language it’s not just a matter of what information you give, but how you give it.

Of course, it’s natural to want to practice things like mock interviews with friends or perhaps a tutor, but to be honest it’s not enough.  What you need is a thorough and wide range of proficiency in English and particularly English as it is used within an aviation context – and that is our goal.

Mistake number two – doing the wrong type of course

ICAO recommend that pilots and controllers take aviation-specific English courses.  Some people try to cut corners and settle for a general English course.  The result is often that they get bored or find that it doesn’t suit their needs.  This is also often the case with people who tried studying at large franchised language centres, particularly those that have “secret study methods”.  These courses are designed to appeal to as many people as possible, with the lowest skill level of teacher possible (the “secret” is that they withhold any actual teaching, you have to figure it out for yourself) so don’t be surprised that learners who settle for this type of course make very slow progress.  That type of language school doesn’t have the capability or resources to give aviation students the kind of language training they need.

When you learn English it is important that you focus on practicing the right skills, and as most language schools try to cater to as many people as possible it’s often difficult to practice the skills that you really need. For a pilot, ATC or member of cabin crew the most important skills are speaking and listening.  Many people unfortunately focus only on academic performance in English and neglect to build their English comprehension skills.  Aviation English Asia courses give you sufficient practice of the skills that you need, as recommended in ICAO Document 9835.

Mistake number three – not starting a course early enough

If we could give one piece of advice to potential airline employees it would be to take a placement test to assess your current level of English and then see how much you need to improve.  We can then give you an estimation of how long you should expect before you reach that level, and how often you should practice.  These tests are done independently by a third party so you can be sure that you won’t be buying courses that you don’t need.  The placement tests offered by Aviation English Asia are consistent with the results of assessors within major airlines.

Trust me – I’ve trained a lot of prospective and current airline employees. I strongly recommend that you take a placement test and expect to practice English consistently for at least 3 months per level.

The BEST WAY to prepare for an airline English test

In this article you have learned that you should avoid crash courses, avoid only focusing on the test, and avoid unsuitable courses and tutors.  Now I will show you what you should do to pass an airline’s English assessment.

Learn and practice English as it is used in the context of aviation, over a 12 week period (at least)

Aviation English Asia courses feature all of the grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, comprehension and fluency practice of general English courses, with the added advantage of being directly related to your career.  You will be more motivated and enjoy learning English more when you have a clear objective.  If you think you know everything about aviation and are familiar with aviation terminology, you should still learn how to express it clearly in English – so Aviation English Asia courses are equally suitable for experienced commercial pilots.  It’s exactly the same for cabin crew, whether your are a prospective employee or experienced crew members – practice English as it relates to your everyday life.

One of the biggest advantages of an Aviation English course is that you will develop a wide vocabulary and become confident in dealing with unexpected situations.  You will still get thorough practice of all the language skills needed to pass an airline’s English test, and personal focus on the skills that you most need to develop.  Of course, you can supplement this with additional General English if you want extra practice but it is no substitute for a core Aviation English course.

What to do next

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.com.  We can help you improve your English whether you are an experienced pilot, a cadet entry pilot, a controller, aerospace engineer or flight attendant, with custom courses designed specifically for your needs.  If you haven’t already please join the Aviation English mailing list for instant access to free demonstration units of the ICAO Aviation English Online course, special offers and details of courses in your area.

Of course, feel free to leave a comment or even a suggestion for a future article.  We value all of your feedback.

Advice for learning English from Aviation English Asia.

Article written by Michael Egerton

One of the most complicated areas of English is the correct use of articles.  In English there are two articles – a/an and the. In this article you can learn some simple rules that will help you use articles correctly. But first of all, look at the sentences below. Can you explain how and why the articles are used?

  • 1. I had a baguette and a cup of coffee for lunch.
  • 2. The baguette was good but the coffee was awful.
  • 1. My brother is a pilot.
  • 2. He is the captain of a Boeing 737.
  • 1. I saw a security officer holding a machine gun.
  • 2. Airport security officers are allowed to carry guns.
  • 1. I feel cold. Can you pass me a blanket.
  • 2. I feel cold. Can you pass me the blanket

The Airbus A380 is the biggest passenger aircraft

The definite article – the

Here are four rules to explain the use the definite article the. After reading match each rule with one of the examples below.

Rule 1: the – used where there is only one.  For example, “I saw the nice lady from HR.” Here, we’re talking about a specific noun.  There is probably only one nice lady from the HR department.

Rule 2: the – used before geographical nouns eg seas, rivers, hotels, pubs, museums and newspapers.

  • names of rivers, oceans and seas: the Nile, the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Black Sea
  • points on the globe: the Equator, the North Pole
  • geographical areas: the Middle East, the Northern Hemisphere
  • deserts, forests, gulfs, and peninsulas: the Sahara, the Persian Gulf, the Forest of Dean,

Rule 3: the – used with superlative adjectives.  For example, the Cadet Pilot Programme is the easiest way for local people to start an aviation career.

Rule 4: the – used when both the speaker and listener already know the thing, design or idea being talked about.  For example,  “The car was blue.”   Here, we’re talking about a specific car, the car that hit my Cessna. The definitive article is also used to talk about aircraft when describing or comparing their features, eg the Airbus A380, the Boeing 747.

Examples – which of the above rules do they demonstrate?

  • We have a cat and a dog. The cat is white and the dog is black.
  • The Atlantic Ocean, the Sun, the River Nile, the Black Swan
  • The WOMBAT test was really easy
  • Have you checked the fuel?
  • The Airbus A380 is the largest passenger airliner. Concorde was the fastest passenger aircraft.
  • The Air Traffic Controller’s daughter is really pretty.
  • I passed the ICAO English test

The indefinite article – a/an

Here are four rules explaining the use of the indefinite article a/an

Rule 1: a/an – used with professions.  For example, “I’m a lawyer“.

Rule 2: a/an – used with some expressions of quantity. For example, “I need a bottle of water”.

Rule 3: a/an used in expressions with “what + countable noun”.  For example, “What a beautiful day for flying!”

Rule 4: a/an used to refer to a thing or idea for the first time. For example, “I met a nice girl last night.”

Examples – which of the above rules do they demonstrate?

  • I’m an accountant. My brother is a pilot.
  • What an incredible landing!
  • The passengers will board in a few minutes.
  • A couple of landing cards please.
  • I practice English 3 times a week.
  • I’m reading a good book. The author is Peter Nock.

No article required

There are four rules explaining the use of no article.

Rule 1: no article used before some forms of transport.

Rule 2: no article used with exclamations with “what + uncountable noun”

Rule 3: no article used before some geographical nouns, languages, meals, airports, mountains and stations. For example,

  • names of most countries/territories: Australia, China, Canada; however you do need to use the before countries that are a collection of states eg, the Netherlands, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, the United States
  • names of cities, towns, or states:London, Singapore, Vancouver
  • names of streets: Scenic View Road, Oxford St.
  • names of lakes and bays: Lake Michigan, except with a group of lakes like the Great Lakes
  • names of mountains: Mount Everest, Mount Fuji except with ranges of mountains like the Andes or the Himalayas
  • names of continents (Asia, Europe)
  • names of islands (Hong Kong Island, Lantau, Lamma) except groups of islands like the Philippines, or the Canary Islands

Rule 4: no article used before plural and uncountable nouns to refer to things in general.

Examples – which of the above rules do they demonstrate?

  • What amazing weather!
  • I had dinner with the captain.
  • I bought “Pronunciation for Pilots” online.
  • Mt Fuji is in Japan.
  • I go to work by train.
  • What noisy passengers!
  • She can speak Portuguese.
  • I like girls.
  • Police officers in Hong Kong carry guns.
  • Peanuts can be dangerous during flight.

Activity – Newspaper headlines

Newspaper headlines rarely use complete sentences. Look at the list of headlines below and see if you can write them as a complete sentence using verbs in the correct tense and articles as appropriate.  You can find the answers on our Facebook Discussion forum.

Example:

  • Headline – FAA to announce new taxi instructions
  • Full sentence – The FAA is going to announce some new taxi instructions.

Global Airline Traffic Surpasses Pre Recession Level

Heroic Flight Attendant Lands Plane

FAA Slow to Require Action On Cockpit Fires

Passengers Stranded On Desert Island

Pilot Loses Certificate For Buzzing Beach

Fuel Dump By FedEx Plane Most Likely Cause of Mysterious Crop Damage

Early 787 Simulation Raises Concerns

Magnificent Man and His Homebuilt Flying Machine Go For Record at Age of 94

6 Year Old OHIO Girl Placed on FAA Watch List

Tiny Turtle Returns Plane to Gate

What to do next

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.com.  We can help you improve your English whether you are an experienced pilot, a cadet entry pilot, a controller, aerospace engineer or flight attendant, with custom courses designed specifically for your needs.  If you haven’t already please join the Aviation English mailing list for instant access to free demonstration units of the ICAO Aviation English Online course, special offers and details of courses in your area.

Of course, feel free to leave a comment or even a suggestion for a future article.  We value all of your feedback.

Making use of free Aviation English Resources

Advice for learning English from Aviation English Asia.

Article written by Michael Egerton

We’ve had a lot of interest from readers looking for free online courses for improving their Aviation English.  In this article I’m going to share with you my recommendations for free Aviation English resources.  Of course, this blog will continue to give you some free Aviation English lessons, but the best possible resource is our mailing list.

The best way to get free ICAO Aviation English exercises

Visit our website http://aviationenglish.com and subscribe to get:

  • FREE instant access to 4 demo units of ICAO Aviation English Online
  • FREE advice about learning English
  • FREE downloads and study guides
  • News about courses in your country
  • Special offers and promotions

The first of these is very special – the ICAO Aviation English Online course has 4 levels, each of 12 units.  Each unit is about 8-12 hours of English practice.  Subscribers can try 4 of these demo units from each of the four levels before you buy the course.

The content of the course is also very interesting for pilots and controllers because it covers important information that you will need in your career, not just for the ICAO test.  It’s also the only conplete Aviation English course, offering courses from ICAO levels 2-4.  If you are preparing for an ICAO English test I strongly recommend that you join our mailing list and try out these free Aviation English lessons.

What do you get in the free demos?

Over 30 hours of Aviation English exercises including.. listening and reading comprehension, true or false questions, gap fill exercises, multiple choice, vocabulary practice and the opportunity to practice radiotelephony.  If your grammar and listening skills are weak I recommend that you try the lower level courses which give you more grammar and listening practice.  The ICAO Level 3 Upper level course is more focused on technical vocabulary, so don’t worry about trying out the low level units.  There is plenty of good practice material there for you.  After trying the demo units, I’m sure that you will want to buy the complete course.

Looking for more free ICAO English exercises?

One of the most important skills that you can develop easily is reading.  There are thousands of aviation articles on the internet but only a handful are suitable as learning material.  Such is the skill of an aviation English teacher who can carefully select suitable articles for use in the classroom.  Keep an eye on our blog and Facebook Page for these articles.

You can also read technical websites like http://www.skybrary.aero which is a wiki created by a number of flight safety and training organisations.  It makes fascinating reading and you can learn something new each time you visit.

For listening practice try listening to a favourite airport on http://liveatc.net.  Always listen for the key information in each transmission and you will soon become familiar with different accents.  Be careful though, listening to air traffic control can become addictive.  There is now an iphone application available which makes listening in, even more convenient.

Our YouTube channel features a selection of videos, some even with ATC transcripts.  If you have any interesting videos to share, please let us know.

Interact with Aviation English Asia

If you want to improve your English, talk to us!  We have a wide range of methods that you can use to engage in a conversation.  If you have a question, ask it on our Facebook Discussion forum, you can also make contact with other Aviation English learners having similar experiences.

Our team of pilots, Subject Matter Experts and Aviation English teachers will be happy to talk with you.  We will post a discussion question each week.  If you have friends and colleagues, suggest that they “like” our page too.

You can find us here:

Please suggest to your friends

Disadvantages of free Aviation English resources

It is always good to practice English at every opportunity, and make good use of free resources on the internet.  But if there is so much free material out there, then why pay for a course?  As aviation English teachers we want you to be independent learners so doing as much self-study as you can is a good thing.  The difficulty is when you get information overload and don’t know where to direct your attention.  With self-study you also lack the feedback and guidance of a teacher, who could perhaps show you your errors or teach you an easier way of practising a skill.

Another difficulty on the internet is that it is easy to become distracted by advertisements and other things like msn messenger.  It can be very easy to lose track of time and study is not always productive.   ICAO Aviation English Online is more effective as it has a Learning Management System that tracks your progress and time spent on the course.  As well as showing you your mistakes, if you miss too many study sessions, or fall behind in your study we can give you a reminder.  When you have a consistent study rhythm it’s relatively easy to achieve a half-ICAO level within 12 weeks.

It’s also easy to take the things that you learn online into the real world as it’s also designed for blended learning in a classroom.  So you can practice and expand everything that you learn online with a teacher and other learners in a classroom.  At the end of the day it’s all about being able to communicate effectively with real people.

What to do next

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.com.  We can help you improve your English whether you are an experienced pilot, a cadet entry pilot, a controller, aerospace engineer or flight attendant, with custom courses designed specifically for your needs.  If you haven’t already please join the Aviation English mailing list for instant access to free demonstration units of the ICAO Aviation English Online course, special offers and details of courses in your area.

Of course, feel free to leave a comment or even a suggestion for a future article.  We value all of your feedback.

English learning advice from Aviation English Asia.

Article written by Michael Egerton

In this article you are going to learn techniques to describe pictures in ICAO English tests.  As mentioned in a previous article, The ICAO English test – guidance and advice, describing a picture is a common part of many ICAO English tests.

What language skills are required?

Quite often the pictures will be of unusual or unexpected events such as damage to an aircraft, a crash/collision or a malfunctioning piece of the aircraft’s equipment.  You will need to develop your vocabulary so that you can easily explain these situations without being lost for words.  As a pilot or controller you will need vocabulary to describe

  1. each part of an aircraft,
  2. weather and time of day,
  3. the physical layout of an airfield and
  4. various types of damage that can occur.

You will also need a good command of verb tenses so that you can describe:

  • what is happening now
  • what has happened before
  • what is likely to happen in the future

You should also learn the language skills needed to explain why these events have occurred.  This will involve (among others) modal verbs of possibility/probability, conjunctions and infinitives of purpose.

You should also use prepositions to describe the physical location, or path of movement of the various objects in the picture.

Phrases for describing pictures

Start by giving a brief description of each picture.

  • The picture/photo shows …
  • This is a picture of …
  • In this picture I can see …
  • This is an incident that happened …

There are different phrases you can refer to parts of each pictures. For example:

  • on the left / on the right (hand side)
  • in the background / in the foreground
  • behind  x / in front of x

Depending on the picture you will need to use appropriate tenses.  For example:

  • an aircraft is trying to land (present continuous because it is something happening at the moment the photo was taken)
  • the aircraft in this picture has collided with a ground vehicle (present perfect because it is something that happened in the recent past with a result in the present)
  • a ground vehicle is about to make a wrong turn that will surely cause a problem for aircraft that are landing.

The assessor might also ask you to give your opinion about the picture.

  • In my opinion …
  • I think that …
  • It looks like …
  • x seems to be …

Exercise

  1. Take a look at the following picture for 30 seconds.
  2. Describe it in as much detail as possible for 90 seconds
  3. Explain how you think the situation occurred for 30 seconds.
  4. Post your description as a comment on our blog.  We will review it and give you feedback.

Five tips for describing pictures in the ICAO English test

1.  Keep it simple
Try to avoid complicated expressions or grammatical structures if you are not sure how to use them.   Don’t waffle (speak unnecessarily about a topic), and if you have nothing to say it’s better to wait for the assessor to prompt you.

2.  Ask the assessor for an explanation if you don’t understand the task
If you don’t understand what you are supposed to do, ask the assessor to explain. For example, you could say:

  • Could you repeat the question, please?
  • I’m sorry, could you explain what the word …. means ?
  • Could you please ask the question in another way?

3.  Use full sentences
Avoid answers which are single words or answers that sound like a list of bullet points.  Demonstrate that you know how to form sentences correctly  and can use a range of structures to express yourself.

4.  Be aware of the time limits
When you are asked to describe a photo and explain why something has happened, make sure that you leave some time for explaining your own opinion if that is a required part of the task.  You should also avoid rushing, as speaking slowly and clearly is an essential skill in aeronautical communications.  You will have better pronunciation if you slow down and don’t swallow your words.

5.  Practice
Before the ICAO English test, practice describing pictures with a colleague (if you already know someone who will also be taking the speaking test, ask him/her to practice with you).  Students at Aviation English Asia are a friendly bunch who really make the effort to help each other.  Of course, all our English courses for ICAO compliance offer thorough practice of these skills in each unit.

What to do next

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.com. We can help you improve your English whether you are an experienced pilot, a cadet entry pilot, a controller, engineer or flight attendant, with custom courses designed specifically for your needs.  If you haven’t already please join the Aviation English mailing list for instant access to free demonstration units of the ICAO Aviation English Online course, special offers and details of courses in your area.

English learning advice from Aviation English Asia.

Article written by Michael Egerton

In this article we are going to explore the use of past tenses in English, by examining an incident that  happened unexpectedly during flight.  Tenses are an essential part of plain English, as you can use tenses to indicate the time and sequence that something happened.  At ICAO level 4 the requirements for structure are that:

Basic grammatical structures and sentence patterns are used creatively and are usually well controlled. Errors may occur, particularly in unusual or unexpected circumstances, but rarely interfere with meaning.

Relevant grammatical structures are determined by language functions appropriate to the task.  This means that you need to be proficient in grammatical structures that are used in flight operations.  It is expected that you will make some grammatical errors eg such errors that could occur in non-routine situations, but the meaning is generally understood.

This article includes short exercises for comprehension, structure, vocabulary and pronunciation.  The tenses examined include:

  • Past simple
  • Past continuous
  • Past perfect
  • Past perfect continuous

Activity

Credit: HouieLouy

Watch the above video then answer the following questions.

Comprehension questions

Are the following statements true or false?

  1. The incident happened in the USA.
  2. There was a problem with the pilot’s microphone.
  3. The controller declared an emergency.
  4. The pilot was slurring his speech because he was drunk.
  5. The pilot requested vectors for Cincinatti.
  6. The pilot was suffering from hypoxia
  7. The pilot couldn’t control the altitude, speed or heading.
  8. The aircraft crashed in Athens, Greece in 2005.

You can email your answers to exercise@aviationenglish.asia and we’ll give you some feedback.  Now let’s take a look at some of the structures used in an account of the incident.

Structure – past simple and past perfect

Past simple is used to talk about complete actions in the past.  Past perfect is used to talk about an earlier past (except when it is part of a logical sequence).  Read the following text and answer the questions.

Flight KFS-66 was enroute at approximately FL320 and had just checked-in with Cleveland’s Air Route Traffic Control Centre, when the controller noticed the microphone of KFS-66 was continuously keyed.

  • Which of the above words are verbs, adjectives and adverbs?
  • Which of the above phrases describe “short actions”?
  • Which of the above phrases describe states or conditions?
  • In what order did the above events occur?

Structure – past continuous and past simple

Past continuous is used to talk about a long action at a specific time in the past or an action at a specific time in the past that gets interrupted by something.

While the primary controller was trying (with the aid of a second pilot in another aircraft) to understand what the crew were reporting, his colleague Stephanie Bevins tuned the radio frequency and recognised that the crew were suffering from severe hypoxia.

  • Which of the above are long actions and which are short actions?
  • Draw a timeline to show the sequence of events.
  • What is the difference between using while and when?

Structure – past simple and past perfect continuous

Past perfect continuous is used to talk about (a) something started in the past and continued up until another time in the past, or (b) the cause of something in the past.

The airplane descended to 11000 feet, where the crew of the Learjet recovered and began to respond normally again.  They subsequently confirmed that they had been suffering from hypoxia.  The airplane continued to Detroit’s Willow Run Airport, where it landed safely.

  • Are all the events in the above paragraph related in chronological order?
  • Why does the paragraph use had been suffering instead of were suffering?

Vocabulary

  • report
  • suffer
  • recover
  • descend
  • recognise
  • key
  • confirm
  • en route
  • check-in
  • hypoxia

Which of the above words mean:

  • a deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching the tissues
  • an act of reporting one’s presence
  • to return to a normal state
  • during the course of a journey
  • to state that something said previously is correct
  • to move downwards
  • to give a spoken or written account of something
  • to enter or operate
  • to experience something unpleasant
  • to acknowledge the existence of something

Pronunciation

How do you say the following verbs in their past simple form?

  • report
  • suffer
  • recover
  • descend
  • recognise
  • key
  • confirm
  • check-in

What sound do the verbs end in – /d/ /t/ or /id/ ?

What you should do next

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.com. We can help you improve your English whether you are an experienced pilot, a cadet entry pilot, a controller, engineer or flight attendant, with custom courses designed specifically for your needs.  If you haven’t already please join the Aviation English mailing list for instant access to free demonstration units of the ICAO Aviation English Online course, special offers and details of courses in your area.

English learning advice from Aviation English Asia.

Article written by Michael McBride

In this article I am going to focus on a typical ICAO recommended Aviation English test, with emphasis mainly on Level 4 operational standard.  Of course, airlines have implemented the ICAO guidelines in different ways and each test is different but the aims are the same.  We will examine the different requirements from ICAO, the typical structure of the test and you will be able to practise with some exercises.  It is important to know what you will eventually face when training so you have a target and it can help focus on your strengths and weaknesses.

ICAO Level 4 requirements – an overview
  • Pronunciation – You will not be expected to ‘sound like a native (English) speaker’ but your local accent/dialect must only “sometimes interfere with ease of understanding”, the core sounds of words should most of the time be clear.
  • Structure – You should demonstrate at least basic English grammar (verbs, word order etc) competency without making mistakes, but for “unusual circumstances” small errors can be made, but it must be understandable to overall meaning.
  • Vocabulary – Ability to communicate in Aviation context, if in doubt of words you must be able to “paraphrase successfully” using communication strategies e.g. “container for animals” instead of “cage.”
  • Fluency – Good speed of communication should be made, although when changing from phraseology to plain English there may on small occasions be a pause or a small mistake made.  “Fillers are not distracting”, which means words like “you know” and “like” do not interrupt flow of interaction.
  • Comprehension – You should for the most part understand what is spoken to you and then for you to respond or take action.  However, if there is a non-routine situation you should be able to get around it by a system of checking, confirming and clarifying.
  • Interactions – There should be “immediate and informative” interaction between yourself and pilot/controller, you must never stop communicating in any type of interaction (routine or non-routine).  If there are “misunderstandings”, you must be aware of this and check, confirm and clarify.

ICAO 9835 Document

ICAO English Test introduction

A typical Aviation English test is usually around 35 minutes, your assessor will be a subject matter expert in the aviation industry and the test is communicative.  This means that you will not be expected to write a report/essay or complete a reading assessment.  Reading and writing are still important but are not the main skills assessed here.

You will be assessed on your ability to use both phraseology and plain English to describe and analyse both routine and non-routine situations.  Your training at Aviation English Asia will focus on listening and speaking rather than a lot of reading and writing.

Test format

Your test may include the following components: –

  • Picture description
  • 2 role plays, enroute or during taxi, for example
  • Writing brief but relevant notes on paper, maybe ATIS or landing instructions

Picture description

You will most likely be given a number of pictures to describe and analyse.  You will have to say what it is and/or what is happening, but it is not enough to just list different things.  You must also look at why the main element of the picture happened, what happened before, what will happen next?  Having some knowledge of future and past verb forms would be key here.  It is your chance to show off any extra language skills you may have without major time constraints that you would face in a flight deck role-play.

Role plays

You usually will have two video role-plays to work through, testing your ability to change from routine to non-routine communication.  Something will happen to test you, usually two things.  An example may be animals walking over the taxiway before takeoff.  You will be listening to multiple transmissions, for example chatter, ATC/pilots but the key is something will be non-routine.  You will be expected to make notes quickly about what unusual or unexpected event you hear, which you will then report about and answer questions.

Practice Tasks

1.  Click on the following link and practise standard phraseology and prepare checklists for gate arrival.  Then anticipate what potential problems could occur on paper, what action and communication would you take?

Taxi to gate (swedflyer – credit)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duTAXcCRj2g

2.  How would you communicate the following problem, can you use standard phraseology only, or would plain English also play a part?  Again, anticipate another problem, maybe the cockpit window smashes or something enters the runway.  What action would you take and what would you say to the controller/pilot?

Engine fire on landing short (kukovrein- credit)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M88XrxmtS6s

What to do next

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.com. If you haven’t already please join the Aviation English mailing list for instant access to free demonstration units of the ICAO Aviation English Online course, special offers and details of courses in your area.

English learning advice from Aviation English Asia.

Article written by Michael McBride

In this article I am going to focus on accuracy and making errors in Aviation English communication.  As ICAO state, “errors may occur” at ICAO Level 4.  This article will examine what kind of errors you can reasonably make and what you need to do to be as accurate as possible.   To be accurate is also to be realistic, you cannot expect to be correct in what you say all of the time, so what ‘errors’ are important and what aren’t to be ICAO operational?

What is an error and what is a mistake?

The basic difference is that an “error” is something you do not know the answer to, maybe through a lack of knowledge or skills.  A “mistake” is when you forget the answer to something you previously knew.

So we must look further into the first term – error.  This is where problems can arise and what you need to target in getting your message across even without being 100% accurate and using other words and communication strategies.  Let’s look at the term in more detail by separating it into the following: –

  • Global error – something is said incorrectly and it affects the meaning entirely
  • Local error – some parts of what is said is wrong but overall it doesn’t change the meaning, it is understood to a good extent.

As you probably would guess ICAO will tolerate local errors more, as they state the candidate “rarely makes global errors…and some local errors.”  In other words you must avoid making global errors as much as possible and understand that local errors could still guarantee ICAO level 4 as long as it is not frequent.  Which do you think is local and global from the following: –

#1 “My job is check first the aircraft status.”

#2 “My jos is first the aircraft status.”

#1 is not grammatically correct, but the meaning is clear = local

#2 could be interpreted correctly but it is unclear and when in a pilot-controller situation (as one example) is there enough time to try to understand what is spoken? It totally interferes with the interaction = global

Advice and information on how to reduce errors

Do you think mis-communicating “he speak” rather than “he speaks” on the radio will be seen as a major problem in the eyes of ICAO requirements?  Is it really crucial to meaning?  Well, the simple answer is that it is a local error and if all you need is Level 4 it is not a serious issue, it depends how far you want to go, ICAO level wise.

I must stress that ICAO is more interested in appropriacy and intelligibility than correctness all the time, which means not everything has to be correct but it must be understood overall.

As I have mentioned in previous articles, you need to practice communication strategies to reduce errors and increase accuracy which can be helped by practising the following: –

  • Synonyms – use words of similar/same meaning if you forget your first thought
  • Word families – practice the different forms of words eg. extend, extension, extended, which one is used when?
  • ‘Invent’ new words rather than struggling to remember the correct word for something e.g. “animal container” instead of “cage”

Furthermore you must always be able to check and clarify certain uncertain interactions, which ICAO state as “using clarification strategies” when communication problems arise.  Do not give up, you might not be accurate with a message first time around, so adopt the 3 Cs rule.  Clarify, Check and Confirm.  Which “C” do you think applies to the following: –

  • “Is the altimeter 1014”?
  • “Affirm”
  • “What is the altimeter setting?”

The 3Cs provide a way to make less mistakes in interactions and carrying out a full procedure in the air or on the ground.

Answers – Check, confirm, clarify

An error is only an error if it is not understandable to the vast majority of speakers/listeners.  You must focus on working on the core sounds of words to become more accurate in terms of pronunciation (previous article) and the above strategies in terms of vocabulary and understanding.

In conclusion, remember that your training time might be limited with  due to your schedule, so do not worry too much about local errors like missing out the/a/an and “s” in 3rd person verbs, your instructor will probably not focus too much on correcting this.  Of course this depends on what level you need and your current English ability.

Next steps

Practice and interact in English with colleagues, Aviation personnel and friends using Aviation related topics, such as discussions and even arguments.  Your Aviation English course will be communicative, which means that you must talk, make mistakes and not give up to gain fully from the course.  After all, the ICAO recommended testing system is communicative, which I will focus on in the coming weeks.

Test

Re-write the following sentences, which ones do you think would be acceptable for ICAO Level 4?

  • Avion Air 734, has things in the air flying around, need you
  • Something in the cabin, possibly fighting
  • It seem to coming out of cargo hold
  • He have problem with baby out now

Checklist

  • Some local errors are acceptable, meaning and intelligibility is more important than full and complete accuracy.
  • Communication and clarification strategies should be practiced
  • It is good to make mistakes in your training, keep at it, and don’t give up.  Continually focus on communication of Aviation related topics in and out of the classroom.  Errors and mistakes should reduce the more you practice and communicate (speaking and listening).

What to do next

For more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.com. If you haven’t already please join the Aviation English mailing list for instant access to free demonstration units of the ICAO Aviation English Online course, special offers and details of courses in your area.