Archive for the ‘Hong Kong’ Category

Advice about how to prepare for an ICAO English test from Aviation English Asia.

Article written by Michael Egerton

In this article I’m going to give you advice about how to prepare for the new CX ICAO English test. The test changed recently and for a very good reason – the old test was frankly… not very good.

So the changes to the CX ICAO test are a very good thing. We support all those who have helped implement these changes to bring credibility to the test.

In this article I will answer the following questions.

  1. What is the format of the new CX ICAO English Test ?
  2. Are there any past papers?
  3. What can I do to prepare?

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: We haven’t posted on our blog much recently because a number of dishonest people have copied our articles and used them on their own forums and blogs without our permission. If you want to use our articles just ask and we will consider your request. This is our commercial property, it took time and effort to write and research. Therefore we will prosecute people who steal our material.



Expect the following:

1. Some personal questions
2. Some listening comprehension in an aviation context
3. Describe a picture
4. Answer questions about a video
5. Some more questions about aviation.

If you think that the above isn’t very specific you are right. The old test had specific answers and didn’t vary very much so candidates were able to memorise the answers. Now you have to actually have genuine proficiency in Aviation English. Luckily the possible content of the test is very well covered in our Aviation English courses.

Are there any past papers?

No this is a speaking and listening test. It’s not supposed to be assessed the way that tests like IELTS are assessed. But there is an example of the test in development. So here’s our advice…

Forget about the test and focus on improving your Aviation English – DO A COURSE WITH US!!

This is a much more effective use of your time.

Past papers and mock tests are pointless apart from to settle your nerves. Past questions encourage many candidates to focus on remembering specific answers. The truth is, the answer to a question is not that important, it’s how well you answer it. It’s your pronunciation, use of correct grammatical structure, range of vocabulary, fluency and lack of hesitation and appropriateness of your answers too. We can show you an example of the test but really you shouldn’t focus on the test. The new test is dynamic and the assessor will ask you questions based on your previous answers so you will need to respond appropriately too.

For a rough idea some questions are like the activities on our Facebook page

If you are not a fan already, become a fan and also select subscribe to updates so that you can get some free exercises in your news feed. Remember to interact and post on our page too, as we can give feedback to your answers.

If you are not a fan already, become a fan and also select subscribe to updates so that you can get some free exercises in your news feed. Remember to interact and post on our page too, as we can give feedback to your answers.

Expect many different versions of the test so asking your mate for the answers won’t help, but attending AVIATION ENGLISH ASIA COURSES WILL HELP.

What should I do to prepare for the new CX ICAO ENGLISH TEST?

The old test was riddled with problems because there was no real standard that had to be achieved. There was very little content that was related to flight operations and Cathay provided candidates no information about how to prepare for the test – Luckily many smart candidates followed our advice and ignored preparing for the previous test completely.

Free Resources to help you prepare for the ICAO English Test

Aviation English Asia Ltd has created some excellent free resources to help candidates prepare for the ICAO English test.

There are some excellent articles on this blog Aviation English Asia Blog,

There are some interesting news stories on the Learning Zone section of our main website Aviation English Learning Zone  and there are many opportunities to interact with other learners on the Aviation English Facebook Page

These free resources are all packed with great information about how to prepare for the new CX ICAO English test. But most candidates will need professional help to prepare for the test.

Here is our Top Ten ways to prepare for the New CX ICAO English Language Test

  1. You should improve your Aviation English. Aviation English (also known as English for Aviation Purposes) comprises of 3 parts, 1. radiotelephony, 2. technical vocabulary and  most importantly 3. the plain English that is used in an aviation context. We can tell you which areas you most need to focus on.
  2. You should focus on expanding your proficiency in talking intelligently and concisely about aviation. For example try and interact with other pilots using the activities on the Aviation English Facebook Page or ideally our current students.
  3. You should learn how to describe a picture – then contact us to get feedback because its the feedback that is most important if you want to improve. If you practice without reflection and feedback you are not actually learning.
  4. You should be realistic about your expectations. Preparing far in advance is good. You should expect to need between 3-6 months to get from mid ICAO level 3 to low ICAO level 4. And to be honest ICAO level 4 isn’t very good – really you should aim for ICAO level 5 or above. Treat learning English as a lifelong activity. Learn English for the job, not for the test.
  5. You should also get professional advice and feedback from Aviation English Asia teachers.  Value your time and invest in yourself by talking with aviation English professionals rather than candidates who don’t value language skills enough to pay for professional instruction.  Free study groups and chatting with your friends may be effective as a supplementary activity – but really most candidates will need professional instruction. Practice doesn’t make perfect – perfect practice makes perfect.
  6. You should contact us for a free consultation before starting a training programme.
  7. You should watch tv series like Air Crash Investigations and listen to regularly in order to become familiar with what actually happens during flight operations.
  8. You should talk to aviation professionals – like our students. Our students have varied backgrounds and are happy to share experiences. Make friends with them and practice giving personal information. You can find some tips in this article.
  9. You should do an Aviation English course with Aviation English Asia. We are the only credible Aviation English training organisation in Hong Kong. We are also an ethical organisation and are members of the College of Teachers. Our teaching staff includes  a senior captain with Cathay Pacific and we are friends with a lot of  reputable Aviation English teachers worldwide. We have a reputation for high standards.
  10. Although we need to assess each candidates suitability first, most candidates in Hong Kong will benefit from attending this course as it’s graded specifically for candidates in Hong Kong and it is proven to be effective. There is no magic pill for learning English but this course offers you what you need and is great value.

In the new format test, knowing the questions isn't necessarily enough because you need to be able to interact and answer questions about those topics, not just remember vocabulary.

What to do next

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit 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 special offers and details of courses in your area.

Advice for flight attendants about improving your English from Aviation English Asia.

Article written by Michael Egerton

In this article I’m going to explain …

How to perform well in airline group discussion exercises

Many airlines have a group discussion exercise as part of their recruitment process for hiring fight attendants.  The airline recruitment staff will be looking for candidates to demonstrate specific qualities – particularly English throughout the group assessment.  Group discussion activities are a good indicator of a candidate’s confidence motivation and enthusiasm.

If you are attending a group discussion exercise you (and other candidates) will usually be required to discuss a contentious issue and come to some agreement within a time limit.  During the assessment you will be given a scenario – like the one in this article and will be expected to find the best solution.  Of course, it might be that other candidates will fight to get their views across.  Many candidates will talk over other people but this is not the best way to demonstrate that you have the right language skills for a job as a flight attendant.

The conclusions you come to don’t have to be the right ones, but they are looking to see you come up with a logical solution and that you can communicate your views sensitively, effectively and politely.


First read the following article and answer the comprehension questions that follow.

Transsexuals are now welcome to apply to airlines for jobs as flight attendants in Thailand.

A new Thai airline called PC Air has started recruiting transsexuals to be flight attendants for the sake of offering equal opportunities to them.

Three transsexuals have already been hired in Bangkok by PC Air.  One of them, 23 year old Thanyarat Jiraphatpakorn, was the winner of a beauty contest Miss Tiffany in 2007. The successful candidate said, “at first I thought they would just take applications but not actually recruit us, as happened at other places before.”

Another transsexual applicant, Panthakan Sri-ngern, 24, said she once applied for a hostess position at another airline but wasn’t chosen. She said a friend who worked there later told her she was rejected because she was transsexual. She felt devastated by the discrimination.

Panthakan, who has a hospitality and tourism degree from Kasetsart University, said this time she hoped to succeed and was glad Thai society was now giving more opportunities to transsexuals.

Peter Chan, a senior PC Air executive later revealed that PC Air saw the potential of transsexuals to work as flight attendants.  “I think these people can have many careers, not just in the entertainment business, and many of them have a dream to be an air hostess. I just made their dream come true,” said Chan.

But it’s not mandatory that applicants go through surgery to be considered for a job, said Chan. What’s important is they have the necessary language skills and can provide good service. Nontransexuals were also hired.

The new batch of three transsexual recruits, who were hired together with 17 women and 10 men, will undergo training together with female flight attendants.  They will also sport a “third sex” gold-coloured name tag on their uniforms to inform passengers and immigration officials about their gender.

Ang Ladlad, a group that pushes for equal rights for transsexuals welcomed the news.  The group reported that there are now more than 500 transsexuals in the Philippines and many of them are having a hard time looking for decent jobs due to discrimination.

Thai airline companies, see nothing wrong in having transsexuals work as flight attendants.  However, Philippine Airlines said they have not yet received any application from a transsexual for a flight attendant job. Should there be one, it is possible, they say, for the airline to change its policy about gender, which right now only recognizes male and female.

Cebu Pacific, on the other hand, is interested in the new hiring policy of PC Air. “This is an interesting development and we will be watching closely,” said Candice Iyog, vice president for marketing of Cebu Pacific.

Ang Ladlad is hoping that, as in Thailand, the public will warmly accept having transsexual flight attendants in the Philippines.

Comprehension questions

  1. How many transsexuals were hired by PC Air?
  2. Why did Panthakan Sri-ngern feel devastated?
  3. What did Peter Chan say was important to become a flight attendant?
  4. Was it necessary for candidates to have gender re-assignment surgery before applying?
  5. What do the transsexuals need to wear on their fight attendant uniform?
  6. Why do they need to wear it?

Group discussion activity

The best way to prepare for a group discussion activity is by attending a live class with Aviation English Asia, but there are ways that you can practice this kind of activity online – and get feedback.  For example, you can prepare for a flight attendant group discussion exercise by answering the following scenario question as a comment below.


You are a senior manager for PC Airlines.  Some of your recently recruited transsexual staff feel that they are being discriminated against by having to wear a “third sex” gold coloured name tag.

Discuss this issue with your group members and decide whether the airline should continue this policy.

What do you need to do to score well in airline group discussion exercises?

First of all – try the activity above.  Post your thoughts as a comment and we will highlight some key areas that airline recruiters are looking for. But an even better way to really improve your English is to take the English for Airline Interviews course to learn 7 key areas that you need to score well in, how to perform well and impress the recruiters. You can learn English from very experienced English teachers, pilots and flight attendants who specialise in teaching English to airline staff.  It’s a fantastic way to learn English and you will learn a lot from teachers who really know the airline industry.

What to do next

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit 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 for flight attendants from Aviation English Asia.

Article written by Michael James Egerton

Strong English communication skills are important for flight attendants, regardless of their native language and the stage of their career. Unfortunately many airlines offer very little ongoing English training for their staff.  Greater proficiency in English, together with cultural sensitivity can help prevent difficult (and potentially dangerous) situations.  In this article we are going to look at some of the language that can be used when dealing with drunk and abusive passengers.

Drunk and aggressive passengers?

Reading comprehension

Hysteria erupted when a drunk Canadian, heading home after visiting Cuba, threatened to shoot flight attendants with a handgun after they stopped serving him drinks.

Police said the man started causing trouble about midway between Varadero, Cuba and Windsor.  A flight attendant told the inebriated passenger he wasn’t allowed to have any more booze.

“He was cut off from further alcohol consumption as a result of his behaviour, which essentially catapulted him in terms of his aggression.

The police sergeant said the man became “unruly” and made derogatory sexual comments to flight attendants. He then made a threat to one of the stewardesses with respect to shooting them with a 9 mm handgun.

The pilot, co-pilot and in-flight services manager were informed of the situation.  The pilot radioed ahead for police aid. When the plane landed at 6:50 p.m., officers were waiting for him.

The 58-year-old man is now facing a charge of uttering death threats.

Comprehension questions

  • Where was the problematic passenger from?
  • Where had he been?
  • What caused his behaviour?
  • What did he say to cabin crew?
  • What happened when the plane landed?


Find synonyms for the following words in the article above:

alcoholic drinks  / offensive   /   assistance   /   violence   /   intoxicated   /   disorderly   /   chaos

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

What to do next

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit 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.

Customer service for prospective cabin crew

Reading is of course one of the best passive methods of improving your English. We’re always pleased to see English language books suitable for non-native speakers, particularly when they are directly relevant to airline careers. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Cathay Pacific’s Inflight Services Training & Development had published a book about principles of good service.

Service in the Sky is a nicely presented 267 page paperback, bilingual in English and Chinese, with English on the left and Chinese translation on the right hand page. The language is simple and appropriate for most English learners in Hong Kong.

What’s the book about? CUSTOMER SERVICE!

Of the 267 pages, 233 of them are about customer service, with the remainder being brief insights into Cathay’s training courses and the experiences of trainees. This is a good balance, as Hong Kong desperately needs better standards of service a lot more than it needs a gauge of interview questions for prospective flight attendants to memorise for their upcoming interview.  If you are looking for interview questions you won’t find them in this book but you might develop some insight into the kind of attitude that flight attendants should have.

Through reading the book you will become aware of how important cultural and linguistic awareness is for cabin crew, and see examples of how flight attendants have either got it right, or got it wrong. There are 24 such stories and they are very easy to read and digest. Interestingly CX is rarely mentioned by name, but the stories are accompanied by pictures that make the book seem a little too like a corporate brochure at times.

The sections on training and recruitment are not particularly developed, (and don’t really need to be). One major omission in my opinion is the lack of focus on cabin crew’s role in safety/security. This might be a reflection of cultural differences between US/European and Asian carriers – since 9/11 flight attendants in the United States have had a far more assertive role when it comes to onboard security. In this book the focus is firmly on service.  Perhaps “Safety in the Skies” wil be  the follow up title.

The best way to get hired as a flight attendant

Can reading this book help you get a job as a flight attendant?  Well, it’s a lot more valuable than those tacky “flight attendant interview preparation” courses you might have seen.  My advice is that if you want to get a job as a flight attendant you should improve your service skills and improve your English.  The HR department will want to hear about how you have provided good service and solved unexpected difficulties in the past.  If you think your English level is good enough you might be surprised when you are told that it isn’t up to scratch.  The truth is that a lot of flight attendants have only very basic English when they are hired and they are supposed to improve their English during their career.  If you are not sure about your oral English level take an assessment test with us first and find out what you need to improve.

Further reading for cabin crew careers

If you have good English comprehension skills you should also consider reading the excellent Singapore Airlines “Flying High in a Competitive Industry”, Joseph Michelli’s “The Starbucks Experience” and Patrick Smith’s “Ask the Pilot”. These books will also give you a strong awareness of customer service in an aviation environment, plus the latter teaches a few technical things about flying too.

Cathay also acknowledges the work of customer service guru Ron Kaufman, who has certainly had a great influence on how Aviation English Asia Ltd deliver service to clients. Kaufman’s book “UP Your Service!” is again highly recommended. You can find both of these titles in our online bookshop.

Improve your English and your soft skills

Of course, if you are a prospective flight attendant or a flight attendant wanting to improve your English and soft skills for the kind of situations described in “Service In the Sky” you can take the In-flight English or Social English courses developed by Aviation English Asia. These will give you thorough practice of essential language skills, making you more effective in your job and in your social life. To find out more please visit :

What to do next

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit  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.


  • 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  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 tips from Aviation English Asia

In this article I’m going to give some proven advice on language learning, and I’ll even give you my Top Five Tips for Developing Good English Learning Habits, so you can be successful in an airline career.

If you are reading this article, chances are that you are preparing to either take or re-take an ICAO English test.  If you are not taking this test (it’s for pilots and air traffic controllers) then you will still find this advice very useful, no matter what your intended career.  If you follow my advice, you can save a lot of time and money in learning English.

Let me start this article by telling you a few things about me, that maybe you don’t know.  The first time I learned a foreign language was in high school, back in the UK – I was supposed to learn French.  I was actually quite good at French because I was good at mimicking (copying) sounds.   My teacher didn’t see it that way though, in fact my teacher never saw or heard me speak French at all.  There were too many other students (about 30 in a class) and they were all of mixed levels.  The teacher never gave us any opportunity to practice speaking in French to each other, we just watched her write on the board and occasionally copied her in choral repetition (repeating words as a group).  I only learned French for two years, and I was glad to drop the subject.  I didn’t particularly hate learning French, but I just didn’t feel motivated to learn it, or didn’t feel any great need to learn it.

I didn’t learn another foreign language again for a long time.  I chose to learn Mandarin in evening classes at my university.   I learned Mandarin for 2 hours per week, for 8 months.  There were about 15 people in the class and they all became great friends.  Naturally a few people dropped out, because they were busy with their careers but most of us managed to stick together as a group and help each other.  Of course, this was in London so there wasn’t much opportunity to practice speaking in Mandarin day to day.

In each class we were told to memorise a list of words both in pin yin (romanised) and as hanzi (Chinese characters).  Within weeks we were told to not use the romanised characters, just remember the Chinese characters.  In each lesson we would often have to memorise 20 or more hanzi and be able to read and pronounce them correctly.  Very few of us managed to do this and we forgot a lot of them, probably because they were words that we would never use (eg. planned socialist economy).  It was painful having to look up the Chinese characters in a dictionary so I could pronounce them correctly.

When I moved to Hong Kong I started learning Cantonese instead. By this time I had a lot of experience in language teaching so I could recognise the techniques that the teacher was using. My Cantonese teacher spoke to me in 100% Cantonese (or not at all) so I used the target language all of the time. I learned vocabulary from pictures not a dictionary – only later did I learn to write the word in chinese characters or pin yum. I studied Cantonese with my teacher 6 hours a day, five days a week, for 6 weeks – then I went out and practised some more.

Which language do you think that I can speak better?

My Cantonese is much better than my Mandarin, and my French is now non-existent. So what is the difference that made the difference?

The main difference is not the length of time studying, or the environment I studied in, but the teaching method. In language teaching there are two distinct families:
1. Grammar Translation
2. Communicative Method

In school, most people learn through Grammar Translation. It does have some advantages, but it’s a very slow method. Schools often use this style of teaching when they are teaching a “foreign” language or when there are a lot of students in a very large class. Grammar Translation teaches you to remember many different grammar rules, and learn vocabulary by memorisation. In these classes the success of the method is judged by how you perform in the exam. This often means that learners can read and write – but not speak and hear very well. Just like my French class, it’s not fun.

In Communicative Method the emphasis is on meaning rather than the more traditional approach that emphasizes structural/grammatical competence. The learner gets to practice using the language in a way that is meaningful to them. So how can knowing this help you pass the ICAO English test?

The most important reason is that it can help you realise that not everything your high school teacher told you was correct. There are better ways of learning, and a good teacher will help you discover them. Your teacher in high school might have told you to memorise vocabulary lists, read newspapers and complete gap-fill exercises but that isn’t exactly best teaching practice in the 21st century. I don’t mean that your previous teachers were necessarily bad teachers, but they might have been forced to use a teaching method that was the only method they had particularly big classes.

So what I’m trying to say, is that I understand what it is like to learn a foreign language, and that my teachers weren’t always right either. If you have ever found it difficult to make progress in English, or achieve that breakthrough I have some great advice for you.

So here are my Top Five Tips for Developing Good English Learning Habits

1. Use the target language – that means just use English, not your native language. Avoid translation unless you really need help. Some words might not have an equivalent “concept” in your native language so in this situation translation would be pointless. When you use the target language you are training your brain to make connections that will help you remember words more easily.
2. COW – Concept, Oral Form, Written Form – when you learn new vocabulary try to understand the meaning (the way the word is being used in a real situation) before learning the pronunciation or the written form. If you know what a word means, then the pronunciation will be much easier. The last thing you should be concerned about is the written form. Don’t worry about spelling until you have mastered the pronunciation of the oral form of the word.
3. Don’t focus on grammar too much – a good communicative teacher will present grammar structures in context so you can learn them naturally. The most important thing is that you can communicate. You can work on your accuracy later.
4. Have clear goals – know what your current level is and how long it will take you to reach your target level of English proficiency. This will help you be realistic about what you can achieve – a complete ICAO level in 3 weeks isn’t going to be possible so don’t rush through your English course. Take regular English Assessment Tests to find out if you are on track to reach your goal.
5. Make learning English a regular habit. Don’t just practice English with your teacher, make sure you practice English with other students, and at every opportunity you can. If practicing English is a regular part of your life your brain it will become easier and more enjoyable.

I’d also like to share with you one more great piece of advice about developing a good attitude towards learning. This one is really important.

You should practice English because you enjoy communicating with other English speakers, not just because you need it for your job. If you only learn English so you can pass the ICAO English test, or pass an airline’s interview procedure you are giving yourself a lot of additional pressure. Be nice to yourself, and enjoy learning English. Improving your English is an investment that will always pay off, no matter what your career.

For more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit
If you haven’t already, please sign up to our newsletter using the course enquiry form on the right hand side. You can then receive updates and course information from Aviation English Asia as soon as they are available.

Pass the CX ICAO English test with Aviation English Asia.

If you are based in Hong Kong and want to become a pilot then you will surely be aware that one of the best (and least expensive) ways of getting on to the flight deck is through an airline’s cadet pilot programme. This has since be opened to people of other nationalities so local Hong Kong people must now compete with native English speakers. One area of difficulty is passing the ICAO English test.

Aviation English Asia have a complete course to help you pass the CX ICAO English test. Our ICAO English for CPP course will give you the skills you need to pass Cathay’s ICAO English test. We have a thorough understanding of both learner needs and what the CX assessors and Flight Ops recruitment departments want so you can be sure that our course is the best possible preparation for the ICAO English test.

Learning English for aviation is a long term goal – you can’t take a magic pill to learn English overnight. Language centres in Hong Kong often don’t teach you the study skills and habits that you need to learn effectively. Even the better schools offer completely inappropriate courses for candidates who want to join the cadet pilot programme. Aviation English Asia offers a better solution.

Here are ten reasons why:

  • Aviation English Asia are experienced in assessing English for the purposes of the CX ICAO test.
  • We understand what the assessors and recruiters want. 
  • Aviation English Asia courses are flexible and fit into your timetable easily.
  • We won’t sell you a long course that you don’t need (and don’t have time to attend).
  • Aviation English Asia only employ CELTA / DELTA / Trinity Cert TESOL qualified native English teachers (all our teachers have between 5 and 15 years of teaching experience and have externally assessed teaching qualifications – they don’t have ‘online’ TEFL certificates).
  • We accurately place you at the right starting level.
  • We understand what is required of cadet pilots.
  • We give you constant feedback and assessment to make sure that you are always on track.
  • We want you to succeed – our students are our best advertisement and our goal is to produce competent English speakers for the airline industry.
  • Aviation English Asia have a 100% success rate.

100% of our students have passed the CX ICAO English test.

Find out your ICAO Aviation English level now.

Although Aviation English Asia has an excellent track record in preparing candidates for the CX ICAO test we won’t give you the answers to memorise. We don’t offer that kind of preparation. Instead we will help you develop the English language skills you need to pass the test, without having to cram for the answers at the last minute.  Fluency in English can’t be faked and the assessor will know if you are memorising answers.  Remember that our goal is to produce competent English speakers that can communicate clearly and with grammatical accuracy.

What happens in the ICAO English test?
The assessor will be looking at your language skill in 6 separate areas. 
These are Structure, Pronunciation, Vocabulary, Comprehension, Fluency and Interaction.
English courses available in mainstream language centres in Hong Kong rarely provide sufficient practice in these core areas as they are designed for a more regular function.  This is typically academic study eg IELTS or TOEFL, or alternatively for general or business English eg BULATS.  Mainstream English schools usually lack the expertise to train learners to meet the requirements of the ICAO Aviation English test and can only provide a very general English course.  As the environment is very mixed the learner in such an environment will often pick up “Chinglish”  errors as a result.  Furthermore the timetable and length of the course make it very difficult for CPP candidates to learn English well.

To pass the CX ICAO test you will need to score level 5 in each of these areas, though candidates that were told to reach ICAO level 4 have recently been allowed to pass with level 4 scores.

It seems that one of the difficulties is that people are not aware of their English ability in terms of an ICAO rating before they take the CX test.  If your English is generally pretty good we recommend taking our Aviation English assessment test first so that you can have a realistic idea of how good your English really is.  This is very inexpensive at $968 HKD for both an 60 minute online, and an in-person assessment.

If you take the CX ICAO test and do not achieve the required standard in any of the 6 categories the assessor will most likely recommend between 100 and 300 hours of English training.  That can be expensive, if you choose the wrong school / tutor.  There is also the danger that the English training might not be appropriate for CPP candidates needs.

Find out your ICAO English level before you attend an interview.

There IS a better alternative to mainstream schools and tutors (though I am sure some of them are also very good in their area). There is also more than one ICAO English test in the world, just as there are many types of English examination. Before you take the ICAO English test I recommend taking an independent assessment. This will give you confidence when you sit the CX ICAO test and a more detailed understanding of your language abilities and weaknesses.

For more information about ICAO Aviation English for the CX CPP please visit:

and also join in the discussion about the CX ICAO test on our Facebook fan page.