Posts Tagged ‘english learning tips’

Do you say /lunway/ instead of /runway/? Is this a problem? A guide to pronunciation in Aviation English.

English learning advice from Aviation English Asia.

Written by Michael McBride

In this article I am going to focus on pronunciation in Aviation English, the different characteristics and ICAO requirements. As the ICAO advises, “pronunciation must be given high priority.” It must be stressed that your Aviation English training requires you to practice both listening and speaking, which form the main part of the ICAO tests, so pronunciation is essential.

General components of pronunciation

Pronunciation is of course a fundamental part of language learning and allows the speaker to express themselves coherently and accurately. You will have experienced the feeling of knowing the meaning of a word but if you cannot pronounce it properly you are left with feelings of inadequacy. If you can pronounce words how they should be you are given the confidence to keep on improving your language skills. Included in the general pronunciation umbrella are the following: –

  • Stress – The emphasis of words or parts of words (syllables), but also can include weak sounds
  • Rhythm – The speed of communication, including when to pause and when to speed up
  • Intonation – The high, middle and low levels of speech, especially noted in asking questions

In your General English training you should have knowledge and practice of these pronunciation areas, for example vowel and consonant sounds, knowing when to emphasise sounds/words and how to question by raising your voice higher or lower.

ICAO Aviation English pronunciation requirements

According to the ICAO, level 4 candidates must “use a dialect or accent which is intelligible to the community,” in other words, pronunciatAviation English Pronunciationion is crucial. Let’s look at the word “intelligibility” as it a key part of Aviation English. This term is linked to how someone is understood and not necessarily that person being 100% correct all the time with how/what they say. Please do not mistake intelligibility with accuracy, although similar they are separate terms. This is especially relevant to ICAO Level 4. The other person must be able to understand you but you do have the space to make a few mistakes. As ICAO state:

“Pronunciation, stress, rhythm and intonation….sometimes interfere with ease of understanding.” (ICAO 9835)

So to be more positive this means although pronunciation is “high priority” (ICAO) to get to operational level there is room to make some errors. If your voice is unclear, the words are not understandable and too many (instead of a few) mistakes are made how can the controller/pilot communicate with you effectively in the sky and on the ground?

Advice on how to improve pronunciation

To improve your pronunciation is all about being aware of your mouth and what sounds it produces within the English language. What sounds do your front mouth/lips make as opposed to the back of your throat? You may find it harder to pronounce ‘back of the throat’ sounds like “k” or “q”, through knowing what are your weaknesses you can then focus on repeating these sounds until practice makes perfect.

In order to be intelligible over the radio be aware that omitting key vowel and particularly consonant sounds can decrease all understanding. Not saying consonant sounds at the end of words is a particular problem with some learners. Do you say “requ vect” when it should be “request vectors?” Looking at the word “vectors” consider the following: –

  • “Vec-ors” – is this recognisable?
  • “Ve-tors” – how about this?

Linking to ICAO requirements it may be all right to accidentally omit consonants in the middle of words, but be careful and try to self-correct whenever possible. Strategies to self-correct and practice problem pronunciation will be taught in greater detail with your instructor at Aviation English Asia. You should have the ability to correct yourself, but don’t expect to be perfect or fluent at ICAO level 4. Further advice

It is certainly advisable to listen to a range of accents and dialects, linked again to the ICAO requirements about being understood in an intelligible way of speaking. It is not enough to role model and listen to your teacher’s accent alone. What accents are must difficult for you to understand, what is your developing accent going to be? What works for you?

  • British English – this tends to include stronger pronunciation of consonants like “t”, for example “often” is usually pronounced “offt-un”
  • American English – in comparison consonant sounds tend to sound weaker, “often” sounds like “off-un.”

You certainly need to be aware of different accents and practice listening to them so you eventually are able to work out what the word is quickly and efficiently. Listen to authentic recordings on www.liveatc.net and our youtube channel.  Select an audio recording. Is every consonant sound like “t” and “l” pronounced? Why or why not? Listen to the speed of interaction. What differences can you hear with native and non-native English speakers?

Checklist

  • Intelligibility, intelligibility, and intelligibility.
  • Try to be as accurate as possible but being understood is key
  • Listen to a variety of accents from real ATC recordings. What sounds do you find difficult to both speak and listen?
  • 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.

    A focus on unusual and strange occurrences during flight operations

    English learning advice from Aviation English Asia.

    Article written by Michael McBride.

    How would you communicate the following situation to the controller?

    In this article I’m going to explain the different components of Aviation English, and explain why English is important and essential for communication in unexpected situations.

    Summary of Aviation English language

    Aviation English (AE) is split into three key areas;

    • Phraseology,
    • Plain English and
    • General English.

    All three areas work side by side to create language ‘moments’ in the sky and on the ground.  Phraseology is the scripted communication that every pilot and controller has been trained to use.  Plain English is a way to communicate simply without use of over-complex language. It may help to aid understanding and deliver the meaning of something and indeed save lives in certain situations.  General English is not a specific part of many Aviation English courses but it is integrated and assumed.  You need General English as the foundation before you add the building blocks to create your dream home.

    The main rule is that you cannot have one linguistic area without the other.  It is a fair assumption that some people discredit or rather devalue the use of ‘plain’ and General English in Aviation English, but the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) completely disagree.  ICAO state that pilots/controllers at level 4 standard can “handle successfully with relative ease the linguistic challenges presented by a complication or unexpected turn of events.”  After all, unforeseen events in the sky may not be as predictable as a holding pattern around London Heathrow.

    Phraseology will not get you out of every situation

    The official phraseology used by aviation personnel is highly specific and fine-tuned, it will form the basis of all flights, and is indeed a ‘special’ feature of Aviation English.  Phraseology is the result of decades of expert knowledge due to accidents, incidents and logic.  The framework needed to get from A to B safely.  However, it is not enough and you need Plain and General English to get you out of strange and unpredictable problems.  English is one of the most important aspects of ICAO level 4 and above language testing.  For example, what if there are animals loose in the aircraft?  What if there is a piece of luggage blocking the taxiway?  How would you explain this to a controller in English?

    Professional Aviation English training with Aviation English Asia will help you integrate all 3 aspects of Aviation English language.  This is done by training you to use a wide range of language skills to get you out of those ‘sticky situations’ when you need to explain an unusual situation.  The  ICAO level 4 requirements state, “(this person) can often paraphrase successfully when lacking in vocabulary for unexpected circumstances.”  This requirement means that you do not need to know every word in aviation or general English, but you do need to know how to get around not knowing certain vocabulary.

    Advice on how to communicate in unusual situations

    It is essential for any uncertain communication that you maintain a connection with the pilot or controller, “checking and maintaining exchanges in unexpected turn of events” (ICAO).  Aviation English training can help you to build solid communication strategies to solve these communication difficulties and ‘fly out of danger.’   In the classroom or online course you will get plenty of practice on using these language skills.  Relevant grammatical structures include include stock phrases such as:

    • [subject] is similar to…
    • [subject] is like…
    • [subject] looks like…
    • [subject] appears to be…
    • [subject] seems to be…

    and stock phrases/expressions to help you describe unusual situations.  You will also be trained to create and change words to combine both simplicity and clarity in your exchange over the radio.  You cannot use a dictionary in your ICAO test and you cannot search for one in your cockpit!  A wide vocabulary is very important in aviation as you might be communicating with another non-native speaker that doesn’t recognise the words that you used.  You will need to learn how to paraphrase so you can use alternative words.

    You will learn aviation-related words as part of your pilot/controller training and also in Aviation English training.  It is advisable to learn words in groups, such as technology, mechanical parts, weather related etc.  It is much easier for you to learn when you can see a pattern.  It is also good for your wider English knowledge to study word families – receive, reception, receiving…etc.  And it is a good additional communication strategy to find words with the same meaning, these are called ‘synonyms’, eg, fire, blaze, explosion etc.  Maybe you will remember one word more than others.

    For more practical study, try creating situations and imagine how you would communicate it.  For example, animals escaping into the terminal, damage to aircraft by animals.  Then think of the connected vocabulary – containers, cages, hinges…  What information is key when listening?  And if the person you are speaking to doesn’t know what a “cage” is, how could you communicate this?

    How would you communicate these problems?

    1. A lot of cargo + gate
    2. Animal + in terminal
    3. Rain + window

    For feedback on your answers please email exercise@aviationenglish.asia

    Checklist

    • Phraseology is vital but is also not enough
    • Communication strategies
    • Structured learning of words, phrases etc

    What to do next

    For more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit aviationenglish.com

    Pilots and air traffic controllers now have until March 2011 to demonstrate ICAO Operational Level 4 proficiency. This article is about developing strategies to optimise the English learning process. As a pilot or ATC your time is valuable so you will want to learn English in the most efficient manner possible.

    There are hundreds of language schools offering English courses, and the market is very competitive. It is important to realise that there are no “magic pills” or secret learning methods that will help you climb an ICAO level overnight. A lot of English schools will over-emphasise the benefits of a particular learning method, this is usually just part of their sales technique. Learning a language is a complex process and there is a lot about language learning that we don’t understand. If a language school does claim miraculous progress due to their learning method you should be suspicious. However, most linguistic experts will agree on some principles. When choosing a language school you should also ensure that all teachers should have an externally assessed teaching qualification, such as CELTA or Trinity Cert TESOL and be aware of communicative language teaching methods. If you are learning English for ICAO compliance, you should also find out if the teachers have experience within an aviation environment or access to an SME (Subject Matter Expert).

    Developing good learning strategies will make your language learning more effective. In the last article I described some techniques that will help you improve your English learning. Now I’ll provide some advice specific to pilots and air traffic controllers.

    1. Remove limiting beliefs about learning English
    Attitude and motivation are very important to learning a language, as is an open mind. Particularly consider limiting beliefs about age affecting ability to learn a language. There are a number of views regarding this, though factors such as time, effort and opportunity are likely to be more significant than age. Research show that adults actually have better language learning strategies than children – the advantage that children and adolescents have is that they have a lot more opportunities and time to learn a language. There is some evidence to support the belief that our ability to acquire a native accent declines after adolescence but our ability to learn a language does not. As a pilot or controller you don’t currently need to achieve native proficiency so don’t give your self unnecessary pressure.

    2. Be realistic in your goals.
    The current standard of English proficiency for flight crew and controllers is ICAO Operational Level 4. The requirements do not require you to be a speaker of perfect English. Your goal should be to communicate safely and effectively during radiotelephony. You don’t need to be able to communicate like a native speaker, although there are obvious advantages for achieving proficiency at higher levels. Most people learn English better when they are free from external stress and pressure, almost anyone can learn a language – it’s just a matter of time and effort. A reputable aviation English school can give you feedback on how long it will take to achieve your goal.

    3. Accept that learning English takes time.
    Be wary of English courses that promise quick results. Reliable, proven systems like ICAO Aviation English Online is designed to take 12 weeks for each ICAO half level, eg (ICAO level 3 lower is 12 weeks, ICAO level 3 upper is also typically 12 weeks in duration). Developing a strong foundation in English always involves a commitment of time and effort. Improving your ability in English involves more than memorising phrases and questions – you need to be able to comprehend and respond appropriately. You will also need to be able to explain non-routine situations that could potentially occur during flight operations, hence the need for specialised aviation English training. There are many factors influence the speed with which a language can be acquired so it is very difficult to say exactly how long it will take to reach ICAO level 4. ICAO Aviation English Online features an accurate placement test before starting a course and also tests and quizzes throughout each course unit so you can be sure that you start a course at the right level, and also ensure that you are really making progress. Always be aware of “magic pill” solutions – learning a language will take time and it’s more likely to be several months between ICAO levels rather than weeks.

    4. Start to improve your English as soon as possible.
    When planning on taking a course it’s critical that you take a placement test before you start. This will give you an accurate idea of how long it will take, and also ensure that the course is neither too easy nor too difficult. If you have been given 12 months to reach ICAO level 4 you should start to improve your English as soon as possible, rather than in 6 months time. Find out your ICAO Aviation English level now.The more time you give yourself then the less pressure you will feel, and you are likely to enjoy your English classes more.

    5. Choose an English course carefully
    There are many methods of learning a language, and no one has been proven to be the best. An English course shouldn’t be just memorising words and vocabulary, and neither is focusing on grammar. An English course should be communicative and give you the opportunity to practice the language that you have learned in a realistic context. When choosing an English course you should ask about the qualifications and experience of the English teachers. For teaching English for aviation, teachers should have a practical teaching qualification, specifically an externally assessed qualification such as CELTA or Trinity Cert TESOL as a bare minimum requirement. These qualifications are well regarded and involve the teacher being assessed whilst teaching in a classroom, and also completing a significant amount of coursework about teaching practice. Be cautious of schools employing teachers that have online TEFL or TESL certificates which can be completed alone in hours, rather than the 4-6 weeks of observed practice required for a CELTA or TESOL. All teaching certificates are not the same.

    Also consider the qualifications of those teachers that oversee a course. Ideally this should be an MA in Applied Linguistics. Although you should not expect your English teacher to be an experienced commercial pilot, a school teaching aviation English should have access to a SME (Subject Matter Expert) to advise on technical matters. Some teachers may hold higher English teaching qualifications such as DELTA and Trinity Dip TESOL, which are usually obtained after 2-3 years teaching experience.

    6. Focus on the skills you need.
    English for ICAO compliance requires effective speaking and listening and class time should focus on communicative activities that require interaction between people. Although reading and writing are important, these activities are best used outside the classroom as homework activities. Every second of classroom time is a valuable opportunity for you to practice speaking and listening – don’t waste time on the skills that can be developed outside class. A good example of an out of classroom activity is reading books and magazines graded at an appropriate level. Reading is an excellent way to improve your vocabulary and you will also pick up a lot of grammatical structures naturally. There are a wide range of aviation themed books and magazines available. Let us know your recommendations on our Facebook page. There are also a lot of aviation websites, videos and forums online that offer text and rich multimedia that can help you develop your language skills. If you find a good aviation website please post a link on our Facebook page discussion forum.

    7. Choose an aviation specific English course.
    Pass the ICAO English test with ICAO Aviation English Online An aviation focused English course is likely to be more interesting for you than a general English course. The course materials will be more relevant and can even reinforce knowledge that you will need for your career. Furthermore an aviation English course will be a better use of your valuable time because it is specifically concentrated on helping you develop the language skills that your needs for ICAO compliance. Your teachers will be very interested in aviation and keen to hear about your experiences too.

    8. Be responsible for your own learning.
    No matter how good they are, you shouldn’t rely on your teacher 100%. Your English teacher is just a guide, or a facilitator. You need to be active in your learning and take every opportunity that you can to practice English. Ask questions and be interested in people. Speak and think in English at every opportunity. Use the language that you learn in each lesson rather than letting your notes gather dust.

    9. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
    Many English learners are perfectionists that try to get everything correct first time – the result – they lose their fluency. It’s ok to make mistakes, your English teacher can’t correct every mistake you make anyway. If they did then the class would be painful for the teacher. You will learn English faster when you are relaxed and less concerned with making mistakes. The same is true for pronunciation – it’s strange that one of the best ways to improve your pronunciation and fluency is often… not to think about pronunciation and fluency.

    10. Talk to your friends and colleagues in English
    Talking in English isn’t just limited to the classroom or during radio communications. Take every opportunity to practice and interact in English with friends and colleagues. Invite them to study with Aviation English Asia and you can make learning English more enjoyable, and the skies safer.


    For more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.asia
    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.

    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 http://aviationenglish.asia
    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.