Posts Tagged ‘icao english test’

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 Egerton

In this article I’m going to show you how you can improve your ability to paraphrase.  Paraphrasing is the ability to express someone else’s ideas in your own words.  It is an essential skill for pilots and controllers, as there may be times when you need to communicate with other non-native speakers who don’t know (or can’t recognise) the words that you are trying to use.

Therefore you should improve not just your own vocabulary, but learn how to communicate information clearly using other words and structures.  It’s an effective way of checking, confirming and clarifying information.  Communication strategies like this will contribute to making aviation safer.

aviation english paraphrasing

Paraphrasing for pilots and controllers

Paraphrasing requires several skills:

  • Good listening comprehension
  • the ability to understand the main points of a message
  • the ability to understand  why the speaker/writer expressed himself this way
  • the ability to express the same ideas in more concise terms without changing the meaning

This means that you need to develop the ability to use the context to understand the new vocabulary that you hear, while ignoring the parts that are not relevant to the main points. Pay attention to key words/phrases, tense and factual information.

You can practice paraphrasing/summarising by picking out the key words/phrases in the text and expressing the way they are related to each other.

Practice paraphrasing while reading

In aviation you will probably be more concerned with improving your listening rather than reading, but nevertheless you can improve your paraphrasing skills by reading a varied range of text.

When you read an article first skim read it to understand what the article is about and what the writer is trying to say.  You should be able to guess the meaning of words that you don’t know from the context.  Then consider:

  • What are the main points?
  • What is the key information?
  • What information is not useful?
  • What questions does the article answer or raise?

You can then change the structure of the article to be clearer and easier to understand.  If there are uncommon words you can describe them using different words.  If the word represents something physical, eg a foreign object left on the runway, you can consider it’s shape, size and dimensions or even the material it is made of.  If the word represents something abstract eg “aerodynamics”, consider the situations in which the idea occurs.

Exercise:

Paraphrase the following passage:

As mankind advanced further and further, throughout history there were lots of trials and designs for flying machines.    In order to establish flying, mankind looked at the only available example of flying: namely birds.  Thus, everyone was trying to copy the designs of the birds to design a flying machine that paralleled their development: The Ornithopter.  In essence, an ornithopter was a machine that had birdlike wings and a place for the operator to be attached.  The operator would flap his arms and the wings of the ornithopter would be flapped also.  In essence, mankind would fly by simulating the flapping of the bird’s wings.  However, since the principles of aerodynamics were not yet discovered, no one was aware of the ratio of the wing to muscle power and thus all of these projects and attempts were doomed to fail.

It should be easy to state the important information within a few sentences.  It’s easy to see which information can be discarded.

Exercise:

  • Explain what an ornihopter is without using the word “birds”.
  • Explain why ornihopters were not successful without using the words “aerodynamics”, “flapping” or “power”.

Practice paraphrasing in aviation

Watch the following video.

  • Do you think that the controllers were surprised to hear of that object on the taxiway?
  • How do you think it got there?
  • What other words sound similar or could easily be misheard?
  • How would you describe that object if you weren’t able to communicate clearly on the radio due to interference?

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 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 will focus on the context of the ICAO recommended English language requirements. In other words, why have ICAO shown so much interest in English language proficiency.  We will also look at various examples showing poor English skills that contributed to aviation incidents/accidents and then a quick look at what ICAO expects from you.

Do you know why you are here?

These should be fairly simple questions for you:

Why are you in English language training? Who are you and what do you want to achieve?

It goes without question that you should be here for the fundamental reason of preventing injury or even death in the sky or on the ground with intelligible and effective English skills.

Despite some airlines having their own Aviation English tests, as do some language academies, the common goal is to make sure pilots/controllers can communicate effectively in routine and non-routine situations.  Obviously a lack of English awareness could lead to an aviation incident or accident.

  • Generally, an aviation incident is an event that results in injury or damage to people/aircraft or at least is a cause for concern eg. a near-miss.
  • An accident usually means resulting fatalities from an aviation related event

Specific incidents/accidents showing lack of English communication

We will now look briefly at some aviation incidents/accidents, be aware that a lack of English skills was one factor in the problems that occurred.

  • Heathrow LOT 282 incident (2007).

This incident is a recent example used by Aviation English instructors to show that a clear and effective use of English could resolve an issue quickly.  From AAIB (2008) reports we are informed that the aircraft had navigational aid problems and pilots showed poor situational awareness, but also the responses by the crew to the English speaking ATC were practically unintelligible.  Good communication would not have escalated the chain of problems and the crew showed a lack of even basic English competency, for example the commander reported position as “330” instead of the actual “030”.  This could have been fatal but thankfully the aircraft eventually landed safely and was a recent ‘wake up’ call for all ICAO level 6 and lower Aviation personnel.

Please study the AAIB report here

  • New York Avianca 52 accident (1990)

This accident highlighted the problem of unsuitable AE lexis/vocabulary in alerting ATC of on-board problems.  Not far from Kennedy International flight deck problems resulted in a command for “priority landing” rather than a much better “emergency” command given the seriousness of their situation.  The captain and co-pilot did not ‘agree’ with the English commands, in other words there was little understanding in plain and phraseology English between them.  One thought “emergency” was stated, rather than the less critical “priority landing.”  Was there a Spanish-English translation issue here? Was it a lack of confidence and competency in English communication?

For a transcript of the communication before this tragedy resulted please click here

ICAO outcomes and recommendations

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is the general authority in aviation, underneath their position of authority are national regulators, with international organisations, such as JAA and Eurocontrol feeding expertise and recommended practices into the national regulators and ICAO.  The ICAO English requirements (level 4 etc) that you are studying for affect private pilots, commercial pilots, helicopter pilots and air traffic controllers.

ICAO English requirementsImplementation of ICAO recommended requirements for English Proficiency were originally set for 2008, but after this being unrealistic the date was changed to March 5th, 2011.  This is the date you must target for level 4 proficiency.

The overview of English proficiency as stated by ICAO is as follows: –

“The English Language shall be available on request from any aircraft station on the ground or in the air.”

Which means you must have the capability to respond in English even if in your ‘local’ airspace.

“Clarify that both phraseology and plain English proficiency are required”

As has been stated clearly in previous articles, you must be generally and on the whole effective in communicating phraseology and unexpected events, which may require plain/general English.

ICAO Language Proficiency Requirements (September 2004) 9835 Document is seen in AE teaching as the guide to getting you at your required level of operation.  The articles I have written take information from this master document.

Conclusion

ICAO gave a series of recommendations after the Avianca accident, for example, including setting a fixed language of terms.  (ICAO, 1991)  It must be clear that  ICAO gives recommendations, not accreditation of assessment. Targeting the level you require is your first step with AE instruction, once you have obtained this after being tested by your airline or academy your English skills will become a long-term component of your career, with testing every 3 years if under ICAO level 6.

Your instructor at Aviation English Asia will guide you through the ICAO recommended practices in your course.  Remember you are interested in being intelligible, effective communicators for the majority of the time in both routine and unpredictable situations, using fixed phraseology and also plain English when required.  It should remain one very important part of your aviation career.

Quiz

  • What is the difference between an incident and an accident?
  • Must you speak English all the time on the radio?
  • What basic English problems caused the Heathrow LOT 282 incident to be in the news?
  • What, in your opinion, are the key words that describe ICAO level 4?
  • How will you be tested?
  • Evaluate your next step, what are the most important reasons for your training?


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 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.

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

    Aviation English Asia has a strong record in helping students succeed in aviation careers.  In this article we will explain the level of English proficiency needed to pass the ICAO English test.

    So, when it comes to Aviation English most people will tell you ICAO Level 4, but what does that really mean?

    In layman’s terms, at ICAO Level 4 you should be able to listen to, read and discuss the main ideas, technical vocabulary and details in most professional material. At this level, you are able to participate in a more sophisticated or professional conversation regarding your specialized area of expertise. You can generally handle predictable and unexpected topics of communication.

    You need to show competence in 6 skills of the ICAO Language Proficiency Rating scale.

    • Pronunciation
    • Structure
    • Comprehension
    • Vocabulary
    • Fluency
    • Interaction

    Let’s examine what is required for each of those skills at ICAO Level 4:

    Pronunciation

    Pronunciation, stress, rhythm, and intonation are influenced by the first language or regional variation but only sometimes interfere with ease of understanding.

    This means that you have to speak in a way which is intelligible to the aeronautical community –  International English rather than British or American English.  It is acceptable that your pronunciation and accent are affected by your first language, eg Chinese and you are not expected to be a perfect speaker of English.  It is still expected that you will make some pronunciation errors, eg stressing the wrong part of the word or speaking in a broken rhythm but it’s acceptable as long as it only sometimes interferes with understanding.

    Structure

    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.  You should be able to express yourself with a variety of alternative structures and again, it is expected that you will make some grammatical errors.  This descriptor highlights that such errors could occur in non-routine situations, but the meaning is generally understood.

    Vocabulary

    Vocabulary range and accuracy are usually sufficient to communicate effectively on common, concrete, and work- related topics. Can often paraphrase successfully when lacking vocabulary in unusual or unexpected circumstances.

    The key words here are common, concrete and work related topics.  You will need to know both general and aviation related vocabulary which could include everything from basic things like parts of an aircraft and weather conditions to health and physiology.  You should also have sufficient ability to paraphrase (eg explain using different words) in non-routine situations.

    Fluency

    Produces stretches of language at an appropriate tempo. There may be occasional loss of fluency on transition from rehearsed or formulaic speech to spontaneous interaction, but this does not prevent effective communication. Can make limited use of discourse markers or connectors. Fillers are not distracting.

    Fluency is your ability to express yourself clearly without pausing too much.  You should also be able to use appropriate conjunctions.  It is acceptable to pause when changing from routine speech eg phraseology to spontaneous (instinctive) speech in interactions.  You shouldn’t “um” and “ah” too much when thinking about what to say.

    Comprehension

    Comprehension is mostly accurate on common, concrete, and work- related topics when the accent or variety used is sufficiently intelligible for an international community of users. When the speaker is confronted with a linguistic or situational complication or an unexpected turn of events, comprehension may be slower or require clarification strategies.

    Comprehension of different accents or variety of speech is a very important skill and needs to be “mostly accurate” on common, concrete and work-related topics.  It is expected that your understanding will be slower in non-routine situations. Comprehension refers to listening comprehension rather than reading.

    Interactions

    Responses are usually immediate, appropriate, and informative. Initiates and maintains exchanges even when dealing with an unexpected turn of events. Deals adequately with apparent misunderstandings by checking, confirming, or clarifying.

    Another valuable skill is the ability to be able to ask questions to check that information is correct.  The responses should be appropriate and give the relevant information.  The speed of response should usually be immediate, even in non-routine situations.

    How does an ICAO level relate to other tests like IELTS, TOEFL or TOEIC?

    Good question.  If you you have an A grade in an English exam you’d probably be surprised if you failed an ICAO English test.  But that’s exactly what happens to many applicants, who have all the skills ‘on paper’ but have great difficulty in communicating effectively in English – particularly in speaking and listening.

    Many school systems puts too much emphasis on performance in exams, and not enough on actual functional ability – so most English courses and language centres will not give you sufficient preparation for the ICAO English test. We’ve seen people with IELTS band 8 scores get ICAO level 3 scores in an ICAO assessment.  It’s very difficult to compare other tests to ICAO.  Unlike other tests, ICAO scores are based on the lowest level that you achieve.  You could get a score of 5 for Pronunciation, Structure, Vocabulary, Comprehension and Interactions but if you only score 3 for Fluency then ICAO Level 3 is your final grade.

    The best way to pass an ICAO English test

    The ICAO Aviation English Online course is different because it focuses exactly on the skills that you need to perform well in the ICAO test.  But you won’t just train to pass the test, you’ll be able to function in an aviation environment with greater safety and knowledge.  As you improve your English, you can also learn about aviation and improve your technical knowledge.

    Each level contains 12 units of between 8 and 12 hours each that will give you intensive practice of the skills you need to pass the ICAO test.  ICAO Aviation English Online is industry grade courseware that has been used by major airlines.  We recommend this course to anyone who is a non-native English speaker starting a course of aviation training.

    What should I do now?

    Just visit ICAO Aviation English Online and make payment for the Aviation English Placement Test. You will receive an accurate level assessment and a recommendation for the best course to begin studying.

    Aviation English Asia Ltd

    http://www.aviationenglish.com