Posts Tagged ‘study method’

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

Article written by Michael Egerton

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

Reason One: Not realising the importance of English in aviation

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

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

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

Reason Three: Doing the wrong type of English course

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

Reason Four: Teachers using inappropriate learning materials

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

Reason Five: Starting an English course at the wrong level

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article written by Michael Egerton

Prepare for an airline interview or prepare for your career?

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

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

Learn English as it is used in an aviation context

Learn English as it is used in an aviation context

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mistake number one – focusing only on the test

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

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

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

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

Mistake number two – doing the wrong type of course

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

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

Mistake number three – not starting a course early enough

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

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

The BEST WAY to prepare for an airline English test

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

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

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

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

What to do next

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

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

Making use of free Aviation English Resources

Advice for learning English from Aviation English Asia.

Article written by Michael Egerton

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

The best way to get free ICAO Aviation English exercises

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

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

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

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

What do you get in the free demos?

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

Looking for more free ICAO English exercises?

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

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

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

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

Interact with Aviation English Asia

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

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

You can find us here:

Please suggest to your friends

Disadvantages of free Aviation English resources

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

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

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

What to do next

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

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

English learning advice from Aviation English Asia.

Article written by Michael 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

    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.