1. Read the text and do the tasks that follow.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)has introduced language proficiency requirements for air traffic controllers and pilots with the objective to improve the level of language proficiency globally and reduce the frequency of communication errors. Historically, insufficient English language proficiency on the part of the flight crew or the controller has contributed to a number of accidents and serious incidents.

The ICAO Language Proficiency requirements are applicable to both native and non- native English speakers. ICAO Doc 9835 states: “Native speakers of English, too, have a fundamentally important role to play LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY REQUIREMENTS in the international efforts to increase communication safety.”

In 2003, ICAO set a deadline of March 2008 for English language proficiency at Level 4 and above for all pilots flying international routes and air traffic controllers serving international airports and routes.

For States which were not able to meet the March 2008 deadline, full implementation is to be completed by March 2011.

The proficiency scale ranges from Level 1 to Level 6, with guidelines published for:

· Pronunciation

· Fluency

· Structure

· Vocabulary

· Comprehension

· Interaction

ICAO require that language skills of pilots and controllers rated at Level 4 are reassessed every three years, Level 5 pilots and controllers - every six years, while at Level 6, no further assessment of English LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY REQUIREMENTS language skills is deemed necessary.

The Level 4 (operational) proficiency is considered as a minimum ‘stepping stone’ to higher levels. The main benefit of high international standards of aviation English is that communications between aircraft crew and controllers are fully understood, particularly when non-standard words and phrases are used.

1. In pairs/groups answer the following questions:

· What are the ICAO Language Proficiency Requirements?

· What levels of language proficiency has ICAO established? How often should the ICAO levels be evaluated?

· What are the six areas of linguistic description in the ICAO rating scale?

· How can you characterize skill areas LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY REQUIREMENTS of the Operational Level 4 in the ICAO Language Proficiency Rating Scale?

2. Listen to the recordings and answer the questions that follow.

1 What decision has the ICAO made?

2 What will the aviation personnel be required to prove?

3. Why must the aviation personnel have a good command of spoken English?

4 How will the aviation personnel have to prove an adequate command of spoken English?

5 What do the letters TEA stand for?

6 What is meant by an adequate command of English?

7 What 3C's were mentioned during the briefing?

8 How were they going to meet the ICAO English language proficiency requirements LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY REQUIREMENTS in short time available?

9 What does any training plan involve?

10 What are the ways to prepare for the test?

11 What is the form (the duration) of the test?

12 What skills are going to be assessed during the test?

3. What other questions would you like to ask the speaker?

Student A.

Ask the questions.

Student B.

Answer the questions, using your own ideas.


1. Read the text and do the tasks that follow.

English is the official language of aviation. Today, English is spoken by more non-native speakers than native LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY REQUIREMENTS speakers. Many flight crews are now composed of non-native English speaking pilots from different countries. This situation, combined with the fact that many controllers are non-native speakers, can lead to substantial communication issues that can affect flight safety. Therefore, any discussion of communications must focus not only on the intelligibility of non-native speakers to native speakers but also on the interaction between non-native speakers. Effective communications within crews and between crewmembers and controllers are essential for safe air travel.

Linguistic problems can arise any time people are communicating and are especially a problem when one or LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY REQUIREMENTS more of them is not a native speaker of the language being used. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), between 1976 and 2000, more than 1,100 passengers and crew lost their lives in accidents where language issues played a contributory role.

Many pilot-controller misunderstandings can be attributed to expectations that lead the listener to hear what he or she was expecting to hear instead of what was actually said. The expectation of a particular instruction can prime a pilot to mistake an unrelated communication for the anticipated instruction.

Code switching is a term that refers to LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY REQUIREMENTS the alternation between two or more languages, dialects or language registers in the course of communications between people who have more than one language in common. Code switching can occur even between native English speakers and often involves switching between technical jargon and normal spoken language.

Some pilot-controller communication errors arise when words sound or look alike but have different meanings. Such words are called homophones, homographs or homonyms. Homophones are words that sound alike but have different meanings and may or may not be spelled the same way (to vs. two). Homographs are words that are spelled the LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY REQUIREMENTS same way, but have different meanings and may or may not be pronounced differently (sewer, a conduit for waste vs. sewer, a person who sews). In the strictest sense, a homonym is both a homophone and a homograph. That is, true homonyms are spelled the same and sound the same, but have different meanings (bear may refer to the animal, or to a movement in a certain direction).

Paralinguistic factors include voice intonation, stress, rate of delivery and pause/hesitation. Paralinguistic factors can change the form and the meaning of sentences by acting across individual sounds or words LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY REQUIREMENTS of a sentence. Another problem area in aviation arises from excessive pausing during radio transmissions.

(From Operator's Guide to Human Factors in Aviation)

2. In pairs/groups discuss the following questions:

· What can affect flight safety? Why?

· What does miscommunication result in?

· What statistics is given in the passage?

· What are the reasons for pilot-controller misunderstanding?

· What are the main linguistic problems/non-linguistic? Identify each of them.

· How to prevent linguistic problems?

3. Search the Internet and give example for each type of miscommunication mentioned above.

4. Work in pairs/groups and discuss the following questions:

a Have you ever LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY REQUIREMENTS experienced problems when communicating with people who were native English speakers?

b Which aspects of their speech did you find most difficult? Discuss speed of delivery, accent, vocabulary used, jargon etc.

c In which countries have you encountered the most problems?

d What do you think native English speaking controllers and pilots can do to be more understandable to the aviation community?

5. Read the text and answer the following question.

What effect may native-speaking controllers have on non-native speaking pilots?