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Survey: ATC English language policy for various countries
Hi all, I'm a student and currently investigating ATC language issues as part of a report on cross-language interaction issues, and interested in seeing how various countries approach it.
Specifically, I am wondering, what the language policy for various countries (which are not native English speaking countries) are with regards to using English in ATC comms: is it only to be used, or is the native language also allowed to be used? If you're a pilot, what has been your observation flying around various country's airspaces and listening to the radio?
For example, I know that Japan and Hong Kong speak English only and Mainland China speaks English and Chinese.
How about other Asian countries, like Korea? And Europe, Africa, and Latin America?
If you have knowledge, please share it here. Thanks!
I was quite interested to note, whilst controlling at the Dusseldorf Area Control Centre (Clutch Radar) (due to ye olde radar at EDUO giving up the ghost) that the native German controllers spoke English to the aircraft and to each other on console. Off console it was German!
My (admittedly very limited) experience is that French ATC speak in English to pilots who make their inital call in English but French to those who call in French. Does wonders for your situational awareness. Not.
English is the international language for ATC, however.......
The fact is the primary "international" language for Aviation Communication is English. Sometimes, however, if control instructions are not understood it may be pertinent if english is not the primary local language, to also pass them in the native tongue to ensure the message gets through, if this option is available. At this particular unit and the adjacent units (including Iran, Pakistan, Yemen, India, Bahrain, Saudi and UAE), it is compulsory for the locals to speak in English both on the internal comms and to the aircraft, friendly greetings to aircraft are often made in the local language but all control instructions or operational information must be once again passed in English.
Langage issues present one of the greatest hazzards in ATC and having just witnessed 2 incidents in as many days where this was the primary cause, it is an ongoing problem. My experience on a daily basis with anything up to 30 different nationalities serves as a good basis for comment and by far the worse operators in this particular airspace for english are the Chinese. The two previous incidents mentioned (of the numerous) were major Chinese carriers (incidently not Hong Kong based) and both helped themselves to unauthorized climb after taking control instructions for other aircraft in the airspace, conflicting badly with other traffic. If these and previous situations had been missed due to such things as radar limitations, frequency limitations or work load factors (which are regular players at this unit and many others) the results could have been disasterous, serving to illustrate the importance of pilots and ATC having a good comprehension and grasp of the English language where it is legislated as compulsory.
Last edited by Fox3snapshot; 12th Dec 2002 at 07:21.
ryu2 : ICAO annex 10 says that the language to be used in R/T communications is the language of the country overflown. When no agreement exists between pilot and controller, R/T based in the English language shall be used.( or made available )
This is the reason why most countries have their national language as prime R/T language, English second : Largest examples : Whole south and Central america ( Spanish ) with the exeption of Brazil ( Portugese ) Canada ( French in Quebec Province ) Russia and most of the CIS ( Russian ) , mainland China ( Mandarin ) , most of the North and west Africa ( French ) and most south European Countries ( France, Italy, Spain, Greece, etc..) use their own national language first. The North European countries , including Germany have abolished the use of their National language in favour of English only , but only in IFR and at their International airports ( they mostly still use their national language for VFR anfd at local airfields. )
Some four years ago I was taking part as guest in a rally to Cognac and along the Dordogne to various locations. My pilot was French and the organiser. Other participants were French (majority), Austrian, German, Liechtenstinian (?), and there was one brave chap from the UK. We'd had a very nice couple of days, including a lecture into the making of Cognac by a New Zealander who played cricket for France (you gotta believe it!). One destination was Brive la Roche, where they insisted on speaking French. Our British friend wasn't having any of it and insisted on getting clearance to land in English. There was quite a battle going on, which, with some 10 aircraft at staggered intervals also requiring contact. At last G-XXXX was cleared to land, only to find that an elderly German couple had slipped in unannounced downwind and were gaily taxying along the active runway unbeknown to ATC, whose gaze was obviously concentrated on our British friend on finals. There was almost a diplomatic incident, with the airport fathers apologising eventually. The only one who seemed oblivious was the septugenarian D-XXXX professor, who eventually got a bollxxxing from yours truly as keeper of both languages on behalf of G-XXXX, but who still showed no signs of remorse. Needless to say zey ver kept apart at dins zat evening.
(I sink ve may haf visited your country in ze early forties........)
Thanks for all the helpful replies. I've been doing some additional research, and found this article about particularly China:
ATC in China Will Speak English-Only Starting in 1998
Chinese pilots and ground controllers will speak to each other only in English from 1998, Xinhua news agency reported. The "English Project" aims to bring flight communications into line with international practices, the China's Civil Aviation Administration announced.
Forty-seven foreign carriers now fly to China, Chinese civil aviation is booming and increasingly international, and fewer than half of China's 2,500 air traffic controllers can speak or understand English fluently. Some pilots also do not have a good command of the language. Progress in English studies will influence promotion prospects.
Obviously, this hasn't taken place, as I flew to China last year, on UAL, and they have a feature where you can listen to the ATC on the audio system, and the Chinese pilots still spoke Mandarin. So, was the above "Project English" aborted? Is anyone familiar with the ATC in China?
ryu2 : ref the chinese news bulletin : welcome to communism propaganda . Never believe what the official chinese news media says . the cheer number of ATS control units in China, the poor level of education and salary of most controllers, the unavailibility of English teatchers for this , combined to the fact that for many local Party bosses the fact of teatching English to governement employees is viewed as suspicious to say the least means that this laudable project will take much much longer.
Never forget that 100 years for the empire of the Dragon is merely an hour for the rest of the world... ( Mao)
by the way there is no such " International practices " just ICAO SARPs and they do not include (unfortunately) the fact that you must speak only English on the R/T.