There seems to be some confusion as to what Aviation English actually is.
It is composed of 3 elements.
1. Technical vocabulary
2. Radiotelephony (including the plain English used to fill in the details)
3. General English for aviation purposes.
Brian Slade seems to think that Aviation English is just 1 and 2 above, and that lousy academic English is a sufficient replacement for 3. But he's so wrong. There is a big difference between General English you might get at happy language centre or from some gwailo in starbucks, and the training AEA provide.
This is from a article I wrote way back in September 2009.
What is Aviation English?
The answer to this question would probably depend on whether you are a teacher, a flight instructor, a pilot or air traffic controller, a cadet pilot or a provider of ESL learning materials.
It usually relates to teaching pilots and air traffic controllers. In recent years communication difficulties have been rcognised as a leading cause of accidents so the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has mandated that all pilots and air traffic controllers should achieve proficiency at ICAO level 4.
In it’s simplest form Aviation English is a form of ESP. ESP stands for English for Specific purposes. Sometimes the term English for Aviation is used which is actually a bit more specific. It implies that the English taught is specific technical language that would be used in the context of aviation. Such language is normally (but not always beyond the realm that English language teachers are comfortable teaching – unless they have an aviation background or a deep interest in aviation. In contrast the term Aviation English is used to refer to teaching just the essential language used in aviation. Some subjects, themes and grammatical structures might be omitted. In that respect, Aviation English, combined with radio-telephony is its own language – distinct from regular English.
If that is not confusing enough, what is radio-telephony? Radio-telephony, or R/T is a system of communication between stations. Stations are typically control towers or aircraft. Radio telephony has its own protocol, pronunciation rules and “grammar”. Usually pilots and controllers will use a system of communication called phraseology.
A good aviation English syllabus will include both radio-telephony and English for Aviation as it will build confidence in the learner if they are using language that they could be expected to use during training or later active duty. In general, an Aviation English course is based around topics and themes that are directly relevant to pilots and controllers.
Is this model too simplistic? Maybe. There is some body of thought that believe that you cannot teach aviation English. Instead you need to teach general English until the learner is at such a stage that they can grasp technical aviation language.
At Aviation English Asia we take the view that English should be a complete language. Some aspects of language should be prioritised – this is in line with the ESP perspective. That would be catering to learner’s immediate needs. Longer term the English for Aviation perspective is superior and gives greater functional ability. In that respect many airlines find that such English for Aviation training is a complement to their own CRM (Crew Resource Management) training. There are great overlaps between teaching “content” and “language”. Modern ESL teachers are trained to teach “language” without content and not express their own opinions and beliefs to learners. This is with the aim of empowering English learners to “own the language” rather than copy what theteacher has dictated to them. In the aviation context, the lines between content and language are blurred when language training takes place alongside other aspects of aviation training such as CRM and Human Factors. The Aviation English teacher needs to be able to facilitate language aquisition, but often simultaneously reinforc knowledge needed for safety.
One of the difficulties with Aviation English is that there are very limited learning materials available. This however is changing and there are a number of course books commercially available. The question is, how suitable is the material for the learner’s needs. Therefore the aviation English teacher needs to be skilful in assessing the learner’s needs and use these coursebooks as tools rather than the basis of a course itself.
For more information about Aviation English please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
End of article
As much as I enjoy all this Brian Slade Bashing (well overdue and thoroughly deserved), I'd like to steer this topic back on track to actually give candidates some useful advice about what they can do if they are facing a retest.
Here's my advice overseas applicants
Overseas applicants are not likely to have been affected by Slade, so it's a matter of reaching the required standard in the new test. This is possible and achievable within a reasonable time frame.
1. Try to talk to someone in the language department and get some feedback. Then contact me and I'll give you my feedback too.
2. Based on the above you should know how long you need to prepare for. If you are able to do a course in Hong Kong, great. But if not I have friends that teach Aviation English in other parts of the world so I might be able to arrange something.
Advice for local HKG candidates.
1. If you get an email saying you have been unsuccessful (or various other wordings) please contact Brian Slade for feedback do not contact Slade as his status is less than dirt. Instead directly contact one of the managers in the language department, who I believe are extremely helpful. There might be some delays in getting feedback as there are big changes within this department. However, I can say that the changes are all good and appear to be very much in line with the industry. The advice you get will probably be very similar to my own.
2. If you are currently caught in Slade/Strang's presentation trap stop immediately and report it to the ICAC. If you have evidence of Slade taking money from candidates please contact the ICAC.
3. Contact me. Obviously I have commercial interests in this, but AEA has a reputation for providing valuable language training and our ethics are strong. If I recommend a course, do it. If you have absolutely no money or you don't want to spend anything on language training - get real. This is aviation. It's an expensive industry to enter. If you think our courses are expensive you obviously don't have any commitment to an aviation career. AEA courses are reasonably priced and provide great value.
I can't recommend any other language training provider in Hong Kong as we the most experienced in this field. I have seen copycat organisations that are truly awful. I know that there are a large number of candidates affected by Slade/Strang so AEA are willing to arrange some special training plans for those affected.
4. Forget about the test - do not try to memorise a word list or focus only on the answers to the test. Do not try to find past papers and obsess about the test, because the more you do that the worse your functional English will become. Leave the choice of lesson content to us because that's our job.
5. Don't worry about how many 3s, 4s and 5s you have as the results on paper don't really tell you very much. Realistically you should expect 3-6 months of practice before your retest, although this might be different for some candidates.
6. Don't worry about whether your mate is going to join the next batch of cadets, or whether the cadet programme will still be open next year. The world will always need pilots.
7. Consider at this stage whether you are genuinely interested in aviation, or just the idea of being a pilot. There is a big difference. If you have the motivation, and language is your main difficulty, you can achieve the target level relatively easily.
Hope that helps...