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Spanish ATC

Old 21st May 2007, 18:32
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Controlador, you must be joking. English is the official aviation language all around the world. I've never had any difficulties with understanding the controllers (or controllers me) when flying for example in Scandinavia or German speaking countries, the Netherlands etc. Of course the accents vary but I've always got the job done - and sometimes even with some nice extra It's always fun to chat with a controller if the traffic level is low and the frequency is quiet.

Maybe they just teach English language better in some countries. Who knows. Anyway, I'm not a controller and I know nothing about their requirements but I would like to know what kind of an English test do the Spanish/Italian/French controllers have? And why are the language problems there where they are?

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Old 21st May 2007, 19:35
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Controlador: What a brilliant idea! I'd love to be able to speak every single European language!

You guys work in one country, we work over and in multiple countries. I don't think it's unreasonable that you should be expected to have a good grasp of the language that is taught to and used by pilots all over the world.

The thread is starting to drift, i don't think it was anyones intention to rattle the cages of Spanish ATC'ers. But, the fact remains that the standard of ATC in Spain is far lower than most other European countries and is, in some instances, dangerous.

<tin hat on>
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Old 21st May 2007, 19:59
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I am sorry mate but you got a severe attitude problem.

You are talking about British tourists in Spain not speaking a word spanish. fair enough i can imagine that will annoy you.

However YOU have CHOOSEN to become an air traffic controller. As part of this job you have to talk to foreign aircrew who don't speak spanish. But there is an alternative, speak English. This is part of YOUR job.

The only reason why any spanish controller uses the 'Spanish is an ICAO language' excuse is because they are not able to speak basic English . Which is part of YOUR job.

And just for your information. Pprune is an international website and therefore there are more people replying on this thread than only British flight crew. So don't start slagging of the Brits.

I am one off these foreigners from a different country than the UK and i get completely fed up with you lot talking Spanish. When i fly over my home country i will greet them in my own language and than continue with the rest in English. But this is something i also do when checking in with a Spanish, German, Greek, etc. controller.

I can't wait till the moment everybody has to proof there proficiency in English. If i were a Spanish* controller i would get my books out and start studying because otherwise it could become very nasty.


*= Change to Greek/Italian as necessary
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Old 21st May 2007, 20:43
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You are correct in your statement that the British, in particular, are poor as a nation in general, in learning a foreign language. We are, unfortunately miles behind other countries in this respect. There could be many reasons for this, but this is neither the time or the place to discuss such a matter.

However, if you are indeed a professional ATCO, then surely you can understand how dangerous it is to talk in something other than a common language when controlling/flying.

If you work at a little local airfield and all you have is locals in the circuit, then go for it.. however, as soon as a foreigner calls on frequency, everyone should resort to a common language.

Yes, us Brits may be very poor when it comes to the number of us that speak another language fluently, but that is a terrible reason for you to do something that has contributed to peoples deaths in the past, and will do so in the future, if it continues.

Or are you advocating, as ComJam says tongue in cheek, that pilots learn the language of every country they fly to? Or perhaps we could have pilots that only ever fly to one or two countries, i.e. the ones they can speak the language of?!

However, Controlador, may I be the first to say that your written English and your obviously outstanding grasp of English Grammer and spelling, is possibly better than some of the English native speakers on here (me included). As far as your post is concerned, it is almost immaculately written and presented... well done
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Old 21st May 2007, 21:44
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Obviously, it is not necessary to learn all those languages. What I really mean is that the problem is that sometimes you speak to Spanish/French/Italian-ATCs as if they were friends or relatives of you -English native speakers used to a colloquial register-.

That's why I asked you to imagine yourselves working every day in a language other than your mother tongue (English in this case). Maybe things would be better if you tried to speak slower and more clearly: like Queen Elizabeth (some kind of "unaccented" English, that is to say, RP English (Received Pronunciation)-. All in all, you are talking to people who are not English native speakers.

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Old 21st May 2007, 22:00
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Spanish language

I have been flying through Portugal and Spain.I can assure that around 95% of R/T in Lisbon region is done in english,but Malaga,Valencia and Canaries are done mostly in spanish.Like Air France flights in Morocco that insists speaking french .
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Old 21st May 2007, 22:21
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All right, folks...!

I didn't mean to be such a provoker. I agree with you that it is very important to speak English fluently -this is actually one of the most important tools in this job-.

I admit that Spaniards have not traditionally been very good at speaking other languages but I can also assure you that things are going better and the new generations -in which I have been included recently - have a better command of English than previous ones. I particularly try to improve every day but not all of us have lived in East London or Glasgow, for example. On a radio communication it takes some more time to "decode" those accents and/or idioms.

Anyway, I hope that we all together will make air navigation safer. (Sorry about this boring speech...).
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Old 21st May 2007, 23:00
  #48 (permalink)  
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Having english as second (or third) language has nothing to do with it IMHO.
If you are going to work as a controller, learn some English for ****** sake . ...properly. Otherwise find another occupation.

The only ones that have a problem with English as the one and only R/T language, are nations with a misguided national pride that bullies ICAO into keeping the myriad of languages as 'official' ones.

Do you think you are going to loose your identity because you (SP, IT, GR, FR) use english R/T at work?

As for learning the language in the countries you fly ( or travel ) to:

Some pilots from the south of Europe should learn some English as well, good save me from Italian, French and Spanish MIL pilots.......

Btw, English is my second language, probably evident from the spelling! (It's rather poor in the first one as well )

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Old 21st May 2007, 23:19
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Here we go againt

To be honest: I hope that childish posts are not representative of air professionals (ATCOs & crews).
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Old 22nd May 2007, 00:34
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I would have thought that FLUENCY in English, not just a working knowledge, should be an absolute basic requirement for any ATC controller, no matter where they are?

There are plenty of people in spain who speak fluent english, and speak it very well, surely it is not that hard to get some of these working in ATC at major airports?
Or perhaps ATC in spain is not paid so well/ does not carry enough prestige in spain to attract such well educated people, who are perhaps more tempted into the lucrative worlds of translation and international business.
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Old 22nd May 2007, 09:28
  #51 (permalink)  
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Yes, of course there are plenty of people in spain who speak very good english. Be them translators or whatever that doesn't mean they'll do good as air traffic controllers. Does anybody here know how hard it is to find suitable candidates for training as ATCO's? Well, it's about only 4 out of 100 people tested, actually. And that is AFTER initial screening -I mean screening of their applications and Curriculum Vitae-. And guess how many actually become qualified and left to work: 2.5 out of 100 -averages applicable in europe-. Yes, let's focus on their language skills and that will make everything soooooooo much better. Let's forget the spatial orientation, the multi-tasking skills, the fact that they need to keep it cool and work under strees instead of running like headless chickens and that they need to be team players. Who needs that anyway? -for all of you who don't understand sarcasm all of the last is sarcastic except the succes rates which are very real-.
Now, let's focus again on the thread itself. Given the data, maybe the reporting system in Spain needs improving further. Maybe legislation needs improving further to allow for just reporting culture to set in. Maybe ya'll should be working in learning from each other -step off the cockpits into the towers and viceversa- and talk with "the enemy" instead of bringing working relationships to an even lower by acting childishly and approaching all with a "you're worse" attitude.
And maybe you should treat the language matter differently -some more respect will be appreciated and I really mean that as it may touch our pride in a bad manner and that will only encourage people to continue. It has to do with the way it is said, mind you, I agree that one language will be best. Imagine it being like when controlador told you all to learn spanish. It doesn't feel good, right? Matter of fact, almost any reason why english should be the one language can be used against you. Why not french as single language...or anyone? So please treat it as it should be and thank your gods for it being english so far or all of you from the uk and us trying everybody to get what you say in your own language would have to sweat as some others do trying to get by talking something that makes not much sense at all. (living proof is that, me not being that bad with english was once told: "it's a bit black over Bill's mother's" mean that a storm was approaching...very standard ain't it?) And please remember that the chicago convention was a treaty signed and agreed to by all parts involved . It is kind of funny to me to see comments like the one from torque saying that controlador has chosen to be and that he should know english. Well, I do not know how old torque is but the picture in Spain has been from allways the same and I imagine torque would have known that he was becoming a pilot and that the situation in Spain was as it is -or did it come as a surprise to you first time you flew?Didn't they tell you at the school that other languages may be heard on the radio?-.
What I'm trying to say is that if you want this to be treated seriously start by treat it seriously yourselves -cut the bashing- and direct it to where it needs to go. Otherwise this would be as much as you'll get.
Safe flying,
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Old 22nd May 2007, 11:04
  #52 (permalink)  
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Comes back down, to a certain extent, to the new FD access regulations. Before 911, a great many ATCOs would visit the front office when flying on vacation or whatever. This was one great way to discuss each other's frustrations and address questions regarding procedures etc. Additionally, ATCO fam flights and pilot fam visits were encouraged and often funded by the respective managements. Today, official fam flights are just about still possible, but on a valuable day off and at one's own expense. I fly around 50-60 sectors per year. In the 70s 80s and 90s I probably spent 90% of those sectors on the FD for the entire flight. Since 911 I have completed well over 300 sectors, not a single one of them on the FD. The new generation of ATCOs and pilots simply do not have the same professional and social contact that the previous generation enjoyed. The result is what you often see on these forums, ignorant (and sometimes immature) rants between two sets of highly qualified and trained professionals.
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Old 22nd May 2007, 11:19
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I rarely post in this forum, as I am not professional flight crew. However, as I do a lot of my flying in Spain, I feel compelled to contribute to this thread.

FWIW had the following a few days ago. Out of LEZL eastbound VFR in my spamcan, squawk assigned and box working. ATZ come on in English advising of ‘commercial traffic’ going into LEJR at an altitude well above me. No probs. The Spanish (major airline) guy comes on – in Spanish, of course – and complains to ATC that he hasn’t got me on his TCAS. ATC assures him all’s well (in Spanish) and provides traffic info (in English) for me. So far, so good. Now this tosser of a pilot, knowing that his potential traffic is speaking English, continues to blather on in Spanish. Great. I, btw, speak fluent Spanish, but not the full ATC phraseology, which the chap wasn’t using anyway, so that didn’t really matter. Seville APP remains calm and reassures the guy that there’s no conflict (there wasn’t), we all carry on and live to fly another day....

Lesson? Don’t blame everything bad in Spanish airspace on the guys and gals at ATC, at least down here (LEMG, LEZL, etc) they are doing a pretty good job, also dealing with a lot of student pilots - and boy, have I heard Brits and others doing their ATP in this area stammering gibberish on the radio!

I venture to say that the big problem around here tend to be the Spanish pilots (sorry guys, yes, that's you at the pointy end!) who insist on speaking Spanish and even while doing so rarely seem to bother to adhere to any ICAO phraseology. Frankly, you hear some amazing exchanges. Can sometimes be quite funny, but certainly not good for situational awareness.

In a former life, I worked as translator/interpreter. Having to juggle two languages constantly (as in: every other sentence) is challenging enough, now doing that in front of a radar screen trying to keep the aluminium from hitting each other and/or the ground would overwhelm a lot of people. I'm actually sometimes surprised how well ATC here cope.

Alas, it will probably take a big smoking hole in the ground for someone to wake up and stop this ‘national language’ idiocy.
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Old 22nd May 2007, 14:37
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I first posted this thread to see if anyone had similar experiences of being cleared for the downwind runway etc. Not just a complaint about the incessant RT chatter in Spanish.

In my opinion that's just as dangerous, but not really what I asked.

By the way, since posting the original thread I have been given a vector on departure from LE** that was 30deg right of that requested and would have taken me into a red/magenta cb that was visible from the parking stands.

Great work.

Toodle pip,

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Old 22nd May 2007, 16:05
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Miles Off Target

To be fair to Spanish ATC regarding your vector into a Cb - They do not have the equipment that tells them how bad the Cb formation is, if a clearance is, in your opinion, dangerous, you need to tell them why and request another heading.

Even with equipment on the ground that interprets Cb activity, I honestly believe that it should not be the ATCOs job to use it to vector A/C. I have had many occasions when one A/C will request vectors round a build up, yet the following one will happily fly through it.
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Old 22nd May 2007, 16:20
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I had enough nonsense. You fly outside Europe and you will see what poor ATC is. STOP LOOKING AT YOUR STOMACH!!! Your lack of flying experience makes you feel that Spanish ATC is poor. No idea mate
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Old 22nd May 2007, 17:10
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With all due respect thats torosh1t.
Spanish ATC in general is poor. Believe me I would rather it was excellent. It would make our lives a lot easier. With the concentration of traffic in Spain due to expansion at major airports I am afraid its only a matter of time before we have a major accident.

Last edited by Right Way Up; 22nd May 2007 at 17:37.
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Old 22nd May 2007, 18:02
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Order in the room

This feels like just a load of threads about something so common in these days that most folks in this forum seem to just make a great deal of. Im surprised on how much enfasis has been given to the matter, and seriously it looks like most people in this thread have just done solely UK-Spain return flights, and havent been elsewhere.
As someone else added before, spanish is an ICAO language, that means that JAR´s are also written is spanish, it means that operators can have ALL their documentation and manuals in spanish, evrything can be in spanish including evrything involved with ATC, you like it or not its like that, the same applies to French, I believe Russian and some other.
Of course comparing with flying over scandinavia, germany, italy, holland etc has no influence on this matter cus they dont have that right, evrything has to be in english and trust me most of those nationalities would love to, but theyre not approved, so in this matter we should think in why before opening our peaks., If any incident or accident directly related to this would have happened before, then we would all be speaking english mate!
About the rest, even though most people sound like crying babies I do agree that in general ATC quality is poor,, ATC dont seem to like making an effort to give you Direct WP´s, some controllllers speak as good english as me japanese , but nothing else really, for the rest, they seem and act perfectly in accordance. TWR ATCs as someone said before military airports arent even in the acceptable margin, that is absoultely true, I have no defence for them , I heard that airports like Murcia, are changing soon into civil,,, but most civilian international ones are pretty decent.
Theres some aspects you dont see elsewhere; in spain making visuals is quite a tradition, and they try to help you out (not counting mad and bcn at peak times), but also with traffics before you, they inform you of their position and as long as you got the previos on sight they are in peace with it, unlike many EU airports in many places (incl UK) asking for visual with the preceeding in sight although is completely legal (as you assume the risk and youve left notice it through the transmission) they almost seem to laugh about that.
As a pilot, getting to make a good visual makes me more my day than having an ATC guy delyaing your departure a few minutes from some sort of confusion any could have
Someone porsted that in LEAL the ATC had intentions in giving priority to an iberia,,Why would there be priority to an Iberia if it aint anymore a public company( as AENA is), did you maybe stop to think the iberia had a slot and maybe the ATC wanted to help out.
In terms of equipment Ive visited quite many ACC and TWRs in Europe. In Spain the equipment genrally used in most ( dont know about the militaries)is from one of the leading spanish brands in this technology; INDRA which exports quite a lot of aviation and simulation equipments all over the world (incl the UK).
When i fly to the UK, or Germany (mainly these ones) the control is superb. Ofcourse still ages from the US for those of you who havent been there, but probably the best ones in Europe, you get lots of direct WP´s and good advisory information, I could also tell you a few number of things I could comlplain of like the only TCAS RA ive had in my career which was in german airspace, etc but in general excellent work, when i fly to spain i might one day be flying to one of these southern airports controlled by one of these newbees that ofcourse get sent to the most southern like places to get experience and feel like he doesnt have all what it takes, but hey... i say; field in sight and you know what, I make him the favour and me the pleasure,,,
Happy landings to all.
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Old 22nd May 2007, 18:50
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If any incident or accident directly related to this would have happened before, then we would all be speaking english mate!
You mean like the incident at Paris a few years ago when the English crew of a Shorts 360 started to line up for departure at an intermediate point (after being told do so by the controller), unaware that an aircraft had been cleared for take-off, in French, from full length? I also have a playback of a BA crew told to cross an active runway at LFPG who almost get taken out by an Air France aircraft on the take-off roll. What was ironic about that one, was that the controller, when he realised what was happening, told the BA crew to expedite their crossing in English, and told the Air France crew to abort take-off in French! So the BA crew were still none the wiser as to what had almost happened!
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Old 22nd May 2007, 22:01
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Funny that the French can't be left out of a discussion when it comes to poor ATC! I personally find that the Frogs are worse than the Spaniards with CDG departure controllers being of questionable ability at times. I was once very close to giving one a bollocking on the air.
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