Elizabeth Mathews, ICAEA VP, and Jennifer Roberts, ICAEA Research Group Member published articles in the October 2017 edition of TESOL International Association’s ‘ESP News’.

Excerpt from:

The state of aviation English

“While communication is universally acknowledged to be critical to aviation safety, industry understanding of communication and language as fundamental aspects of aviation safety has not kept pace with our understanding of other human performance factors. In fact, there are broad and deep safety gaps around a number of language in aviation issues, from the fundamental level of accident investigation and research on language as a human factor in aviation to the front-end operational problems caused by an unregulated and severely underperforming aviation English training and testing industry.”

“The solution starts with better and more research in language as a human factor in aviation safety that draws on the expertise of both aviation operational and human factors experts and applied linguists.”

“Only by accurately perceiving the full extent of underlying causes of the communication failures can we adequately implement safety improvements. At the most fundamental level, there is an urgent need for the link between language proficiency and safety to be made explicit. If only the most glaring language issues are detected, then the industry will continue to misunderstand the critical need for a long-term, industry-wide commitment to language research, testing, and training.”

Elizabeth Mathews
Assistant Professor
Department of Applied Aviation Sciences, ERAU Daytona Beach

Excerpt from:

Responding to the unique needs of aviation English students

“In 2003, the International Civil Aviation Organization adopted language proficiency requirements that regulated the speaking and listening demands in English of pilot and air traffic controller communication (both phraseology and plain language). However, these regulations were not created for other language demands, such as the need for pilots to communicate with flight instructors during training, other pilots both in the cockpit and in shared airspace, or maintenance technicians about aircraft issues. Furthermore, such language proficiency requirements do not exist for other jobs within aviation, for example, maintenance technicians who are expected to read manufacturing manuals written in English. Traditional aviation English training does not typically focus on these other registers, nor does it give attention to language skills such as reading, despite its importance not only for maintenance technicians but also for pilots when reading checklists or handbooks or when dealing with new technologies such as controller-pilot data link communications (a way for pilots and controllers to send text-based communications).”

“The ‘Aviation Topics’ class [a part of ERAU’s Intensive English Programs (IEPs)] was designed for the specific purpose of preparing future aviation students for entrance into an aeronautical university or flight training. More aviation-focused courses are beneficial for students in pursuit of these types of careers, focusing on the development of content knowledge and a robust set of language skills which will be utilized in academic studies and in operational training. Aviation English should utilize content-based language teaching as a means of capitalizing on the intrinsic motivation of future aviation professionals, by teaching them English through the content that supplied the need for them to learn English in the first place.”

Jennifer Roberts
Aviation English Specialist
College of Aeronautics, ERAU Worldwide

READ  the complete articles at the TESOL International Association website


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