Communications, Language, and Culture
on the flight deck
Communications are universally acknowledged as fundamental to aviation safety, and language as fundamental to communications. Communications, language, and culture are closely related and overlapping but are distinct fields of inquiry.
Communications is the broad and generic term for the exchange of information, for all the human to human interactions that occur during a flight, from flight planning and pre-flight briefings to disembarking the aircraft on landing. It includes most obviously what is referred to as "liveware to liveware" interactions in the SHEL model of human factor.
Liveware to liveware interactions primarily happens through language.
Language. Language use and language proficiency affect aviation communications in many, varied, and profound ways. Fundamental to analyzing communications in aviation is an accurate understanding of language, including first and second language use.
Culture, at the national, local, and organizational level, also has a strong effect on communications and on language use. CRM experts acknowledge that culture affects cockpit behavior.
Applied Linguistics is an academic discipline which can--and must--inform our understanding of human factors in aviation. It is an interdisciplinary but specialized field of study that provides theoretical and empirical support for the analysis and investigation of language-related real-life problems.
The LHUFT Center offers a number of tools to support accident investigators, CRM and other safety experts who want to better understand the role of language and culture in aviation communications. The articles and resources provided at LHUFT.org are one example. The LHUFT TAXONOMY is a tool that helps clarify the many ways that language and culture affect aviation communications.