Get Help.

You work for an airline. Or an air navigation service provider. Or a flight school.

You are smart, well educated. You know airplanes. You know radar. You understand simulators.

When you buy an aircraft, pilots and engineers are part of your selection, appraisal, and negotiation process. When a flight school purchases new aircraft, pilots help them navigate and negotiate the deal. ANSP’s are staffed by controllers who understand radar and ATC simulators. You know what you are buying.

When you buy a car, you know that the car salesman is interested in one thing: selling you a car as quickly as possible for the highest price he can get. When you buy a car, you are careful. You know the difference between a Mercedes and a Mercury. You are willing to pay the price difference because you know.

But what if a Mercury put a Mercedes logo on their car?

Aviation English program is a buyer-beware market.

Aviation English training is an unregulated market.

From a TESL point of view, some of the aviation English choices available in the unregulated market are old-fashioned and ill-informed. Even some otherwise very responsible aviation organizations have established partnerships with English programs that do not represent best practices. It is a buyer-beware market and too many buyers do not know what they should look for in a good program.

The problem with poor aviation English programs is that not only that they do not help pilots or controllers learn English efficiently, but worse, they have the opposite effect and de-incentivize learning. That is, they make learners believe they cannot learn English! This is called “learned helplessness.” Too many people believe learning English is difficult.

Best practices in language teaching are found in the not-for-profit sector, in university English language institutes. But it is difficult for aviation program administrators to tell the difference. When you buy an aviation English program, who on your team can help you discern the difference between a reliable, effective program versus a program solely focused on making money as quickly as possible with little regard for efficient progress?

The most important first step: Before you choose, get help!

Whether you are an aviation organization about to partner with an aviation English program, or an airline that needs aviation English. Get help first!

Identify someone with a masters degree in TESL who is responsible to you and to you alone, to help you choose and negotiate your program.

English language is largely unregulated. Universities in the United States, UK, Australia, and New Zealand, and in more and more universities throughout the world, now universally require English instructors to have at least a masters degree in teaching English.

Get help.

Even if it is just temporary help.

How? Follow this steps:

  • Form an ICAO Language Requirements Team with at least three people:

  • An aviation operational subject matter expert (SME), a pilot or controller;

  • A language teaching expert (LTE-important, see next step)

  • A team manager or training specialist to ensure compliance.

  • SME: Should be someone with international experience.

  • LTE: Very important that your LTE has a master degree in TESL. See EMA Guide to TESL qualifications, free at my website.

  • Call your local university and ask for references of English teachers with a masters degree in TESL.

  • Either hire someone in house or contract an LTE who will be responsible to help you select or build your program.

  • The LTE should be responsible solely to your organization and have no allegiance to any training or testing program.

  • Documents:

  • The Language Requirements Team should read and be very familiar with ICAO Document 9835. Give the team (your language teaching expert) a copy of ICAO Document 9835 and have them read it.

  • Give your LTE a copy of the Mathews Guide to Choosing an Aviation English Program (available for free on my website.)

  • The LTE should become familiar with Content-based language learning and with the operational communication issues your organization faces.

  • Then, have them help you screen and select a program.

By following these steps, you will build or select not just a reputable program but these steps will help you choose a program that provides

  • well trained teachers and

  • interesting, communicative, interactive, and

  • Content based learning materials.

Aviation English is too important to leave in the hands of amateurs. It requires a collaboration between academically well qualified language teaching professionals AND aviation operational subject matter experts. In an unregulated market, you cannot always trust the provider to guarantee best practice. Educate yourself and remember!

It is a buyer-beware market, but it is a buyer’s market! The aviation English providers want your business. Hold them to best practices!


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