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Aviation English Safety Advocates

Aviation English Safety Advocates

Target audience: Aviation English teachers

Aviation Training managers

Pilots and controllers

Although aviation English is a growing field, it is still very young. In some ways, Aviation English is immature. We have many more texts, programs, and materials than before the adoption of the ICAO Language Proficiency Standards (LPRS). There is a renewed sense of purpose and shared identity among aviation English teachers. However, despite many good efforts, there is still much to do.

Most importantly, we need more and better quality aviation English materials. (In another post, I explain why materials--books, manuals, lessons, video, audio materials--are the most important element in aviation English teaching and learning.)

I am writing this post because I care very much that every pilot and controller has access to best practice aviation English teaching, learning, and materials. I do not think our industry has achieved that goal yet. I describe and explain in my post what I think it will take to make sure that every pilot and controller has access to high quality, useful aviation English.

Despite the progress to be made, there is much to celebrate in aviation English.

One of the happiest results of the 2008 strengthened ICAO language proficiency standards is the newly consequential sense of shared identity, purpose, and mission of formerly far flung and often isolated aviation English teachers in all parts of the world. In modern, social networking terms, we are a tribe.

Our tribe.

This will be a website for our tribe, specifically for aviation communication safety advocates.

We are teachers. Aviation English teachers have a special place in my heart. By far, next to hearing the stories of aviation English learners, I am most moved by the stories of the aviation English teachers I meet when I am lucky enough to travel to other countries. I hear their commitment to the pilots and controllers in their classes; I sense their frustration with ongoing lack of robust aviation English materials and trustworthy tests. Most of all, I celebrate the growing awareness of themselves as safety advocates.

I’m going to write a lot about teachers, where we come from, who we are, and most importantly, what we need to do to provide best practice to our learners.

We are pilots and controllers.

The most important people in our village are the pilots and controllers on whose communication so much depends and who must spend significant effort and time learning and improving their English.

We are not just pilots and controllers learning English. We are also those pilots and controllers who speak English at ICAO Expert Level 6 or Extended 5, who understand that ICAO language requirements apply equally to them. Many of these pilots or controllers share a commitment to support their fellow pilots and controllers to achieve ICAO Operational Level 4 throughout the entire industry. Some of these professionals have moved from control towers or flight decks into language classrooms as teachers or subject matter experts. We welcome you.

We are learners.

In addition to the pilots and controllers we teach, we ourselves are learners. I’ll write about what I think it takes to be an aviation English teacher. Where we identify gaps in our own learning--and we all will--I hope we also take steps to improve our own education and preparation.

We are safety advocates.

Aviation English is different from all other language teaching most simply because the stakes are so high. We truly work on the front edge of aviation safety. Captain Rick Valdes, a retired United Airlines 767 pilot and longtime IFALPA representative on ICAO PRICESG, reminds aviation English teachers that they are all safety advocates. Our job is not to teach English. Our job is to increase safety.


I welcome you to my corner of our village.

I hope you will find inspiration and instruction in what I share. Many of my posts will be of particular interest to aviation English teachers; some will target aviation English learners with better language learning strategies, and other posts will aim to help administrators and managers better identify best practice in aviation English, but anyone interested in safer aviation through better communication will find a home in this village.

I have some exciting ideas and plans for this space. Thank you for visiting. I hope you will return. I look forward to hearing from you, too.

//Elizabeth Mathews


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