Learning Advice

English learning advice from Aviation English Asia.

Pronunciation is a fundamental part of language learning. ICAO advises that "pronunciation must be given high priority", therefore Aviation English Asia Ltd courses emphasise pronunciation.  Research indicates that better pronunciation also leads to better listening comprehension.

Some elements of pronunciation relevant at ICAO level 4 are -

  • Stress – The emphasis of words or parts of words (syllables), but can also include weak sounds
  • Rhythm – The speed of communication, including when to pause and when to speed up
  • Intonation – The high, middle and low levels of speech, especially when asking questions
  • Vowel sounds - long and short vowels
  • Consonant sounds, including consonant clusters but not /th/
  • Accent / dialect - "use a dialect or accent which is intelligible to the aeronautical community."

The ICAO Language Proficiency Requirements state that at level 4, "Pronunciation, stress, rhythm, and intonation are influenced by the first language or regional variation but only sometimes interfere with ease of understanding."  It's not so much a matter of accent, but more about intelligibility.  Intelligibility means how understandable you are, and how much effort is required on the part of the listener in order to understand you.  

It is beneficial to listen to a wide range of accents and dialects. As you listen, consider which accents are most difficult for you to understand.

  • British English – this tends to include stronger pronunciation of consonants like "t", for example "often" is usually pronounced "offt-un"
  • American English – in comparison consonant sounds tend to sound weaker, "often" sounds like "off-un."

You should be aware of different accents and practice listening to authentic recordings on Aviation English Radio and our YouTube channel at every opportunity.  While listening, consider if every consonant sound like "t" and "l" is pronounced? Consider the speed of interaction. What differences can you hear with native and non-native English speakers?

Consonant sounds

Omitting vowel and particularly consonant sounds can decrease all intelligibility. 

For example, would you say "requ vect" when it should be "request vectors?" Looking at the word "vectors" consider the following: -

  • "Vec-ors" – is this recognisable?
  • "Ve-tors" – how about this?

It may be acceptable to very occasionally omit consonants in the middle of words, but be careful and develop the ability to self-correct whenever possible. Strategies to self-correct and practice pronunciation will be taught in greater detail with your instructor at Aviation English Asia


  • Intelligibility, intelligibility, and intelligibility.
  • Try to be as accurate as possible
  • Listen to a variety of accents from real ATC recordings.
  • Consider which sounds you find difficult to speak and hear
What to do next

The best way to improve your pronunciation is with Aviation English Asia Ltd.  Supplementary Classes focused on pronunciation are held each weekend.  
For more information about Aviation English Asia Ltd’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.com. 

We had a rather strange question recently.  Someone applying for a cadet pilot programme that had failed asked us if AEA "course content is going to be similar to the real test, like making a cabin announcement because otherwise it would be a waste of time and money".

There are many ICAO English tests, and though they vary in format, the language tasks assessed should be within a range of topics that have been identified in ICAO 9835 as being relevant.  However ICAO does not endorse or approve courses, tests and raters, and some language tasks might not be suitable for ab initio and low hour pilots.  Therefore the Aviation English Organisation was formed by an independent body of linguistic and aviation experts to assess the quality of rating organisations, teachers and courses.  The course and test assessment mechanism is called the AEROSTA Framework.  When you see that a course "conforms to the AEROSTA Framework" that is your guarantee that it is relevant and meaningful to you at your current experience level.

A test can change, and any decent test provider will have a question bank of at least 100 versions, so it's not really a matter of whether a course is focused on the content of a test, it's a matter of whether a test or a course conforms to the AEROSTA Framework and ICAO 9835.

Let's look at some examples of topics which were included in a recent ICAO English test conducted in Hong Kong.  

Test content (domains) Identified in the AEROSTA Framework / ICAO 9835 Full range of associated language tasks included in Aviation English Asia Ltd courses
ATIS Yes Yes
Decompression Yes Yes, but airline procedures not a valid topic for low hour pilots
Engine failure Yes Yes
Lightning strike Yes Yes
Engine fire Yes Yes
System failure - unable to capture the localiser, flap extension problems Yes Yes
Forced landings, including procedures and announcements Yes Yes, but airline procedures not a valid topic for low hour pilots
Radiotelephony procedures Yes Yes
Radio call and practice Yes Yes
ATC communication Yes Yes

You can see that relevant topics are well covered on AVIATION ENGLISH ASIA LTD courses.  In fact, by coincidence all of those topics were offered within the previous 10 days. Cockpit to crew communication is included, as is every relevant communicative function of ICAO 9835.  

it's not what you answer, it's how well you answer

Of course, it's not just a matter of a course conforming - teachers must also surpass minimum requirements and have recognised teaching qualifications too.  

An English test should not be about knowledge, it should be about language proficiency.  AEROSTA based courses include specific activities to improve proficiency in relevant and valid language tasks.  For example, negotiating a level change or giving a visual impression of damage is relevant.  Describing a picture is not relevant.  Comprehension of an ATIS is relevant, comprehension of non-routine situations with strong interference might not be relevant to a student pilot.  The danger is that focusing on the test content could lead the candidate to neglect improving the actual language skills required. A test which rewards candidates for rote memorisation of answers is not valid or reliable, particularly so when test content is beyond the candidate's experience.

The ICAO English test is not necessarily the "real" ICAO test

ICAO tests designed for cadets are often just filters.  It's not fair to assess candidates on operational knowledge beyond their experience.  A pilot should expect to be tested again and again throughout their career.  For example, in a recent internal English test at Flight Training Adelaide 5/11 candidates failed a listening comprehension activity.  Two of those candidates had already scored level 6 in an ICAO English test conducted in Hong Kong.  

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AEROSTA is the guarantee of excellence in Aviation English Teaching

For example a rating organisation which gives unreliable (inconsistent) ratings would not conform, similarly an English teacher who claims to be "ICAO approved" would not conform, and an English course which is only focused on replicating the content of the test without real life application would also not conform.

An Aviation English course which teaches a range of relevant language skills, and improves proficiency within those domains would conform.  Aviation English Asia Ltd is the only training provider in Hong Kong which wholly conforms to the AEROSTA Framework.  AEROSTA based tests and courses are used internally within a number of organisations, including Cathay Pacific Airways and Airport Authority Hong Kong.

Yes, Aviation English Asia Ltd can help you pass the real ICAO test

It is natural that you should want to pass a test, and of course Aviation English Asia Ltd can help with that. But you should be cautious of English teachers who try to manipulate gullible candidates saying that they can teach you to "pass the test" or teach "content similar to the real test".  The truth is that as a training provider to airlines and airports where genuine proficiency is important we see many problems facing high-stakes candidates that were caused by high test scores but low proficiency.  

There are no magic pills for proficiency but I can say that a fair and properly conducted test is not at all difficult to pass.  The vast majority of AEA students do well in tests but there are also factors such as low starting level (they need a longer course), or unreliable testing.  In fact, Aviation English Asia Ltd guarantee that if you follow our recommendations you will pass a test which conforms to the AEROSTA Framework.

#AEROSTA #AviationEnglishAsia

Cadet Pilot Programme Success

One of the frequent reasons why candidates for cadet programmes fail is that they

1) apply too early
2) apply because their friends applied at the same time
3) apply before their English is good enough because they think they can improve it in the 2-4 week period between their aptitude test and their HR interview.

Advice about improving your English and passing an ICAO English test from Aviation English Asia.
Article written/adapted by Michael Egerton

The ability to form and ask questions is very important in Aviation English.  In this article you can watch a video of an interview with a Boeing 747 test pilot talking about his life and career.  He talks about his motivation for becoming a pilot and also his career path.  Watch the video and then answer the comprehension questions below.


Comprehension questions

  1. Is it true that Mark wanted to be a paperboy when he was a boy?
  2. Where did he learn to fly?
  3. Why does he spend as much time in the simulator as he does in the cockpit?
  4. According to Mark, what makes a good test pilot?
  5. In what ways is a test pilot different from a normal pilot?
  6. Name some differences between the old 747-400 and new model 747
  7. Where did Mark fly to recently?
  8. Who does he credit for being able to release the parking brake?

What questions would you like to ask a Boeing 747 test pilot? Write your answers as a comment below and we will give you some feedback on your structure.

What to do next

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.com

Hong Kong

Aviation English Asia has been offering part time and full time courses in Hong Kong since 2009.

All courses are available in Hong Kong. Check the schedule above for details.


Aviation English Asia has been offering part time courses in Vietnam since 2014.

All courses are available in Vietnam - typically every 8 weeks, or by special arrangement.


ICAO Aviation English, English for Aircraft Maintenance Engineers, Technicians and Mechanics, and English for Flight Attendants are available in Taipei, Tainan and Kaosiung.


Aviation English Asia has been offering part time and full time courses in Cambodia since July 2018

All courses are available in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Check the schedule for details.


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