Learning Advice

Advice for improving your English and passing an airline's English test from Aviation English Asia. Article written by Michael Egerton

Prepare for an airline interview or prepare for your career?

Whether you are applying for a job as a pilot, member of ground staff or a member of cabin crew one of the assessments in which you are required to perform well in is the airline's English assessment test.  For prospective airline pilots this is likely to be one of various types of ICAO English test taken at a particular stage of the selection process.  For cabin crew and ground staff the airline is likely to have it's own in-house English assessment, which could be either a specific test which you need to pass in order to proceed which your application, or alternatively your English language proficiency could be assessed during your HR interviews.

In this article I'm going to point out three common mistakes made by many prospective pilots and flight attendants when faced with an airline English proficiency test, and show you how you can avoid making that mistake.  But first of all let's look at why airlines have English tests in the first place.

 

Learn English as it is used in an aviation context

 

Why do airlines have English proficiency tests as part of their selection process?

Airline careers are highly desirable for many young people. Airlines are large organisations that offer great benefits like housing allowance, health insurance and frequent travel to their employees.  Some airlines are national flag carriers so it's not surprising that airline jobs attract thousands of candidates each year. In each recruitment drive, the airline has to select the most appropriate candidates for employment, as they will make a significant investment in that candidate's training and development.  Airline English tests are a suitable way to filter out unsuitable (or not yet suitable) candidates.  English is a world language, and a high standard of English will also highlight a candidate's manners and social behaviour, ie is this candidate a person polite enough to deal with our customers, is this a person we would like to sit next to on the flight deck.  In addition to the aptitude and ability to perform the basic duties of the position, the airline will want to ensure that you have:

  • sufficient language proficiency to meet the requirements of the job.
  • sufficient potential to successfully be trained for the things that you don't yet know how to do.

So, in plain English, the airline wants to know that you can speak English well enough to do the job properly, and you can understand enough English to be able to learn how to do the things that you can't. Depending upon your experience and the position you are applying for the airline will probably not expect you to know everything about handling a big jet, or the procedures needed to carry out an evacuation but they do expect you to have a reasonable level of English.  Airlines are after all, judged on the conduct and performance of their front-line employees. If you have failed an airline's English test it's probably because you haven't prepared sufficiently for the test, or you have prepared for the test in the wrong way.

The biggest mistakes made by candidates in preparing for airline English tests

Mistake number one - focusing only on the test

It's a common mistake, and an understandable one.  You have an English test coming up as part of your interview and you might want to get some practice by having a mock test, perhaps by asking a friend to ask you the questions that they were asked last time.  Perhaps if you could remember the answers it will be easier... If (like us) you live in Hong Kong you will have been bombarded by advertisements for "star tutors" that offer courses focused on passing English tests, eg IELTS, HKCEE etc.  You might be able to pass a written exam by following their methods but if you think that you can pass an airline English test, which will almost certainly be oral you are wildly mistaken. Speaking English doesn't work like that.  It takes time to develop a full command of the language, and consistent practice in developing the strength needed to pronounce certain words.  Listening to and understanding different accents is a skill that takes time to develop.  Furthermore, it's easy to see if someone is trying to remember an answer.  When assessing language it's not just a matter of what information you give, but how you give it. Of course, it's natural to want to practice things like mock interviews with friends or perhaps a tutor, but to be honest it's not enough.  What you need is a thorough and wide range of proficiency in English and particularly English as it is used within an aviation context - and that is our goal.

Mistake number two - doing the wrong type of course

ICAO recommend that pilots and controllers take aviation-specific English courses.  Some people try to cut corners and settle for a general English course.  The result is often that they get bored or find that it doesn't suit their needs.  This is also often the case with people who tried studying at large franchised language centres, particularly those that have "secret study methods".  These courses are designed to appeal to as many people as possible, with the lowest skill level of teacher possible (the "secret" is that they withhold any actual teaching, you have to figure it out for yourself) so don't be surprised that learners who settle for this type of course make very slow progress.  That type of language school doesn't have the capability or resources to give aviation students the kind of language training they need. When you learn English it is important that you focus on practicing the right skills, and as most language schools try to cater to as many people as possible it's often difficult to practice the skills that you really need. For a pilot, ATC or member of cabin crew the most important skills are speaking and listening.  Many people unfortunately focus only on academic performance in English and neglect to build their English comprehension skills.  Aviation English Asia courses give you sufficient practice of the skills that you need, as recommended in ICAO Document 9835.

Mistake number three - not starting a course early enough

If we could give one piece of advice to potential airline employees it would be to take a placement test to assess your current level of English and then see how much you need to improve.  We can then give you an estimation of how long you should expect before you reach that level, and how often you should practice.  These tests are done independently by a third party so you can be sure that you won't be buying courses that you don't need.  The placement tests offered by Aviation English Asia are consistent with the results of assessors within major airlines. Trust me - I've trained a lot of prospective and current airline employees. I strongly recommend that you take a placement test and expect to practice English consistently for at least 3 months per level.

The BEST WAY to prepare for an airline English test

In this article you have learned that you should avoid crash courses, avoid only focusing on the test, and avoid unsuitable courses and tutors.  Now I will show you what you should do to pass an airline's English assessment.

Learn and practice English as it is used in the context of aviation

Aviation English Asia is the only genuine provider of Aviation English in Hong Kong.  Our Native English Teachers are aviation professionals with experience as senior captains, air traffic controllers and aircraft maintenance engineers.  Our Native English Teachers are also qualified English teachers - not just "English speaking pilots doing a part time job".  The course is designed and supervised by teachers with MA Applied Linguistics.  Some of our teachers have worked as and trained assessors.

AEA courses feature all of the grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, comprehension and fluency practice of general English courses, with the added advantage of being directly related to your career.  You will be more motivated and enjoy learning English more when you have a clear objective.  If you think you know everything about aviation and are familiar with aviation terminology, you should still learn how to express it clearly in English - so Aviation English Asia courses are equally suitable for experienced commercial pilots.  It's exactly the same for cabin crew, whether your are a prospective employee or experienced crew members - practice English as it relates to your everyday life. One of the biggest advantages of an Aviation English course is that you will develop a wide vocabulary and become confident in dealing with unexpected situations.  You will still get thorough practice of all the language skills needed to pass an airline's English test, and personal focus on the skills that you most need to develop.  Of course, you can supplement this with additional General English if you want extra practice but it is no substitute for a core Aviation English course.

What to do next

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.com.  We can help you improve your English whether you are an experienced pilot, a cadet entry pilot, a controller, aerospace engineer or flight attendant, with custom courses designed specifically for your needs. 

If you haven’t already please join the Aviation English mailing list for special offers and details of courses in your area. Of course, feel free to leave a comment or even a suggestion for a future article.  We value all of your feedback.

Advice about improving your English and passing an ICAO English test from Aviation English Asia.

Article written by Michael Egerton

People often look for advice about how to pass an ICAO English test, but don't very often think about how they could fail it. Strictly speaking you can't "fail" an ICAO test but you might not meet the required standard, which is for all intents and purposes ... not good.  In this article I am going to point out some of the reasons you might under-perform in an ICAO English test. There are many different types of ICAO test and I'm not talking about any particular one but my advice applies to all of them.

Reason One: Not realising the importance of English in aviation

Although you might think that time spent in the aviation English classroom can't be as exciting as time in an aircraft - it's not necessarily true. Aviation English is a valid and essential part of flight training for many non native speakers, regardless of their age and experience. Your future career prospects could depend on your proficiency in English. You might scrape through an english test with ICAO level 4 but remember that is the bare minimum requirement.  What level of English do you need to really advance in your career? What level of English do you need for truly safe flight operations?  Many tragic air disasters have been attributed to communication difficulties.  If you want to perform well in an ICAO English test a good first step is realising just how important quality Aviation English training is.

Reason Two: Not giving yourself sufficient time to prepare for an ICAO test

Learning English takes time and the more time you allow for yourself the more likely you are to perform well in the test. Cramming might work for preparing for an exam that tests knowledge but learning a language is different.  You need time to internalise the language, pronunciation is a muscular skill that takes time to develop.  There are some academic theories supporting intensive courses but in my experience intensive courses are only beneficial to those at a very early or very advanced stage. If you are at an intermediate level of English I recommend that you take your time over a course. You will probably enjoy learning English more if you don't have time pressure.

Reason Three: Doing the wrong type of English course

This is quite tragic as we have heard stories about people who have enrolled on 18 month courses (paid in advance) with brand name English schools who fail to improve at all. It's even more tragic as their English often gets worse because of the environment they learn in. If you are serious about an aviation career you need Aviation English. Other types of courses and coffee shop English tutors might be cheaper but they will ultimately waste your time and money because they do not effectively address your needs. General English has its place in Aviation English - it's an essential part but should be practiced within a meaningful context.  This is true whether you are a commercial pilot or ab initio. And when you have the exciting world of aviation, where there are developments and dramas every day, why would you waste time on anything else?

Reason Four: Teachers using inappropriate learning materials

Creating authentic Aviation English learning materials takes a lot of time, specialist knowledge and skill from the Aviation English teacher. There are very few Aviation English learning materials available commercially so Aviation English teachers need to hand craft them to suit your needs. General English course books are designed to appeal to as many people as possible and then mass produced and shipped all over the world. They serve a purpose in that they make General English teachers' lives easier because they can recycle the lessons with many different students - putting the teacher's comfort ahead of your learning needs.  Regardless of whether you are in ground school or an experienced pilot you should be using English that is relevant to your life and an experienced Aviation English teacher will be able to create interesting lessons that allow for sufficient practice of that type of language.

Reason Five: Starting an English course at the wrong level

As pilots you may feel pressure to keep up with your colleagues who might have had different experiences in learning English. The truth is that you won't lose face by starting at a lower level - just accept that you have had different experiences and have different strengths, English proficiency being one of them.  So, if you take a Placement Test and find that you are at a lower level than your friends or colleagues don't feel any shame in starting a course at a lower level.  Similarly if you have a higher ability than your colleagues you shouldn't hold yourself back - the result of starting a course at the wrong level is that you will find it too easy and get bored, or find it too difficult and get frustrated - then lose motivation. Also be aware that franchised schools often try to sell courses that are longer than you really need.  Even worse is when a school gives you a ten minute computer placement test and then tells you your starting level without any assessment from a native English teacher. Instead a consultant who knows nothing about learning English (or how to speak it) tells you your starting level and then how to improve. It's the blind leading the blind. Usually the student finds a course difficult and struggles consistently and the teacher doesn't have the heart to tell them that they are at the wrong level, so the student quickly loses motivation.

Get it right: How to perform well in an ICAO Aviation English Test

Motivation is a very important factor in learning English. The genre of aviation is also incredibly motivating for most people so don't let your passion be affected by making one of the mistakes listed above. Aviation English Asia teachers are skilled in ensuring that learners are keen, motivated and developing good study habits.  Take advantage of our enthusiasm and arrange a free consultation.  We'll introduce you to an effective course and study plan that is right for you.
 
What to do next
For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.com. We can help you improve your English whether you are an experienced pilot, a cadet entry pilot, a controller, aerospace engineer or flight attendant, with custom courses designed specifically for your needs. If you haven’t already please join the Aviation English mailing list for instant access to special offers and details of courses in your area.
 
Of course, feel free to leave a comment or even a suggestion for a future article. We value all of your feedback.

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. We can help you improve your English whether you are an experienced pilot, a cadet entry pilot, a controller, aerospace engineer or flight attendant, with custom courses designed specifically for your needs. If you haven’t already please join the Aviation English mailing list for instant access to free demonstration units of the ICAO Aviation English Online course, special offes and details of courses in your area. Of course, feel free to leave a comment or even a suggestion for a future article. We value all of your feedback.

Advice about improving your English and passing an ICAO English test from Aviation English Asia.

Article written/adapted by Michael Egerton

We've had a few requests for advice on how to develop listening skills for ICAO tests recently. One of the easiest ways to build your comprehension skills for an ICAO English test is to read a lot and become familiar with the subject matter.  Of course, you still need to know how to recognise the oral form of new vocabulary. In this article you can practice listening comprehension by playing the audio file below.  But first of all, can you explain what happened in this picture (from a different event)?

Damaged landing gear

Practice listening for an ICAO test

File unavailable due to excessive downloads

Reading comprehension

Now read through the article and try to answer the comprehension questions. You can answer the questions by adding a comment to the article and we will give you some feedback.

The article:

A JetBlue Airways airliner that blew out its main landing gear tyres after making a hard landing at Sacramento International Airport on Aug. 26 had its parking brake on, according to the National Transportation Safety Board in a preliminary finding. The airplane’s Flight Data Recorder indicated that the parking brake became engaged during the landing and remained engaged throughout the landing. The NTSB said neither pilot recalled any abnormal indications or warnings associated with the braking system prior to landing. The first officer was flying the plane during the landing and the captain took over when the problem occurred. The airplane began a rapid deceleration and the first officer told the captain it felt like a main landing gear tyre blew out. Around the same time, air traffic control tower personnel reported observing sparks and smoke around the main landing gear. Eighty six passengers and five crew members were evacuated. According to the report seven passengers received minor injuries. Neither of the two pilots nor the three flight attendants were hurt. Besides blowing out the main landing gear tyres, a minor tyre-related fire erupted. A Federal Aviation Administration inspection revealed that damage was limited to four deflated main landing gear tyres and the wheel rims, which were ground down. Damage to the tyres showed evidence of being locked on touchdown. Damage to the runway was limited to “minor grazing” of its surface.

Comprehension questions

▪ Which airline was involved in the incident?

▪ Where did it happen?

▪ What do the NTSB think caused the incident?

▪ How did the pilots discover there was a problem?

▪ How did the ATCs become aware of the problem?

▪ What other damage was caused and how did it happen?

When you look back at the picture do you have more vocabulary to describe the picture now?

What to do next

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.com. We can help you improve your English whether you are an experienced pilot, a candidate for an airline's cadet pilot programme, a controller, aerospace engineer or flight attendant.

If you haven’t already please join the Aviation English mailing list for special offers and details of courses in your area.

Of course, feel free to leave a comment or even a suggestion for a future article. 

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.

Vietnam

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.

Taiwan

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

Cambodia

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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