Aug 092009

Here’s a video of the world’s air traffic over 24 hours:

Find more videos like this on Virtual Round Table  (Thanks for this, Heike!)

Important things are happening in Aviation English. The International Civil Aviation Organization has introduced global language proficiency standards for pilots and air traffic control staff. Everyone’s  supposed to comply by 2011 and get up to a ‘Level 4’ so the race is on to meet the deadline.

There are problems with the standards (and their application) but lots of effort is going into getting pilots and ATC staff trained up and there are some very committed people in the field. Heike’s link above leads to videos of Henry Emry, the author of Aviation English, who is a good example.

I think Keith Morrow was right when he said:

“The really big idea of the CEF – more revolutionary in its implications than anything to do with descriptors of language levels – is that learners should be helped to think about their own learning, and that teachers should be helped to think about their own teaching.”

Who knows where a process of  thinking about learning and teaching could lead us here. But my hunch is it’s towards a deeper understanding of the nature of decision making and people skills  and I find that very exciting.

 Posted by at 9:03 am

  2 Responses to “Aviation English”

  1. That’s such a great video – I saw it first at BESIG last year in Emery’s presentation (which was just the wee bittiest bit scary) but it’s great to watch this one again.

    I agree very much with your point on exploring the nature of decision making and in people skills, and translating this towards the English learning classroom – it comes from my own experience learning language and how in moments of slight stress, my proficiency disappears and yet in moments of high stress, all the words I need find their way into my mouth.

    I try to set up spontaneous activities for my students to do so, breaking out of prescribed activities where they can take their time to figure out the answers logically, simply getting them to answer from the “gut” – this most often reveals the true nature of their English levels and helps provide me with information regarding where the weaknesses are.

    I can recommend a non ELT/methodology book on decision-making if you’re interested (I love all things pop-psychology related) and that’s Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.

    Take care,

  2. Great to see you, Kareene!
    And thanks for the reference too. I want to explore this because I think ‘decision-making’ might be an under-used concept in needs analysis.
    Looking at the contexts where students need to communicate effectively and trying to figure out what the ‘lacks’ are, is key to our task. Spontaneous speech samples are great indicators of language levels and weaknesses, as you say. They signal that work on this or that set of grammar/vocabulary/pronunciation would be beneficial, and I don’t want to throw those babies out with the bath water because I think they’re all really important.
    The best needs analyses also look beyond grammar/vocabulary/pronunciation and take account of other things like how the learner is framing their ideas and their likely effect on their audience. That’s the bit I always find hardest.
    A deeper understanding of how people make decisions seems useful here. Because if we go a step deeper in our needs analyses and ask ‘But why does this student need to communicate effectively in these contexts?’, then it’s often so that they (and the people around them) can apply good judgment. We know emotions can get in the way of that. Language to mitigate that problem could be a good addition to our students’ arsenals. And it may often require a shift in attitude as well.

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