English as a lingua franca in aviation

Summary of ‘English as a tongue franca in air power ‘ by Walter Seiler

The paper ‘English as a tongue franca in air power ‘ by Walter Seiler was published in English Today in June 2009. It is a paper concerned chiefly with the impact of native assortments of English on miscommunication within air power.

Seiler starts off by spread outing on the fact that misinterpretations and miscommunication are built-in to human linguistic communication, and identifies a assortment of features of human linguistic communication that mean that miscommunication is possibly an built-in and unfixable component of lingual communicating.

He goes on to province that misinterpretations are prevailing between talkers of the same linguistic communication ; when the conversations are between non-native talkers of English who are utilizing English as a tongue franca it is as if the job is amplified tenfold.

Seiler points out that “Aviation communicating is high bets with lives depending on it” ( Seiler, 2009, p. 43 ) . As such it is indispensable that it is clear and to the point with as small room for misinterpretations and miscommunication as possible.

Sadly miscommunication is a major and on-going issue within air power. He recounts a twosome of scaring statistics from the ICAO cited by Considine in 2007 which province that “between 1976 and 2001, more than 1,100 air hose riders and crew lost their lives in accidents in which communications played a important function. Numerous other incidents affecting the abuse or deficiency of apprehension of English continue to be reported annually.” ( Considine, 2007 )

Seiler provides a small spot of background to the usage of English as a tongue franca in air power stating that is has been used as a tongue franca since the 1950s. He explains that the International Civil Aviation Organisation originally produced a set of phrases that were meant to help in ‘efficient, clear, concise and unambiguous communications ‘ . It should be noted nevertheless that these set phrases struggle to cover with exigency state of affairss and that given that incidents are reported yearly that have resulted from miscommunication they clearly do n’t work.

In an effort to antagonize this job the ICAO decreed that “operating at an international degree necessitates basic English competency for pilots and controllers.” ( Seiler, 2009, p. 43 ) They so produced a set of degrees aimed at enabling their member provinces to measure the competency of their employees. There are six degrees in entire starting at degree 1 which is considered to be pre-elementary through to level 6 which is considered to be adept. The ICAO demand degree 4 competency from pilots in order for them to be granted a pilots license. The ICAO nevertheless, leaves reading of these degrees to its members, supplying small or no advice. Seiler asks “what precisely is

Seiler goes on to discourse the unfavorable judgments levelled at the pick of English as the tongue franca in air power. He cites a paper by Jones from 2003 which criticised English for being unable to “express specific instructions to pilots without confusion [ which ] would look to unfit it as a linguistic communication for lasting usage by aviation” ( Jones, 2003, p. 244 ) . Seiler, on the other manus, argues that we should be inquiring a different inquiry. He argues that instead than concentrating on whether or non English is a competent linguistic communication for communicating within air power, we should alternatively be inquiring “how the quality of communicating through English can be improved.” ( Seiler, 2009, p. 44 )

Seiler besides asks the inquiries “Who decides whether a campaigner ‘s English meets the minimal demand? ” ( Seiler, 2009, p. 44 ) and “which assortments [ of English ] are acceptable in international air power? ” ( Seiler, 2009, p. 44 ) . In researching the first of these inquiries he discusses the job of what precisely is being rated when a campaigner ‘s English is evaluated. Do we rate for intelligibility or native-like public presentation? Seiler cites a statistic from a paper by Graddol that states “75 % of all journeys are made from a non-English speech production state to a non-English speech production country” . It is arguable hence that evaluation on the evidences of intelligibility would be the most reasonable path given the upward tendency of journeys that use English as a tongue franca.

Seiler discusses the findings of a survey by Jenkins that searched for a common phonic nucleus within the different assortments of English that was needed for intelligibility. Jenkins explored the construct that there are facets of English phonemics that are peripheral and non necessary for intelligibility in the long tally. The illustration she provides is that of German English. She points out that there is no loss of intelligibility when Germans replace hard interdental sounds with [ vitamin D ] and [ z ] . She argues that valuable instruction clip is being wasted on seeking to convey 2nd linguistic communication scholars pronunciation into line with that of native talkers and that this clip would be better spent concentrating on the nucleus sounds.

Seiler remains unconvinced of this thought of a common phonic nucleus and argues that there are so many assortments of English being spoken globally now that it is impossible to conceive of a state of affairs where a precise common nucleus could be found. Many of these assortments of English do n’t portion common lexical or grammatical points and therefore the thought of a common nucleus becomes absurd.

Seiler goes on to inquire which assortment of English should be the criterion within air power, indicating out that sociolinguists would claim equality within English ‘s many discrepancies. He claims nevertheless that possibly some are more equal than others, in peculiar standard American English and standard British English are considered to be more esteemed.

He concludes that the ICAO urgently needs to clear up which assortments of English it prefers and that they need to clear up their evaluation system. In add-on he concludes that whilst it is a given that English is now the tongue franca of air power, a batch of work demands to be done towards bring forthing a criterion that is accepted universally within the industry.


  • Considine, B. ( 2007, February ) . How European air traffic accountants master English. Retrieved December 1, 2009, from Singapore Aviation Academy: hypertext transfer protocol: //www.saa.com.sg/saa/en/About_Us/e-review-feb2007.html
  • Jones, R. K. ( 2003 ) . Miscommunication between pilots and air traffic control. Language Problems & A ; Planning, 27 ( 3 ) , 233-48.
  • Seiler, W. ( 2009 ) . English as a tongue franca in air power. English Today, 25 ( 2 ) , 43 – 48.
July 24, 2017