Part 3. Steps along the way – How to Boost English Skills to Hit ICAO Level 4

In the previous chapter of this blog we dealt with ICAO requirements for the six descriptors and answered the question if it makes sense to study Aviation English ‘from scratch’ (spoiler alert: no). And since the answer is no, what steps do you normally have to take on this way from zero to level 4?

Ideally, your journey would be as follows:

  1. Basic English – up to at least A2/В1. If from the beginner level, it might take anywhere between 180 to 300 academic hours on average. It’s case by case, really – much will depend on who your teacher is and what the teaching process is like. Was your English okay back in high school? Then skip this step – your level might be sufficient to start from the next one.
  2. Aviation English basics. All the same language patterns and structures that you learned at the previous stage are now presented in aviation context, within the scope of these basic topics: ground operations, stages of flight, pilot responsibilities, air traffic management, aircraft structure and systems, aviation weather, navigation, aviation accidents. Ideally, you will also concentrate on language functions within professional communication, on the ‘how to’. For instance, how to explain that you are going to be delayed, or how to request something, or express probability. You see, there is no point in discussing these topics before you actually start your flight training – you have to understand at least the basis of how aviation works. At the same time, if you lack this aviation vocabulary, it would not be smart to move on to the non-routine situations.
  3. Standard phraseology. Strictly speaking, it’s not the realm of Aviation English. But unless you handle it, you won’t be able to go on.
  4. Aviation English in non-routine situations. This is the stage where you will be learning how to communicate within those 30+ topics from Doc 9835.
  5. Choosing the test format and training for it. That’s the final stage, not the first one.

It’s hardly possible to calculate how many hours exactly you will need to go through all the steps. In an ideal world, a couple of years of intensive learning will be just enough. Hence, start as soon as possible please! Keep in mind, English is much more similar in approach to physical training, than to physics. You can learn physics, but as for English – you can only ‘work it out’ as you train skills making them natural for you.

You don’t live in an ideal world? You have to take your English proficiency test today? Now? Five minutes ago? At least, don’t kid yourself, there are no magic techniques out there that will allow you to go through all the stages in just one month. Remember the sports analogy? No chance you run 400-meter dash having spent years lying on your sofa. But then again, if you can’t afford a super coach, there are lots of things you can do by yourself.

Home assignment: identify, what level you’re at. You may use some on-line tests that will give you an approximate idea but most of it will be a self-assessment.

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