Part 4. Ways of Learning – How to Boost English Skills to Hit ICAO Level 4

You know now where you are and where you need to be. So let’s then think of the best way to get there.  Actually, there is no such thing as the ultimate solution: it will be the suited and optimized for you, considering your personal demands and resources you can currently invest.

And it’s not just about money and time. Resources also include your motivation, the ability to manage your time and your overall learning skills. It’s most likely that along the way you will try several approaches and a combination of them will give you the result you want. But no matter what strategy you choose, remember that the final result is your responsibility. And that you should continue the learning process on your own using the tools that suit you best.

So, there are four basic ways out there:

  • self-prep,
  • personal classes with a tutor (in person or online),
  • group courses, and
  • online school courses (implies individual classes with a teacher but within a common platform designed by this school according to its own standards).

The actual performance of any of these formats (strategies) will be determined by:

  1. price
  2. compatibility with your everyday schedule
  3. intensity
  4. consistency
  5. monitoring
  6. speaking practice
  7. individual approach
  8. external motivation

Mix those in a proportion that is most acceptable for you and you will find a strategy that suits you best.

The way you are going to upgrade your English up to B1 will depend on where you are now and what resources are available to you. As mentioned before, starting from scratch all by yourself is extremely difficult. It’s vital to have somebody guiding you, at least while you are making the first steps (to teach you to read/write, explain the basic grammar, show you around the language environment). Besides, when having a tutor, you will be able to actively incorporate aviation vocabulary – common topics like ‘professions’, ‘my day’, ‘health’, ‘transport’, ‘weather’, ‘hobbies’, ‘accidents’, ‘traveling’, ‘technologies’, etc. can be easily transferred onto aviation rails.

It’s also worth mentioning that apps like Duolingo or Language Drops are more of a fun thing. They do have both pros and cons but are rather designed to create an illusion of progress. Taking part in random marathons and subscribing to a gazillion of communities in social media at this point also seems hardly efficient. What you need is a system, piles of info will on the contrary frustrate you.

Sooner or later (optimistic scenario – a year of intense learning if you start from scratch) you will reach a point appropriate to start introducing aviation English to your learning process (read here). Your overall approach, however, will remain the same: choose the most suitable one based on the combination of performance factors at your disposal.

Working with a tutor is an optimized solution in many ways except for the costs. A good tutor would assess your current level, set goals, select a program and even do his/her best to fit into your working schedule (quite important for active pilots). Most importantly, the tutor will address your actual ‘bottlenecks’. Look for an aviation English teacher rather than just an English teacher (we will talk about this later). For now, let’s just say the person should be no stranger to aviation.

Courses. Depending on the test you take, most people will face this format when preparing for the actual test. Which will be an absolutely right move. But don’t bet too much on it – two-week courses will not get you ready (considering that before these courses you did nothing else to advance in your English). As for long-term courses – 8 weeks and more – they make sense in terms of economic efficiency (per dollar spent). Apparently, the biggest disadvantage here is that normally you would have to attend the courses in person (go somewhere on a regular basis). And if the level of students in your group varies, it may decrease the efficiency significantly.

At this point you can successfully use apps (like My Grammar Lab, for example) and various online resources (for example, British Council), watch educational videos, listen to podcasts and take part in random marathons. More or less you will benefit from them all.

Finally, there goes self-prep. It is absolutely in your power to boost your skills. And the idea behind this blog of mine is to give you actual techniques, hints, and resources for your individual work. The pros of the self-prep are obvious. As for main disadvantages, you will have nobody to talk to and mentor you. It’s not possible to simulate a communication scenario without another person. Thus, taking private classes as well as language courses in an aviation training center will certainly contribute to your progress.

Home assignment: think of the abovementioned performance factors and determine which strategy (to start or continue your studying) is best for you today.

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