Part 5. Level 4 Requirements – How to Boost English Skills to Hit ICAO Level 4

Previously we covered the steps to be taken along the way from zero to the proficiency test and I asked you to find out where you are at right now. That would be your starting point. Now let’s draw a more precise picture of your destination point.

Further on, I’ll keep reiterating the idea that level 4 is referred to as Operational. No need to cite Shakespeare, really. However, you are expected to demonstrate a decent command of skills which you require to perform your professional duties. Particularly, as ICAO puts it, you have to be able to:

  • communicate effectively in voice-only (telephone/radiotelephone) and in face-to-face situations; communicate on common, concrete and work-related topics with accuracy and clarity;
  • use appropriate communicative strategies to exchange messages and to recognize and resolve misunderstandings (e.g. to check, confirm, or clarify information) in a general or work-related context.;
  • handle successfully and with relative ease the linguistic challenges presented by a complication or unexpected turn of events;
  • use a dialect or accent which is intelligible to the aeronautical community.

That is the overall goal. And in order to make a true assessment of how close you are to this goal, your performance will be checked against the six parameters (they are called ‘descriptors’ as you remember). In short, these requirements to level 4 skills are as follows (I’m quoting Doc 9835, in case you didn’t notice):

Pronunciation: Pronunciation, stress, rhythm and intonation are influenced by the first language or regional variation, but only sometimes interfere with ease of understanding.

Grammar (Structure): Basic grammatical structures and sentence patterns are used creatively and are usually well controlled. Errors may occur, particularly in unusual or unexpected circumstances, but rarely interfere with meaning.

Vocabulary: Vocabulary range and accuracy are usually sufficient to communicate effectively on common, concrete and work related topics. Can often paraphrase successfully when lacking vocabulary in unusual or unexpected circumstances.

Fluency Produces stretches of language at an appropriate tempo. There may be occasional loss of fluency on transition from rehearsed or formulaic speech to spontaneous interaction, but this does not prevent effective communication. Can make limited use of discourse markers or connectors. Fillers are not distracting.

Comprehension: Comprehension is mostly accurate on common, concrete and work-related topics when the accent or variety used is sufficiently intelligible for an international community of users. When the speaker is confronted with
a linguistic or situational complication or an unexpected turn of events,
comprehension may be slower or require clarification strategies.

Interactions: Responses are usually immediate, appropriate and informative. Initiates and maintains exchanges even when dealing with an unexpected turn of events. Deals adequately with apparent misunderstandings by checking, confirming or clarifying.

Here in this blog I will go in detail through each of these parameters, and based on my experience in teaching both plain and aviation English (individually and in groups) I will provide recommendations on how to boost your skills.

Home assignment: do a self-assessment of your skills against the ICAO scale. If you can’t do that on your own, get in touch with any aviation training center or find a language proficiency linguistic expert online.

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