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If Aviation's Language Was Other Than English  
User currently offlinePilottj From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 279 posts, RR: 0
Posted (9 years 10 months 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 5505 times:

Hey Folks,

Here is a thought to ponder. This is sort of an extention of the ATC telling off pilots thread as one of the most common errors is simply the language barrier. As we know, English is the common language used for international Aviation. What would aviation be like if another language were to be used? How would it fare economically if it were in say German or Spanish? Please do not take this as a sign of disrespect to other languages, but merely a curiosity on how language effects the industry and vice versa. Certianly a lot of respect goes to those who must learn a second language in order to follow their dream to be a pilot or a controller or an FA or anyone else involved in this complex industry. I think we gringos and native english speakers take for granted how hard language is, especially when learning an industry with so much technical jargon.

CHeers
TJ


God was my copilot, but we crashed in the mountains and I had to eat him...
45 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineJasepl From India, joined Jul 2004, 3582 posts, RR: 39
Reply 1, posted (9 years 10 months 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 5461 times:

If it weren't English, it would probably be French. But, considering that no other language has quite the widespread reach that English has, no other language would ever have worked.

User currently offlineMasseyBrown From United States of America, joined Dec 2002, 5460 posts, RR: 7
Reply 2, posted (9 years 10 months 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 5453 times:

I work with a couple of Russians who claim that their English (which is very good) is better than their Russian. They say that formal Russian is fiendishly difficult and is not well spoken even by most Russians. This seems impossible to me, but that's is what they say.

So I guess we can eliminate Russian as a candidate language.



I love long German words like 'Freundschaftsbezeigungen'.
User currently offlineUa777222 From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 3348 posts, RR: 11
Reply 3, posted (9 years 10 months 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 5437 times:

I have personally heard IFR clearance, Taxi instructions, and other ground operations in other languages such as Chinese and Spanish but never in the air. I think it would be too dangerous to try to have 2 languages, give it a week and they'll be dropping like flies. If mid-air accidents still happen when they're all speaking English I doubt we'll do better with French. The only issue that I've ever had was with a guy down at CCR who was Asian who couldn't get English down. He would go in between. I know the tower was having issues b/c they had to repeat it to him and told him "if you can't pay attention I'll clear you to runway XX and back to your tiedown." To me it just seems that if a small airport such as CCR can't handle multi-lingual persons that larger airports with more traffic will have even more issues. I was just doing touch and go's with-in the airspace and this guy was freaking me out and when I would ask the tower where he was going and they would come back and give me a "rough idea" it made me want to just set her down and stay down which is what my instructor opted to do. We just held in the run-up area of a runway that wasn't being used. My instructor is a CRJ rated Capt. and did/does fly for a major airline. He said this wouldn't work in the larger airspaces.

Great Question!

Thanks again.

UA777222



"It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark."
User currently offlineSpacecadet From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 3629 posts, RR: 12
Reply 4, posted (9 years 10 months 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 5431 times:

What would aviation be like if another language were to be used? How would it fare economically if it were in say German or Spanish?

Spanish is one thing, but German would be pretty much impossible. My family is half-German, and many of them still live there. I don't really speak the language myself (a tiny bit) but from what I understand there are so many dialects that there really isn't even an "official" German language. The dialects differ so much, even from town to town in the same region, that a lot of Germans cannot even understand each other. It's a pretty chaotic language; Germans don't even really think of the language as "German" - they call what they speak by the dialect. Doesn't seem like it'd make a good choice for ATC.

English is still the best choice not because more people speak it in the world than any other language (which isn't the case), but because it's spoken more widely than any other language. In other words, at least some of the people speak English from Japan to the United States to England to Germany to Norway to Israel to Saudi Arabia to China. It's not a universal language by any means, but it's easily the language spoken in the most countries by at least a certain percentage of people.

I can't really think of another language that would work. Can you imagine Asian pilots and ATC trying to speak French? Spanish might be a little easier pronunciation-wise, but not any easier to learn than English (and fewer people would know it already).



I'm tired of being a wanna-be league bowler. I wanna be a league bowler!
User currently offlineMinmiester From Australia, joined May 2001, 73 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (9 years 10 months 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 5403 times:

"you imagine Asian pilots and ATC trying to speak French?"

Are u saying Asian pilots and ATC would find it more difficult to learn French (which is still widely understood - to a degree - in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam) than pilots and ATC of other races?  Big grin Careful there :P.

I can't really imagine any other language possessing the widespread acceptance and understanding that English has, and in terms of aviation development, English has been and is the only language possible to be used world-wide for aviation purposes. Now we just have to decide whether its English, American, "Ostrayan" English, "New Zulland" English or "Sooth Afrikun" English  Big grin.

Cheers

MinMiester


User currently offlineDbo861 From United States of America, joined May 2004, 888 posts, RR: 1
Reply 6, posted (9 years 10 months 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 5377 times:

I always thought one of the main reasons English is the common language was because the United States was the birthplace for aviation. I mean, the fact that English is so widely spoken probably had a lot to do with it too.

User currently offlineFraT From Germany, joined exactly 11 years ago today! , 1107 posts, RR: 1
Reply 7, posted (9 years 10 months 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 5361 times:

Spacecadet,

I don't know where your relatives live in Germany. But what you are writing is not true at all. Everybody in Germany speaks German. OK, some have dialect but normally you can understand people from Bavaria as well as those from some eastern German states. It just sounds funny.
It's the same like in other countries with lots of different regions. Somebody from Texas also speaks a different kind of English than somebody from New England. Leave alone British English and American English.

But I agree that German wouldn't be a good choice for the universal aviation language. Besides Germany it's only spoken in a handful of other countries.

Cheers


User currently offlineSebolino From France, joined May 2001, 3681 posts, RR: 4
Reply 8, posted (9 years 10 months 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 5354 times:

there really isn't even an "official" German language. The dialects differ so much, even from town to town in the same region, that a lot of Germans cannot even understand each other. It's a pretty chaotic language; Germans don't even really think of the language as "German"

English is still the best choice not because more people speak it in the world than any other language (which isn't the case), but because it's spoken more widely than any other language. of people.

I can't really think of another language that would work. Can you imagine Asian pilots and ATC trying to speak French? Spanish might be a little easier pronunciation-wise, but not any easier to learn than English (and fewer people would know it already).


SpaceCadet,

There is a standard German. I don't know where it's spoken , but it exists as far as I know.

About English: Yes, it's widely spoken. The problem is that real English is not. The English spoken by Asians or even common Europeans is awful, and at the minimum very different from the English from London for example.

In fact, I think English is one of the most difficult language to be correctly pronounced, for foreigners, because of the vowels shifted by a half aperture degree.
It's easy to speak bad English and to be understand, but then is it still English or English words with a bad pronouciation ?


User currently offlineFlyboy1980 From New Zealand, joined Nov 2003, 253 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (9 years 10 months 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 5347 times:

I think the degrees of difference between dialects of European languages (other than English) is much more extreme.

Even though spelling, some words and some pronounciations are different, mother-tongue English speakers world over can understand each other.

Americans may call it a cooler, Aussies an eski and Kiwis a chilly bin - it's still the same item.

I have visited Finland, and while there are few dialects of Finnish, Swedish is also spoken there and it has far more variation. There is a part of Finland that speaks only Swedish, but the dialect is so extreme that while it is written the same as standard Swedish, the way it is spoken is not even close.


User currently offlineZKSUJ From New Zealand, joined May 2004, 7107 posts, RR: 12
Reply 10, posted (9 years 10 months 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 5330 times:

I think that in aviation's case that there is a standard version of english. By this I mean that most ATC and Pilots use the same words and structures in their sentences. If this was not the case, then there would be a huge problem. EG with standardised english:

ATC: QANTAS XXX cleared for take off runway XX, winds 20 knots at 6.
Pilot: Roger, cleared for take off QANTAS XXX

Compare this with Ozzie English:

ATC: QANTAS XXX you can go on runway XX, winds from the north and blowing like a teapot
Pilot: Fair Dinkim mate Big grin



User currently offlineMozart From Luxembourg, joined Aug 2003, 2182 posts, RR: 13
Reply 11, posted (9 years 10 months 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 5311 times:

Well, English is THE official language of aviation, but I'ld like to point out that in many cases it isn't used as the sole official language. For instance, in French airspace, ATC speaks French to planes from French-speaking countries (France, Belgium, usually Canada, Luxembourg, all of the Western African countries, Lebanon, French Caribbean, Air Tahiti Nui, etc), and English to all the others. Quite unnerving for non-French speakers I hear.

However, in Germany, ALL radio communication is in English, also with German planes.

In Brazil, I've seen a Justplanes video on GOL, ATC is in Portuguese unless the pilots address ATC in English, in which case the rest of the communication is in English.

Russia the same, Russian to Russian speakers, English for non Russian-speaking foreigners.

I assume it is the same in many parts of the world where most of the traffic is domestic: the domestic langauge is used, Enlgish only with foreigners. In some parts there is rule "domestic language, unless there is at least one non-native speaker, in which case EVERYBODY switches to English" (case in parts of Sweden and also French Caribbean). So I think this applies to large parts of South America, where other than a handful of European and North American carriers everybody speaks Spanish resp. Portuguese. So why use English?

So there you are, I think today's reality is already one where English is the official language for ATC when communicating between people of different native languages, but other than that there are many places where local language is used.


User currently offlineLH423 From Canada, joined Jul 1999, 6501 posts, RR: 54
Reply 12, posted (9 years 10 months 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 5195 times:

I can tell you one thing. Pilots and aviation personnel would make even more than they do now because adding in pilot and ATC training costs most would also have to add on language training costs as well.

LH423



« On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux » Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
User currently onlineKen777 From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 8296 posts, RR: 8
Reply 13, posted (9 years 10 months 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 5151 times:

I'm lucky enough to be able to take TRW trips on business and max out the places I visit. I am continually impressed with the ability of shopkeepers in various countries to be able to obtain my money by speaking English with no problem. If the shopkeepers can do it then pilots (which we consider to be more intelligent) should be able to do it.

In terms of multiple languages used for ground control - that might work until there is the first accident based on confusion by those that don't speak the local language. Same in crowded skies. I'm simply a pax, but I believe that all planes in the area (in the air or on the ground) should be aware of what instructions are being given to the other planes.


User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14030 posts, RR: 62
Reply 14, posted (9 years 10 months 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 5126 times:

The whole thing traces back to the Chicago convention of 1944. Back then the US realised that the end of WW2 was coming closer and invited it´s allied plus neutral countries to a conference about startingair traffic after the war. As a result the ICAO was founded.
There are several official aviation languages, among them English and Russian. I think French is also one. German and Japanese are not included, because these two countries were not invited.
Concerning America invented aviation, this is a big BS. Pre war Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and France had a much bigger aviation industry each than the US. The only reason is that the European aviation industry got more or less clobbered during WW2 and the US one survived, due to their homefront being far away from the fighting. As a result much production of planes and other goods was done in the US, leading to a technological advance.

Jan


User currently offlineBuyantUkhaa From Mongolia, joined May 2004, 2899 posts, RR: 3
Reply 15, posted (9 years 10 months 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 5080 times:

In the end I suppose the key issue, regardless of language, is to have a standardised vocabulary (remember Tenerife 1977). This obviuously doesn't solve the issue of having more than one language, but if, theoretically, you would have selected one language with managable grammar and pronounciation, it would work.


I scratch my head, therefore I am.
User currently offlineGigneil From United States of America, joined Nov 2002, 16347 posts, RR: 85
Reply 16, posted (9 years 10 months 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 5071 times:

If the official language was French, then very few US flag carriers would still fly outside the United States.

The US education system just doesn't properly emphasize foreign language, nor are many people here bilingual. Being physically distant from most of the other countries in the world, as opposed to Europe where everyone is nearby, dilutes the absolute need for people to speak anything but English.

N


User currently offlineMaverickM11 From United States of America, joined Apr 2000, 17537 posts, RR: 46
Reply 17, posted (9 years 10 months 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 5046 times:

"If the official language was French"

...then that accident in CDG where an MD-80 sliced through a Shorts 360 killing the copilot would not have occurred.



E pur si muove -Galileo
User currently offlineMarambio From UK - Scotland, joined Oct 2004, 1160 posts, RR: 25
Reply 18, posted (9 years 10 months 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 4978 times:

Well, in Argentina as everywhere else in Latin America, ATC communications are done in Spanish. ATC guys also speak English, and they speak in Shakespeare's language when the plane isn't from a Spanish-speaking country.

Example: EZE ATC is going to speak in Spanish with the pilot of an Avianca plane coming from Bogotá. On the other side, the same ATC will speak English with a Lufthansa plane coming from Frankfurt.

I know that AR pilots also speak portuñol (a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish) when they ask for clearance at POA, GRU or GIG. Same happens with RG pilots when they communicate with an Argentine ATC.

Saludos,
Marambio



Aerolíneas Argentinas - La Argentina que levanta vuelo.
User currently offlineAnxebla From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 19, posted (9 years 10 months 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 4955 times:

I wonder if on the Spain-Portugal-Spain flights pilots/ATC speak "portuñol"  Laugh out loud

User currently offlineMeister808 From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 973 posts, RR: 1
Reply 20, posted (9 years 10 months 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 4928 times:

I think a big part of having English as a common language in many technical fields, including aviation, is the fact that English seems to be the most concise of the major languages. I speak French fairly well and know a small amount of German, and it seems that, with English, plain-out sentence structure is a lot cleaner i.e. in English an approach clearance would be something like

Cessna four four two Golf turn right heading zero eight zero maintain three thousand to the outer marker

and in another language it simply wouldn't be possible to say that without having a lot of excess words in there like

the cessna four four two(with number-words that have more syllables, thereby taking longer) golf turn yourself to right heading zero eight zero maintain yourself three thousand until at the outer marker.

That is probably a poor example, but English just seems simpler.

-Meister



Twin Cessna 812 Victor, Minneapolis Center, we observe your operation in the immediate vicinity of extreme precipitation
User currently offlineLegendDC9 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 21, posted (9 years 10 months 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 4898 times:

Actually, the fact that the official international language is English was a close vote by the league of nations in the 1920's that nearly declared German as the official one. The entire world history since that time could have changed had that gone through.

User currently offlinePPVRA From Brazil, joined Nov 2004, 8964 posts, RR: 39
Reply 22, posted (9 years 10 months 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 4900 times:

Anxebal,

Likely not... sometimes is easier for me to understand Spanish than Portuguese w/ a Portugal accent.... Strange? yes, but it's true. I think it would be much harder for you to understand someone from portugal than me.

PPVRA

BTW: It took me about 4-5 days to be able to truly understand "Madrileños" (spell?), they speak so fast...but I did it!

PPVRA



"If goods do not cross borders, soldiers will" - Frederic Bastiat
User currently offlineAreopagus From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 1369 posts, RR: 1
Reply 23, posted (9 years 10 months 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 4863 times:

"The sun never sets on the British Empire." That was the saying when Britain governed trade routes and colonies around the globe. Launched from those small home islands, English became the 3rd most widely spoken first language, after Mandarin and Spanish. But most of those Mandarin speakers were concentrated in one place, and the Spanish speaking countries were not so industrialized. I suspect English was the most widely spoken second language even before WWII.

MD11Engineer points out that several European countries had bigger aviation industries before WWII, and that the US home industry didn't get clobbered. Besides that, during and after WWII, the US built loads of airfields around the world, and propagated the VOR navigation systems and other infrastructure.

In a US-Britain agreement, the US produced transport aircraft during the war, to let Britain concentrate on fighters and bombers. This gave the US a leg up on the postwar generation of piston-engined airliners, although this fact doesn't affect the question of English vs. other languages.

But, if the worldwide language of trade had turned out to be something else, there would be a lot more need for Americans to learn a 2nd language. For non-English speakers, there is an obvious advantage to learning English as a second language. For Americans, the choice of 2nd language is not obvious. (Mine is German; my wife and daughters speak Spanish; my son speaks Portuguese; my daughter in law speaks Japanese.)


[Edited 2004-12-02 22:34:47]

User currently offlineN506CR From Costa Rica, joined Nov 2004, 147 posts, RR: 2
Reply 24, posted (9 years 10 months 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 4838 times:

Hi all.

this is my first post here btw.  Smile/happy/getting dizzy
English being the common language for aviation at my opinion is simply a global necessity issue. And the fact that it's spoken in United States has to do a lot with it. I mean, let's say we have a Costa Rican, an Indian and a Japenese. The guy from Costa Rica might never go to India or vice versa, same thing with Japan. But probably all 3 of them might at some point in their life go to United States. Just to come up with an example. If the 'center of the world' was somewhere else, or other language than English had been adopted in the US, probably that'll be the one language spoken. It's just the realistic way to see it.
Now, talking about the native language spoken in some countries, it's no other thing than national proud. I mean, is your backyard bud, you'll do what you're used to. And it's completely fine.
Let's go with an example again:
let's say this world was quite a bit different and the 'center of the world' was... France. The world therefore will 'move' in French. Would an American pilot like to call New York Clearance delivery and ask him for a flight plan approval to Miami in French? I bet no. Therefore, a French pilot wouldn't like to call CDG Clearance and ask the controller if he can go to Nice... in English? definitely no.

In my case, I'd speak Spanish if I was flying in Costa Rica. Though I'm enough open-minded (and hopefully most pilots are) to switch to English if the situation requires so.

The English deal won't change... neither the speaking of the native language in other countries.

Something I want to do if someday become an internatinal pilot is learn the way to make the introduction to the tower in the native language and after that specify to please give further instructions in English. I think that'll be cool.

"Milano suolo buongiorno il American Airlines uno-nove-sete a la cancello cinque presto a... good morning, further instructions in English please" That'll be nice.

We have only one world and we had to find a way to get it together... and due to circustamces, English was the answer. Reminds me of the prayer"grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot changee, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference".

Keep in mind that don't matter where you are, where you fly, or what language you speak, remember that a warm smile is the universal language of kindness.

just my two cents worth here.

saludos;
-Adolfo .:capt_moralesg:.


25 Pilottj : Thank you all for your insight, I think one way to imagine the implications, imagine yourself as a ground school instructor with a class full of non n
26 N506CR : Good question TJ. Well first I gotta say sorry for my awful spelling last post... I'm really good in grammar but I don't know what happened (I can't b
27 Post contains images Sebolino : Well first I gotta say sorry for my awful spelling last post... I'm really good in grammar but I don't know what happened You mean syntax, not grammar
28 N1120a : >About English: Yes, it's widely spoken. The problem is that real English is not. The English spoken by Asians or even common Europeans is awful, and
29 FraT : N506CR, welcome to a.net! I agree that in situations, in which no other pilot is involved, ATC might speak in the native language. But as soon as othe
30 Quebecair727 : Ground and air-to-air communications are done in both French and English in the province of Québec without any problems since many years and so far I
31 EZEIZA : "The US education system just doesn't properly emphasize foreign language, nor are many people here bilingual. Being physically distant from most of t
32 N328KF : This phenomenon is highly region-dependent, I think. I know in my schools (Indiana), we were required to take a foreign language. Choices were French,
33 Zrs70 : The irony here is that the thread title itself uses poor grammar! Should be, "If Aviation's Language WERE...."
34 Post contains images N506CR : "Well first I gotta say sorry for my awful spelling last post... I'm really good in grammar but I don't know what happened" You mean syntax, not gramm
35 EnviroTO : The language of ATC is English numbers and basic aviation terms. A pilot probably only needs to learn the numbers and about 50 words. I don't think th
36 Post contains images Solnabo : Det skulle va kanonbra om A.net var på svenska t.ex men då skulle ju ingen begripa vad man skrev.....förutom dansker og normän. Translation: Shoul
37 Post contains images Ozglobal : >In fact, I think English is one of the most difficult language to be correctly pronounced, for foreigners, because of the vowels shifted by a half ap
38 SFOMEX : As much as I love Spanish, it wouldn't make sense to replace English with it or any other language. English speaking crews/ATC make aviation safer and
39 FLY2LIM : "Well first I gotta say sorry for my awful spelling last post... I'm really good in grammar but I don't know what happened" Believe me that it's not
40 Wdleiser : It would probably be German as the United States almost voted German as its official language back when it was created.
41 Tnsaf : As an English speaker I have had the opportunity to fly in Quebec where ATC communications were being conducted in French and English simultaneously.
42 N506CR : FLY2LIM I definitely have to watch my writing more carefully. I seriously don't know what is going on with me, but every time I write something here (
43 Post contains images Ozglobal : N506CR, Your English is pretty good - No need to be defensive. (FLY2LIM made a typo at the end of the paragraph he used to critique your English, so l
44 Post contains images Cospn : Concerning America invented aviation, this is a big BS. Pre war Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and France had a much bigger aviation industr
45 EZEIZA : "Therefore, it's not the fact that the "average AMERICANS could care less about learning a language", average people of any nationality anywhere in th
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