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Simplified English And Multi-national Crews  
User currently offlineBsergonomics From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2002, 462 posts, RR: 0
Posted (10 years 5 months 3 weeks 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 2138 times:

In the past, I have worked on UK-specific programmes, where the end user is British and all the documents are written in UK English. Any export customers were expected to learn the language to an acceptable level in order to understand the documents. Over the last few years, I've been working on (amongst other things) a multinational programme, where the common language is English. In addition, I've been living in a foreign country where it is possible to survive without the language, but not without help. Unlike many of my colleagues, I have bothered to learn the language (which has been of great benefit).

Now we are at the delivery stage. One unforeseen element of my job is that I am being asked to give training to the end users (pilots from various nations).

My real gripe started when I was asked (told) to assess the user manuals. I found that the non-English nations couldn't string two useful English words together (this is not a statement on those nations, merely on the Muppets that I have the unfortunate pleasure of dealing with, who are supposed to speak English). Meanwhile, the British contingent wrote in a language that a Professor of English at Cambridge University would find hard to understand.

So, the question is this: should we write these manuals in Simplified English (which is a separate language that even the English must learn), or should we keep battering on at the suppliers to Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS)?

Incidentally, do any of you have 'horror' stories of language so bad your mother wouldn't leave you in a room with it?


The definition of a 'Pessimist': an Optimist with experience...
13 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineFredT From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2002, 2185 posts, RR: 26
Reply 1, posted (10 years 5 months 3 weeks 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 2085 times:

Bsergonomics,
having over the recent six months had the dubious pleasure to be subjected to quite a lot of Simplified English and also the joys of AECMA1000 (or whatever AECMA are called this week)... I am indeed swayed towards the view that SE is a useful tool, but like all other advanced tools can do more harm than good if used religiously rather than with common sense.

If I was king of the world (or at least a publication department) I would probably start with simplified english but

a) work up my own subset of SE as I went and

b) not be too strict about it. Sometimes, SE taken as a religion will result in unintelligible gibberish!

I would love to talk it over in more detail with you, having seen your posts in the past. Drop me an email if you'd be interested.

Cheers,
Fred



I thought I was doing good trying to avoid those airport hotels... and look at me now.
User currently offlineAvioniker From United States of America, joined Dec 2001, 1109 posts, RR: 11
Reply 2, posted (10 years 5 months 3 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 2028 times:

Once upon a time we had "Technical English".
It was a language set of commonly understood and used words that meant the same thing to everyone reading or using them in a technical setting. The Germans learned it and have had relatively little trouble using it on their Boeings and Lockheeds.
As an instructor I have found very few nationalities have difficulty with Technical English as the people using it would have to be of a certain mental capacity to be doing the tasks which require its use. The only people I have had any difficulty with are the French and some Arabic speaking people. Not all Arabic speakers (in fact I found the Libians, Iranians, and Lebanese to be amongst the quickest learners).
The 1000 word Simplified English vocabulary lends itself to ambiguity, vagueness, and contradictions.
It needs to be junqued and we need to go back to a technical level commensurate to the task and the abilities of the individual performing that task.
(One man's opinion, mind you...)

Here's a link to my annual tirade on the subject from Dec 2002
http://www.airliners.net/discussions/tech_ops/read.main/53716/6/



One may educate the ignorance from the unknowing but stupid is forever. Boswell; ca: 1533
User currently offlinePilatusguy From Switzerland, joined Jan 2004, 315 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (10 years 5 months 3 weeks 15 hours ago) and read 1866 times:

Hi guys,

I am (for one part) a trainer for company specific programs and also write manuals personally (as a matter of fact, I should work on that one now, rather than surfin' A.net...).

My experience with sophisticated manuals is not too good. Have had too many examples where people would just not understand what the manual wanted to tell them. If you ask for nations, I do have had some problems with a couple of far east countries as well as (believe it or not) our texan friends.

What I'm doing now is a "Quick Guide" to the application which is really stupid proof, going down to sentences like "double click the left mouse button on the OK button located at the very bottom right of your screen".

Conclusion is - stick to the "KISS standard"!

==> I am going to "test" that new manual two weeks from now in South Korea - will let you know how they took it if you like. (of course you'll also see a trip report Big grin)

Cheers,
Pilatusguy


User currently offlineAvioniker From United States of America, joined Dec 2001, 1109 posts, RR: 11
Reply 4, posted (10 years 5 months 3 weeks 8 hours ago) and read 1826 times:

Roger on the Texans (but there's always the possibility they were actually Arkansawyers fresh across the border)...
You're right about the Eastern Pacific Rim. The translation difficulties are enormous.
I remain firm in my conviction that Simplified English was developed by people who slept through their Junior and Senior High School English classes.
My son, in Germany, has a better command of English than anyone I've met at FSB or Alteon doing the writing. (With the possible exception of the guy who flew the helicopter inverted to prove a point. [Hi Robert!])



One may educate the ignorance from the unknowing but stupid is forever. Boswell; ca: 1533
User currently offlineBsergonomics From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2002, 462 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (10 years 5 months 3 weeks ago) and read 1788 times:

Having learnt several foreign languages (French, German, Latin, Italian) plus a smattering of others (Norwegian, Spanish, Dutch, Bangladeshi), the major thing that I have learnt is that the manuals need to be written in the language of the early learner.

"You wouldn't normally see the APU in the upside down position" is expecting the reader to understand the conditional tense, acronyms and a colloquialism, all in the same sentence. Although it may mean extra words, the expression could be worded as follow: "You can insert the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) the correct side upwards or the incorrect side upwards. Make sure that the APU is inserted correctly. If you insert it incorrectly, remove it and insert it correctly."

It does mean that we must use more words (but using a limited vocabulary), but it also means that fewer (less costly) mistakes will be made in the field.

Fred: When I get a chance, I would love to converse with you on this topic - while I don't agree with the wholesale binning of the Simplified English Language, my first experience of training multinational crews is really opening my eyes to the difficulties of making people with different abilities and different language skills understand!



The definition of a 'Pessimist': an Optimist with experience...
User currently offlineVC-10 From United Kingdom, joined Oct 1999, 3701 posts, RR: 34
Reply 6, posted (10 years 5 months 3 weeks ago) and read 1787 times:
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Airbus MM's can be difficult to read due to the simplified English. e.g "depress button and make sure the on light is off"

User currently offlineAvioniker From United States of America, joined Dec 2001, 1109 posts, RR: 11
Reply 7, posted (10 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 1735 times:

I just noticed that the title of this thread is "...multi-national crews".
Since when do Aircrew Members have to put up with the inanities of simplified English?

I thought Aircrew manuals were written in Technical English. Only we Maintenance folk have to suffer the trials and tribulations of things like what VC-10 mentions.

My personal favorite is to "inspect for blockage of unwanted debris".
Who cares if the "unwanted debris" is blocked? (and if you don't see my point you're part of the problem)

I suggest that a copy of "REFERENCE HANDBOOK OF GRAMMAR & USAGE" (William Morrow & Company, Inc. New York 1972; Copyright 1972, Scott, Foresman and Company) be placed on the mandatory reading list of all technical writers as it was on mine when I took tech writing in school. It's a relatively thin hardbound tome (<2cm) and is full of all kinds of things to keep one from sounding foolish.

It's time to throw out the fools who insist on reinventing the language to suit their inadequacies and placate the crybabies who think they can sit through a 40 hour gen fam and become expert on an aircraft.

I had to learn German to study Physics, Latin to satisfy the grad requirements of my high school, and French to go on tour in Europe. Is there any reason I should expect less from the people maintaining the aircraft I ride in and fly?!



One may educate the ignorance from the unknowing but stupid is forever. Boswell; ca: 1533
User currently offlineB747Skipper From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 8, posted (10 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 1747 times:

Friends -
xxx
Pulling your hair with "simplified English" in matters of maintenance...?
Believe me - same problem with many airlines - for flight crews.
xxx
I have to deal with this in Argentina.
My aviation education and pilot background is 100% in English.
All our procedures, manuals, check lists are English.
In the cockpit, we speak "Spanglish" performing check-lists...
But, yes, it is not easy for some.
xxx
Some years ago, having a temporary contract, I had a Belgian F/O and a Swiss F/E...
They realized I could speak French, like they did, as well as a native.
So in the cockpit, they suggested we spoke French for check-lists.
What a disaster. My French vocabulary for aviation is nowhere. I was lost.
xxx
In South America, I frequently use Spanish for ATC communications.
But as far as Spanish in cockpit procedures, or maintenance write-ups, sorry, only in English, please.
Our books are published by Boeing, in English. Therefore, we use English.
xxx
English is the IDEAL technical language in aviation. A sentence of 3 or 4 lines in Spanish or French, can be clearly translated with 2 lines of English.
Honest, I adore Spanish and French as social and every-day languages, but technical - NO...
xxx
Happy contrails  Smile
(s) Skipper


User currently offlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 17044 posts, RR: 67
Reply 9, posted (10 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 1727 times:

From the manual of my friend's first VCR (translated from Korean to Swedish): "Om ström röd lampa fortfarande förbannad, var god kontakt kvalificerad tjänsteman". ("If power red lamp still angry, please contact qualified office worker").

Don't dilute the language in writing. And hire a good translator. When speaking, use what is most practical and clear, even if it's "Spanglish".


Avioniker, the mad nitpicker in me says that Iranians speak mostly Persian and Turkic, not Arabic.



"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently offlineAvioniker From United States of America, joined Dec 2001, 1109 posts, RR: 11
Reply 10, posted (10 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 1704 times:

Hey, let's face it; without "mad nitpickers" we'd be flying with blades missing.
Actually the Iranians I dealt with in Tehran and the north spoke Arabic with an Aramaic tilt. They all told me that Persian was like Gaelic to them. Not a living language. (I must profess too little knowledge of their culture.) What they speak at home I have no idea. I believe it's sort of like the Egyptians who also speak Arabic but, I got the undeniable impression, would rather speak Egyptian.
And once again Skipper, I couldn't agree with you more. Pray you never need return to Alteon for "training".

[Edited 2004-04-07 20:34:30]


One may educate the ignorance from the unknowing but stupid is forever. Boswell; ca: 1533
User currently offlineBsergonomics From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2002, 462 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (10 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 1673 times:

It's a pity that I can't get some of the documents released to share with you. I'll see if I am allowed to add some non-specific quotes.

Part of the problem is that it is the engineers themselves who are writing the user manuals. The suppliers have no "Tech Pubs" departments. The result is that the engineer focuses on the bits that are technically difficult ("I had to write a thousand lines of code to get that symbol to move like that"), rather than those parts that are critical for the pilot (like having to go through eight pages before you find that you've set the GPWS Minimum Separation Distance to -500ft).

I have desperately wanted to stand up in the meetings and explain that, if we get this wrong, people get killed. It's not a simple matter of pressing CTRL+ALT+DEL and reloading the file. Not when that file is controlling your FCS or your armaments controls...

Avioniker mentioned Tech Writing class. I have never seen this as an option during any of my studies. What does the course entail?



The definition of a 'Pessimist': an Optimist with experience...
User currently offlineFredT From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2002, 2185 posts, RR: 26
Reply 12, posted (10 years 5 months 2 weeks 5 days 14 hours ago) and read 1637 times:

Makes you cringe when a piece of unintelligible writing is prefixed with "Caution!" or "Warning!", doesn't it? And even more when you're told that it is supposed to be unintelligible according to the standard.


Here's a related example: The guy who was painting the luminiscent markers in the culverts under the hospital where I once worked was approached by a manager of some kind. The manager told him "You can't paint that one like that, it is not in accordance with the standard". He promptly replied "Oh, but it is supposed to be like this. It is in ECS98".

"Oh, OK", said the manager and disappeared.

When asked what ECS98 was, the painter replied 'Everyday Common Sense'... Big grin

Cheers,
Fred



I thought I was doing good trying to avoid those airport hotels... and look at me now.
User currently offlineAvioniker From United States of America, joined Dec 2001, 1109 posts, RR: 11
Reply 13, posted (10 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 days 23 hours ago) and read 1615 times:

Bserg...
Many schools, colleges, and universities offer courses in technical writing. In the 60's, before I was allowed to write any procedural manuals, I was required to attend and satisfactorily pass at least one year of English Technical Writing prior to certification.
We don't have any sort of certification any more either to my knowledge.
When I went to school an engineer was required to serve a two year apprenticeship after graduation before he could sit for certification in any aircraft discipline in Florida. Now a 22 year old with a four year degree is welcome to redesign anything he wishes with no regard for history or experience.
The poor technician with twenty or more years experience is left trying to figure out how to implement the trash that has come down the elevator on an EO, ECO, SB or whatever.

Nuff said...



One may educate the ignorance from the unknowing but stupid is forever. Boswell; ca: 1533
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