Pilot training and English as a lingua franca: some implications for the design of Aviation English for ab initio flight training courses





Ab Initio Pilot Training, English for Flight Training Courses, Communicative Strategies, English as a Lingua Franca.


This paper revisits discussions on needs assessment of language courses for non-native English speakers (NNES) prior to ab initio flight training, or initial flight training, in English-speaking environments. The growing need for pilots in areas of the world where English is traditionally not the native language of the population and the fact that many of them attend flight school in English-speaking countries have increased the demand for such courses. Important questions are what communicative competencies the future flight students need and how current research on English as a lingua Franca (ELF) can inform the design of English for flight training courses. The paper presents the results of a study based on semi-structured interviews with six non-native speaking professional pilots who received ab initio training in English-speaking countries. The analysis suggests that NNES ab initio flight students need to be equipped with the right mix of communicative strategies often summarized as ELF awareness and a sufficient amount of English language proficiency.


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Author Biographies

Markus Bieswanger, Bayreuth University

Markus Bieswangeris professor of English Linguistics at Bayreuth University, Germany, head of the scientific steering committee of the Bayreuth University Language Center, which offers courses and proficiency assessment in more than 20 languages, and an Aviation English consultant. He has a long-standing and well-documented research interest in Aviation English – including language teaching, learning and testing, the use of English as a Lingua Franca and aspects of intercultural communication in many contexts including aviation – and has done consultant work for several airlines and air traffic control providers. Email address: markus.bieswanger@uni-bayreuth.de   

Malila Carvalho de Almeida Prado, Fujian University of Technology

Malila Prado is professor in the School of Humanities at Fujian University of Technology, China. She has worked as an English language teacher for over 20 years, specializing in the field of aviation English since 2008. She holds a Master´s Degree and PhD from the Department of Modern Languages of Universidade de Sao Paulo (Brazil), examining the language used by pilots and air traffic controllers in abnormal situations through corpus linguistics. She is a member of Grupo de Estudos em Inglês Aeronáutico (GEIA) based in Brazil. Email address: malilaprado@hotmail.com  

Jennifer Roberts, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Jennifer Roberts works in the College of Aeronautics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (USA), as an Aviation English Specialist. Her primary focus is the development and implementation of Aviation English programs in face-to-face and online modalities. Prior to her role at Embry-Riddle, she completed an MA in Applied Linguistics and ESL at Georgia State University (USA) and served as an English Language Fellow in Indonesia. Her research interests include the pedagogical applications of corpus linguistics, particularly in English for Specific Purposes settings, and language policy and planning. Email address: roberj62@erau.edu


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How to Cite

Bieswanger, M., Prado, M. C. de A., & Roberts, J. (2020). Pilot training and English as a lingua franca: some implications for the design of Aviation English for ab initio flight training courses. The ESPecialist, 41(4). https://doi.org/10.23925/2318-7115.2020v41i4a7