English for Specific Purposes
The English language is the universal language of business that has continued to evolve over time to attain its present status. As such, there are numerous versions of the English language, which can cause difficulty to people, who use it for professional purposes. Due to the dynamic nature of any language, it is essential to develop a form of the English usage that is suited for a particular profession and which seeks to introduce standards in the way English is used as opposed to the plain English language. The book seeks to introduce students on standardized English that is used between a pilot and air traffic controllers (ATC).
As the English language has become the official universal language of communication, it is now substantially necessary for people in specific fields to learn the English didactics. This will specifically assist them in communicating more efficiently and easily with their clients and colleagues in their various fields of operation. This has given rise to English for specific purposes as a distinct field. The new field has continued to drive both teachers and researchers into peculiarities of the English language. No language is static and, thus, its evolving means that specialized and professional users of a global language would want to regularly update with new developments in the language they use, while contacting their businesses.
Moreover, languages are also known to shade off the meaning of some words with time. Equally, there have also been instances, where certain languages simply have the meanings of certain words changing to reflect a universal use. This is another reason why teaching English for specific purposes comes in handy as a tool to help users to acquaint themselves with the language they use on a daily basis. In essence, the use of the English language is largely depended on the profession or the branch of science, in which people intend to use it as their second language. Even for the native English speakers, learning and acquiring proper knowledge on English for specific purposes remains highly essential. This is true even for those, who consider themselves to have become fluent in the way they speak the language.
The subdivision of the general English language teaching is founded on the fact that it is almost impossible to teach a language in its entirety, even to the native speakers. Thus, it is a fallacy for anyone to claim that he or she speaks perfect English for simple reasons, namely languages are not rigid constructs. Instead, they are constantly dynamic in nature. This paper seeks to describe English for specific purposes that focuses on the field of aviation. It will dwell on identifying specific discourses as outlined by the author of the book titled Flightpath: Aviation English for Pilots and ATCOs Student’s Book. The book had been written by Philip Shawcross in the year 2011.
Flightpath: Aviation English for Pilots and ATCOs Student’s Book is a text designed to help aviation professionals to perfect their language. The book is not intended for beginners or learners of the aviation English language, but rather those, who are already practicing in the industry. Moreover, individuals intending to use the book must aim at refreshing their communication skills. The author’s major targets are pilots and air traffic controllers (ATC). The material presented in this book is given in the context of an experienced ATC and pilot. They are communicating over a number of issues during landing, takeoff, and taxing. It presents the didactics of pronunciations, vocabulary, sentence structures, as well as the standard phraseology and plain language in aviation. Technically, this book is meant for advanced levels in aviation as opposed to intermediate levels, where users could be students in schools.
One of the most identifiable features of an ESP material observed by the author is the requirement for it to be designed in such a manner as to meet specific needs of the user/learner. Furthermore, it also uses the underlying methodologies or activities of the appropriate discipline. The book is also centered on language characteristics such as register, lexis, and grammar. In addition, it also makes the use of discourses, genres, and skills that are well suited to the subject/field it seeks to explore.
In Flightpath: Aviation English for Pilots and ATCOs Student’s Book, the writer has used terms and examples that are specifically suited for aviation practitioners. He often gives examples of sentences, words, and situations that can bring about confusion between an air traffic controller and pilot. As such, the purpose of the text is to bring down situations that can cause miscommunication between professionals in the same field as much as possible. Clearly, the sentence structure, language, pronunciations, and implied meaning of words and sentences used by his targets largely differ across the world. Moreover, the way, in which they are used in the aviation industry, also differs from the way they are used in other industries like medicine or engineering. Thus, the author has utilized the linguistic artistry of the industry by providing illustrations with solutions to problematic situations that can hinder an efficient communication between a pilot and air traffic controller. The book is also useful to the ground handlers, who must always communicate with the pilot during taxing.
Furthermore, the text is designed for a particular field. Generally, it does not focus on the larger aviation. Instead, it narrows down to specific people within the industry. The teaching and illustrative situations provided cannot be understood by an alien of the industry. The author also uses a different methodology of illustrations, and discussions, which is different from the teaching of general English. For instance, some of the sentences are not grammatically sound, yet within the aviation industry, these are full sentences, which communicate the intended message to the users. An emphasis is given on structured English as opposed to plain English, because of the possibilities of difference in meanings of some English sentences, when put in plain English. An illustration is;
ATC: Delta 357, descend to altitude 9000 feet, QNH 1017
PILOT: Descend to 5000 feet, Delta 357
In the above communication, there is clearly a miscommunication between the ATC and pilot, which could be fatal if not clarified clearly and urgently. The problem of miscommunication might have been caused by the mispronunciation of the word nine, where the pilot actually hears five instead of nine. Obviously, the rest of the words are clearly heard by the pilot, except the crucial nine. Thus, as an intelligent ATC, clarification of this miscommunication should focus on a proper pronouncing of the word nine. This can be done with stressing the vowels in the word so that it reads line nine. Evidently, this book is designed for professional users/learners, who encounter colleagues from different backgrounds, where meanings and pronunciations of words differ to a considerable extent.
English for specific purposes is majorly aimed at allowing users of the English language to communicate efficiently and effectively with their colleagues and other people in their field. The author of the material under review has specifically narrowed down to a particular genre in aviation, while focusing on a particular group. Definitely, there are areas that pilots or ATCs need to communicate and do so with clarity. These include such moments as during the filing of air safety reports or making reports to other departments. The language of such reports will follow a different methodology as opposed to that used in communication, when the pilot is airborne.
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Similarly, the use of initials and codes is an essential part of communication between a pilot and ATC, which may be comprehensible only between themselves. In fact, their managers might not even decipher some of the meanings of initials and codes used between the ATC and pilot. Thus, the text book offers particular rules of the game to pilots and air traffic controllers with regard to the vocabulary confusion, read-back error, and non-standard phraseology, incorrect/imprecise use of grammar, garbled message, and incorrect pronunciations. These factors form a bulk of communication elements that pilots and ATCs must consider in their communication as a community that depends on each other to ensure that their work is done in a most effective manner. Many of the tasks contained in the material include exercises, through which the learners/users are required to identify particular mistakes in the use of sentences and words. They also aim at teaching them pronunciations, which might be problematic and fail to pass across the particular messages as intended by the sender. Numerous examples are given in the material, some of which are sentences that are required to help the learner/user to identify various sources of miscommunication as they occur during their daily operations. The users/learners are required to identify a single word in a grammatically correct sentence, but which may be the source of miscommunication. They are then expected to go ahead and give probable implications of sentences as may be interpreted by different people. Some of these sentences are highlighted below;
- We have an elderly passenger, who has suffered a stroke. Request information about the nearest alternative.
- Number 2 engine ingested birds during climb-out. The engine performance seems OK, but we are controlling the indications.
- All strangers will have to fill in the immigration cards.
- I am waiting for some vegetarian meat trays to be delivered by catering: then we will be ready to depart.
The information presented in the text is based on the effective communication between professionals in the aviation industry with consideration that communication is an essential component in a sensitive sector like aviation. It is also based on the fact that professionals in the aviation industry are more likely to encounter people with different grammatical eloquence in terms of the vocabulary use, sentence structures, and use of certain words in the English language. Thus, the book bases its argument on the fact that aviation, being an international industry, needs to have a standardized approach to how professional practitioners in the field use words and sentences, so that everyone in the field can understand what is being communicated. Generally, the author dedicates much of his exposition on the six elements of communication. Some of these are vocabulary and grammar, as well as spellings and use of coded/codes in passing crucial messages to the other party.
The book is, thus, designed for a narrow audience, that is, students and professionals in the field of aviation. This is because some of the sentences and vocabularies that are emphasized cannot be used in the daily communication for the English speakers. In fact, some sentences are not complete grammatically. In this case, the syllabus presented in the text reflects an analytic approach to language learning, where the use of the English language is confined to a particular situation. Interestingly, some of the vocabularies and sentences are specific to the situation at hand so much that they may not be used in any other situation apart from the intended case. For instance, in the case of words like descend/ascend, the use of these words is only confined to an airborne aircraft, and when it comes on the ground, the words assume a different meaning, because they may not be used alongside the height, to which one is supposed to ascend or descend. In the common usage of the two words, ascend will only mean to go up, and descend to go down. However, this is not the case in the aviation communication, where the two words must be followed with the height, normally in feet.
In this text, the language used is packaged in simple short sentences to reflect the form of communication that is used between a pilot and air traffic controller. In some instances, the grammar is simple and easy to assign a meaning, yet a close look reveals that such simple vocabularies have hidden meanings that can only be understood by the intended person. The secret is to refine the message, so that it is as simple as possible, while at the same time being able to pass the relevant message as intended in an efficient manner. Some of the packaging of messages is done in a simple manner to help the two communicators to decipher the implied meaning and make quick decisions.
Among the key units in this kind of communication are the use of numbers and acceptable and universal units, such as distance and heights, so that persons, to whom the message is intended, are able to recognize the meaning as faster as possible. In the plain English language, for instance, it is a common practice to say a number using words, for example, three hundred and fifty seven. In the aviation English language, this should simply be said as 3-5-7 rather than using words because of the possibility of mispronunciation of words and, thus, miscommunication. The object of the English language for aviation is to simplify messages and limit errors in vocabulary and grammar between communicating parties. This is the same concept that informs the use of codes as a standard form of passing messages, so that the intended receiver can easily and quickly make out the meaning with little or no difficulty on their part.
The author has arranged the exposition in the text from the simplest aspects of aviation communication in situations, where there is little danger, to most dangerous situations, where the pilot is in panic. What is required in both the situations is the information that will help them to come out of the danger. The author uses the bottom up model, since he begins with simple communication methods and continues with the most complex one. The purpose is to allow the learner/student to synthesize the material systematically. This is easily identifiable from the arrangement of chapters in the text and the kind of exercises that the author gives with reference to the matters under discussion.
One of the shortcomings of this material is that it provides so many problems that a learner might encounter in their professional practice and yet fails to provide solutions to the problems. Numerous situations are given by the author to illustrate problematic areas that a pilot and ATC may encounter in their communication during a flight path. The text is, however, organized in chapters, which make it easier for the user to follow from one topic to the other. The chapters are also organized from simple topics to the most complex ones. This allows the users/learners to systematically and methodically go through the text by moving from simple situations of communication to the most problematic and complex ones in the aviation industry. However, the organization of material and information in the book helps to give the learner/student a preview of what actually goes on in the communication process of a pilot. That is, from the time they are airborne, up to the time they land and tax their aircrafts to respective places, where they must wait for further instructions/communications from different groups, including ground handlers, before they can terminate the flight.
From the ensuing analysis, it is clear that English for specific purposes is a type of learning that focuses on a particular group, mostly of professionals. It seeks to establish the standardization in the way people communicate. In the book that is analyzed, the author focuses on the communication between a pilot and air traffic controllers. He dwells on the issues of vocabulary confusion, read-back error, and non-standard phraseology, incorrect/imprecise use of grammar, garbled message, and incorrect pronunciations. All these are common sources of miscommunication between a pilot and air traffic controllers. The text is arranged systematically from simplest situations to complex ones to give the user/learner a sequence of the learning experience that follows methodically. It has numerous exercises to enable the user to grasp whatever has been discussed. The systematic presentation of the ideas also gives users an opportunity to exercise their understanding of the materials that are presented by the author. Due to this book not being meant to introduce the learner/user to the English language, vocabularies that are used therein are confined to the intended field. Thus, only a certain English language speakers can use it to learn the English usage in the context of their profession.