Minimum Language Requirements Are Not Enough to Keep Our Skies Safe!

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A terrifying mid-air collision in 2017 was caused by two international pilot trainees who both lacked basic English language proficiency. One of the pilots was severely injured, the other pilot died.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released a report on the crash that occurred between two flight school airplanes near St-Bruno-de-Montarville, Quebec. The report clearly states that lack of language proficiency in English and French on the student’s part muddled the complex aeronautical environment that caused the accident.

The investigation states that both pilots “deviated from the altitude restrictions provided by air traffic control before colliding in mid-air.” According to the report, the pilots involved in the crash were international flight students enrolled in training in Canada.

Both of the pilots in the crash were tested and met the minimum English-language proficiency requirements to fly, however, neither pilot’s first language was English or French. According to the TSB report, improper and insufficient language proficiency testing, which allowed these student pilots with low English-language proficiency to pass, is likely a key factor in the cause of the crash.

The investigation found that it’s not possible to ensure the validity, reliability or nation-wide standardization of the aviation language proficiency testing (ALPT) given by Transport Canada, as there is little to no oversight of the examiners. Even though pilots must be at operational or expert level in English or French (or both), “operational,” meaning they met a minimum international proficiency level to be able to communicate with air traffic control, it wasn’t enough.  A Civil Aviation Safety Alert was published, citing the risks created by improper validity, reliability and standardization in language testing.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada concluded with the recommendation that all international student pilots should be tested through private language proficiency testing programs, and be required to meet stringent English-language standards to obtain personal licensing prior to their first solo flight.

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Language Testing International (LTI) administers language assessments to hundreds of thousands of candidates every year and is one of the largest and most respected foreign language proficiency test providers in the world. We offer the highest level of client service as well as convenient online test scheduling and reporting over secure client networks.

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Lisa March is a bilingual Marketing and Sales Executive. She works closely with LTI on strategic partnerships, business development and marketing. Her efforts help LTI scale the use and implementation of language assessments in schools, institutions, corporations and government agencies.

When Miscommunication Turns Deadly: The True Story of Avianca Flight 52

What Happened?

In January 1990, Avianca Flight 52 from Bogota, Colombia, to New York City, was running out of fuel on approach to John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Due to weather conditions, the aircraft was kept in a holding pattern prior to landing, even though its fuel situation was critical. The flight crew communicated the situation to the ground crew, but according to reports, they failed to use correct terminology to describe the situation. They did not, for example, use the word “emergency.” Unfortunately, air traffic control underestimated the seriousness of the situation, and the Boeing 707 aircraft crashed into a residential area on Long Island, killing 73 of the 158 people on board.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined the crash occurred partly from the flight crew’s failure to properly communicate a fuel emergency.
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Lisa March is a bilingual Marketing and Sales Executive. She works closely with LTI on strategic partnerships, business development and marketing. Her efforts help LTI scale the use and implementation of language assessments in schools, institutions, corporations and government agencies.

The Importance of Assessing Employee Language Skills for Specific Positions

How well does one need to be able to speak a language to use that language effectively and appropriately in the workplace? What language tasks does that individual need to accomplish successfully? How accurate must one’s language be to be acceptable in the work context? The simple answer – it depends upon the job.

In a global workplace, employers can no longer depend on the self-reporting of language skills when determining if a potential hire has sufficient communication skills in the language for success in the workplace. Continue reading

Subject matter expert Dr. Elvira Swender is a specialist in proficiency-based language assessment and research and their implications for instruction and learning. She is currently a Senior Adviser to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL).

Let’s Talk About It, Language Proficiency in the Workplace

We’re operating in a global economy. As a result, competition is far reaching, and companies are increasingly finding themselves at a competitive disadvantage when employees lack the functional language skills needed to do their job. These companies should be considering the following questions; are your employees actually qualified to communicate in another language effectively? How do you assess the functional language ability of your employees? Is the means of assessment reliable and legally defensible?

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Lisa March is a bilingual Marketing and Sales Executive. She works closely with LTI on strategic partnerships, business development and marketing. Her efforts help LTI scale the use and implementation of language assessments in schools, institutions, corporations and government agencies.