Language proficiency

Language proficiency

„Tell us a bit about yourself. Why are you here? How did you start flying?“

I am at the corporate headquarters of Air Berlin this morning. I have waited for my appointment on a couche in an extended hallway. My water came in an airline plastic cup on a napkin. Nice touch.

The actual test is in a large office with a meeting room table. One examiner is guiding me in, the second one is already waiting. There is a second candidate in the room with us as well. He is more nervous than me. After all I am here just for fun. When the test starts, however, I feel a tingle of pleasant excitement in my stomach.

I am taking a language test in English today. If I pass, it will be the last one that I have to take for flying. The International Civil Aviation Organization has defined six levels of language proficiency for aviators.

Level 4 or more is needed to take part in in radio communication. And the proficiency has to be re-certifyed every four years. This is what I have now and what most pilots with an international radio license have.

Level 6 is valid for life. A re-certification is not necessary. Of course this is a good reason to do the test. But honestly, I was just tickled by the challenge and wanted to see if I could do it.

The definition for level 6 includes „able to speak at length with effortless flow“. They must be thinking of me!

Listening comprehension

The fist part of the test is listening comprehension. We are listening to 15 recordigs and mark the true statement from three options for each text. The examples are mainly news reports and business articles. I wouldn’t say easy, but doable for sure. The catch is that we can only make one mistake.

After the listening comprehension, there is a short break. The other candidate is a 737 driver for Air Berlin. We exchange a few plesantries before I am called in for the second round.

Since I have nothing to loose, I am exceptionally relaxed. My conversation partners realize that and after a few moments, the conversation drifts in the direction of hangar talk.

My first task is to give an improvised presentation on the topic of aviation and the environment. I talk for a bit and answer a few questions. The focus is the use of language, not primarily the content of what I say. So I improvise and try to make it sound nice.

For the second part I hear three statements and am asked to agee or disagree with each of them and say why. I have to turn my chair as this exercise is supposed to happen without eye contact.

We talk about how far I think low cost airlines will go and if I agree that being an airline pilot is a dream job. Then the two examiners have heard enough. Both congratulate me and I have passed – just like that.

The experience was pleasant and I am glad that all of the years of watching Matlock without subtitles have finally paid off!

To be continued…

© Copyright Colin Smith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
© Copyright Colin Smith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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