Strengthen English Skills in China's Aviation Industry
    2012-12-08 12:19:04         Web Editor: Wang Wei

Several Chinese airlines and other aviation industry companies gathered Friday in Beijing for a seminar to discuss the importance of English-language proficiency for those who work in the sector to accelerate the global appeal of domestic airlines. CRI's Wei Tong has more.


What level of English does a Chinese pilot need to operate aircraft in international airspace? This was one of the many issues at the seminar during which a number of domestic airlines expressed a strong will to improve their employees' English skills.

Song Qinghua, assistant director in charge of aviation personnel language training in China at the International Air Transport Association, spoke at the event. He pointed out that the poor English skills most Chinese pilots demonstrate are usually to blame for miscommunication incidents.

"Due to a lack of proficiency in English, sometimes pilots and air traffic controllers cannot understand orders in English, which has often caused a number of plane accidents."

In 2011, a China Eastern Airlines jet at Osaka airport in Japan took to the skies despite an order to remain on the runway and abort its takeoff. The airline later pledged on its accredited Sina Weibo page that it would further regulate its flight crews' English-language communications to ensure flight safety.

Zhao Honghai, an official in charge of education and training at the Civil Aviation Administration of China, explained at the seminar how Chinese pilots and flight attendants must meet a certain level of English proficiency.

"Our employees who work for the airlines are required to be able to smoothly communicate with international passengers in accurate English. In the meantime, we have also set a goal for those who work in relevant service sectors so that they express their ideas more correctly and accurately in English to better exhibit the charm of our Chinese culture."

Another factor forcing better English communication skills has been the expansion of China's civil aviation market. The move has introduced fierce competition and placed domestic airlines under intense pressure to improve the English skills of their flight crews. Song Qinghua explains.

"Chinese aviation's 'go global' strategy includes more domestic airlines adding new international routes and more international airlines increasing their numbers of flights to China. With foreign airlines' participation in the fierce market competition, domestic airlines have been forced to increase their competitiveness by stepping up their training of high-end talent, particularly professionals who have the advantage of already being good at English."

The International Air Transport Association, an international industry trade group of airlines headquartered in Montreal, Canada, represents some 240 airlines comprising 84 percent of scheduled international air traffic.

The association estimates that the number of airline passengers worldwide will reach 3.6 billion in 2016, witnessing an annual growth rate of 5.3 percent since 2012.

With the number of airline passengers who traveled internationally at 2.8 billion in 2011, the association predicts 193 million of the newly added 800 million passengers over the next four years will board Chinese airlines or depart from cities in China.

Johan Nordqvist, Regional Vice President for Asia at EF Corporate Language Learning Solutions who participated in the seminar, expressed an interest on behalf of his company to contribute to the sector's development.

"Together with different parts of the aviation industry that serve passengers, such as the airlines, the airports and air traffic control, it's also very much useful for us to understand what's important for the industry here in China¡ªthe rest of Asia, for us to improve our services and to help develop the industry."

The one-day seminar, jointly hosted by the International Air Transport Association and EF, focused on providing flight crews and other airline personnel in China with English-language training to help them become highly competent in their positions.

For CRI, I'm Wei Tong.


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