Poor English Skills Deadly, ICAO Says

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Poor proficiency in English, the international language of aviation, contributed to major accidents that cost the lives of over 1,100 passengers and crew between 1976 and 2000, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Misunderstandings are also a factor in many close calls and runway incursions. To address the problem, ICAO has written new requirements for controllers and pilots involved in international operations, mandating for the first time that pilots must pass a test to demonstrate a minimum level of English language proficiency. The new rules take effect in 2008. Native speakers of English also must try harder to be understood, ICAO says. To reduce the risk of misunderstandings in the international environment, pilots need to study strategies such as avoiding the use of idioms, colloquialisms and jargon, and speak slowly and clearly, ICAO says.