Bite size

Language for Specific Purposes – snippets from aviation

Welcome to our regular series on teaching and learning language in specific professional or vocational domains. We use aviation as an example as it’s critical to both safety and professional domains. As in most specific language areas it carries with it some basic principles to ensure that the language learned corresponds exactly to the needs of learners.

Probably the most critical principle is matching curricula, material and activities to the real-world needs of the learners.

Such elements need to match exactly the objectives and needs that come from the communicative activities and operational domains learners engage in every day they participate in their specific purpose activity.

In aviation, pilots and air traffic controllers communicate using, to a large degree with phraseologies and technical matters, highly prescribed language.

This communication however depends not simply on vocabulary and grammar but other elements, such as technical knowledge, experience, situational requirements, cultural understanding, and communication skills themselves – having strategies to effect communication, listening, articulating speech carefully, being ready to explain when things may not be obvious to the listener, and being ready to clarify if things are not obvious from the speaker.

Such elements are important in all communication, but in non-routine situations additional stress, timing, technical complications and more all add to the cognitive load of those communicating.

Understanding all of these factors are critical to learning how to communicate and the role that language – phraseologies, technical specific and general-purpose language plays in this whole communicative process. 

Next up… how to analyse and understand the communication taking place.