Is my English good enough to become a pilot in the USA

Student Tips

Become a pilot on on air.jpg

For those who don’t know it yet; English is the international language of aviation. Naturally, it makes sense to have your english level proficient enough that you can converse in it. What if your english isn’t that great? And how do you know if your English is good enough? Don’t worry, we got you covered.

There is a lot to learn before starting your flight training, especially in the United States. Let’s start with one of the most important requirements you need to become a pilot and earn an FAA license.

Your English has to be ‘Fantastical’…. I mean, ‘Good’!

Before you start your training you have to take an ICAO (International Civil Aviation Authority) English Proficiency Interview (OPI). You can take that test here at Wayman Aviation, and you know what? I wouldn’t actually call it a test because you just talk in english with an English Aviation Teacher. I took the time to take a quick interview with Margaret, who is our very own English Aviation Teacher, to answer some of your questions:

What is the process for a student who needs to test his English here at Wayman?

“First I introduce myself during the orientation day. Then the student signs up for a oral proficiency interview, which takes about 15 to 20 minutes. The interview doesn’t focus too much on aviation if you don’t have an aviation background, but we do use the ICAO standards, which is a scale of one to six. You need to get at least a level four, conversational, to pass this test [and be considered English proficient].“ Level 1 is non-English Speaker, Level 6 is fluent

What happens if you don’t ‘pass’ the ICAO proficiency test?

“At that point the student comes to work with me, there is a long term program and a short term program. In the long term program I address all areas of communication, we discuss aviation related topics but the student also reads a lot of articles, and we review grammar and speaking practice. It all depends on the level of English the student has and on what the needs of the student are, let’s say you fly well, understand groundschool but just can’t get those right words to the tower. Then we’ll strictly work on your skills practicing speaking to the tower.”

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Is it a hard ‘test’?

“No, it’s more of an conversational interview. I like to stick with topics that the student is familiar with so they can show me their best english.”

How can I prepare for it?

“Read in English, watch TV in English, listen to music in English, just immerse yourself in as much English as possible. And if you are very serious about aviation, look for aviation related content.” LiveATC.com is a great resource to listen to actual pilots talking to the Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower at your own training airport.

Any other additional tips for international students?

“Make sure that when you are working on your English, just try to immerse yourself as much as possible to the language you are trying to learn.” If you have a roomate that speaks the same language as you it is easy and comfortable to not speak English. Make friends that do not speak your language. It will broaden your circle, horizon, and you English vocabulary.

What if I took the TOEFL?

The most common test worldwide for English is the TOEFL. Wayman Aviation Academy does not specifically require the TOEFL. However, if you have already taken it in preparation for college or university ICAO level 4 is equivalent to a score of 80-90. It is an intermediate to advanced level of English

In summary if you come to Wayman you need to do an English proficiency interview to become a pilot. In case you don’t ‘pass’ the test you’ll get to work with Margaret who will raise you up to the standard you need to have in order to start flying. And in case you are just having specific problems, she will help you out with that.

Read more about Wayman’s Aviation English program