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ICAO (The International Civil Aviation Organisation) has decided that .....
all airline and helicopter pilots who fly internationally, and
all air traffic controllers who provide services to international flights.....
..... must have a minimum level of English. This level of English is known as ICAO Operational Level 4.
ICAO has developed a rating scale with Level 4 considered the minimum acceptable level (’Operational Level’)
A speaker is proficient to Operational Level 4 if the ratings for the following criteria are:
Pronunciation, stress, rhythm, and intonation are influenced by the first language or regional
variation but only sometimes interfere with ease of understanding.
Basic grammatical structures and sentence patterns are used creatively and are usually well
controlled. Errors may occur, particularly in unusual or unexpected circumstances, but rarely interfere
Vocabulary range and accuracy are usually sufficient to communicate effectively on common,
concrete, and work-related topics. Can often paraphrase successfully when lacking vocabulary in
unusual or unexpected circumstances.
Produces stretches of language at an appropriate tempo. There may be occasional loss of fluency
on transition from rehearsed or formulaic speech to spontaneous interaction, but this does not
prevent effective communication. Can make limited use of discourse markers or connectors. Fillers
are not distracting.
Comprehension is mostly accurate on common, concrete, and work-related topics when the accent
or variety used is sufficiently intelligible for an international community of users. When the speaker is
confronted with a linguistic or situational complication or an unexpected turn of events,
comprehension may be slower or require clarification strategies.
Responses are usually immediate, appropriate, and informative. Initiates and maintains exchanges
even when dealing with an unexpected turn of events. Deals adequately with apparent
misunderstandings by checking, confirming, or clarifying.
(Assumes a dialect and/or accent intelligible
to the aeronautical community)
(Relevant grammatical structures and
sentence patterns are determined by
language functions appropriate to the task)
ICAO has developed the following “Holistic Descriptors”.
Proficient speakers shall:
communicate effectively in voice-only (telephone/radiotelephone) and in face-to-face situations
communicate on common, concrete and work-related topics with accuracy and clarity
use appropriate communicative strategies to exchange messages and to recognize and resolve misunderstandings (e.g. to check,
confirm, or clarify information) in a general or work-related context
handle successfully and with relative ease the linguistic challenges presented by a complication or unexpected turn of events that
occurs within the context of a routine work situation or communicative task with which they are otherwise familiar
use a dialect or accent which is intelligible to the aeronautical community