English, does it really matter? Is it important to have an average understanding of the English language when you are piloting an aircraft? I have received tons of questions about the English language and the LPE test. It seems there is still a lot of uncertainty about this subject so allow me to enlighten you.
The quick answer
Yes & Yes! It is crucial that a pilot is able to speak English since it is one of the most commonly used ICAO languages. It all starts with the flight schools. Most theory books are written in English, all tests are in English and during flight training the instructors speak English (there are some exceptions of course). Pilots use a common language while communicating with each other and air traffic control. This common language is necessary because confusion should be kept to a minimum in the entire aviation sector.
How well do you need to understand the language?
Don’t get me wrong, you do not need to be a native English speaker in order to become a pilot. With or without an accent, you just need to be understandable for your colleagues. That is what it is all about. If you watch the videos on my Youtube Channel you probably noticed that I speak English like a typical Dutch person. I have a strong tendency to create sentences exactly like I would say things in Dutch. But hey, you can understand me right? 🙂
What if your English is not good enough?
As with a lot of things in life, you can improve just about anything as long as you work for it. Just study the language, speak English on a regular basis, read English books, watch English movies with English subtitles. There are even apps that can help you improve your skills. If you are still in high school and dream about becoming a pilot you should also keep this in mind. Still having problems? Not to worry! There are plenty of people that offer training courses to help you further.
The LPE exam
The LPE exam (Language Proficiency Endorsement) is quite straightforward. There are different sorts of exams though. In general it comes down to this: You need to listen to an audio tape and answer questions about it. Definitely doable! The tape is usually a recording of an ATC conversation. You also need to describe some pictures and/or answer questions about them. Afterwards the examiner will have a conversation with you about everyday subjects. Your grade will depend on your pronunciation, vocabulary and the number of correct answers. Level 1 to 3 means you have failed the exam. You pass with a level 4 or higher. Level 6 is the maximum achievable level.
LPE Levels and validity
Level 4 – Validity: 3 years
Level 5 – Validity: 6 years
Level 6 – Valid permanently
I hope I was able to clarify this subject. If you still have questions or doubts please drop a comment below 🙂 Feel like reading some English books to up your game? Check out this article about must have pilot books! Not so much into reading? On this page you find some of my latest videos.