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Local language proficiency requirements


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I think we should use the opportunity this new policy provides to once and for all explicitly settle a topic that has been controversially discussed in our community for quite some time.

That topic is the permissibility (or lack thereof) of rules demanding a controller (visiting or otherwise) be able to converse with fellow controllers and/or pilots in the local language of their home or visited Sub-Division.

In the past, Sub-Divisions have handled this topic mostly in whichever way they saw fit, sometimes even against rules their Divisions had set.

According to @Matthew Bartels the new policy already includes a ruling on the subject:

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"In essence, the policy reads that you can’t mandate a local language proficiency because that would be applying a restriction outside of what’s defined in the GCAP”

Regardless of whether that is the way we want to handle the topic of local languages moving forward or not, I would like to see an explicit rule for this in the policy, given that it might be a huge departure from the way it has been handled in many places in the past.

 

Edited by Lars Bergmann
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I already outlined my opinion on the discord, but I'll outline it here as well.

I've interacted with a lot of vACCs, both those that do mandate the local language (in my case, Spain as an example) and others that do not. As much as I hate saying this, it's really really hard to fit in for those that do not speak the language. Even when you're speaking English with those members and using English phraseology, it's fairly hard to fit in with the community when everyone is speaking in their local language, especially when this is the language which is mandated due to phraseology. A lot of training takes place in the local language, briefings as well and etc. and the cultural and language barrier is something that is very difficult to manage and has often caused issues and conflicts across the sub-division in many cases. 
I have experienced this cultural and language barrier during some of my time on VATSIM and it's not exactly the most pleasant experience for a controller.

In addition, the thing about community, places that require the language due to phraseology have a lot of traffic using that local phraseology (in my case, Spanish). It's not really a pleasant experience for the pilot to have to switch to using English when flying domestic Vueling or Iberia, as we want to provide a service that is as realistic as possible and these airlines do speak Spanish in real life. It would also be a big burden for ATC, who would have to explain to every pilot that they don't speak English and that just discourages pilots from flying and can be complicated on frequency.
Places that mandate the knowledge of the local language already have a lot of students and local members (e.g. in Spain, all of whom speak Spanish) and are able to successfully staff up big events, so those places do not have an issue in terms of lack of members. 

There are already loads of places across the world of VATSIM where controllers can go, where they won't have to experience the issues outlined above. So in my opinion, if a specific regulation is ever implemented, it should be that sub-divisions should be able to choose whether or not they want to keep the knowledge of the local language as a requirement for local controllers and visitors. 

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C1-rated controller

Gander Oceanic Operations Director & Instructor | VATSIM Spain Events Director & Operational Assistant | Eurocontrol West Sectorbuddy

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  • Lars Bergmann changed the title to Local language proficiency requirements

Pilot's perspective on the matter:

I would love to see a local language proficiency requirement made possible, at least in countries where the local language is used for ATC IRL.

Without a proficiency requirement, people cannot just call in using the language of their choice, they will have to check with the controller first, and that request may be rejected.

And I don't think it's unreasonable to make such demands either: after all, we also demand that visiting controllers are sufficiently familiar with local airspaces and regulations. I think keeping up immersion and a certain realism outweighs the inconvenience of not being allowed to control a certain position.

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I am against this. This would take VatSim away from what it is in reality. I am talking for example about the case of Spain. In Spain in real life, all ATCs must know Spanish and English, and pilots can contact the ATC in the language the pilot wants. I think that in VatSim we have to do the same.

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I'm not for or against either decision, but there should be a regulation specified either at the VATSIM or Regional/Divisional level that people can point to when asked by controllers for the "official answer." This issue comes up in Canada as well, as the National official languages are English and French, but with one official bilingual province (NB) and one French province (QC) and the rest being English, some sub-divisions are requiring that controllers must be bilingual (English always being an essential requirement for ATC). If there is going to be sub-divisional policy of denying controllers based on their language proficiencies, then it needs to be stated at a higher level.

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1 hour ago, Enol Garcia said:

I am against this. This would take VatSim away from what it is in reality. I am talking for example about the case of Spain. In Spain in real life, all ATCs must know Spanish and English, and pilots can contact the ATC in the language the pilot wants. I think that in VatSim we have to do the same.

That rule applies to almost any country, you must be able to speak the countries local language. However, this is VATSIM - not real life. Remember that we are working with "As real as it gets."

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Morten Jelle

VATSIM Network Senior Supervisor
VATSIM Membership Manager, Asia/Pacific Region

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1 hour ago, Enol Garcia said:

In Spain in real life, all ATCs must know Spanish and English, and pilots can contact the ATC in the language the pilot wants.

Only if the pilot(s) hold a language proficiency certificate in that local language.

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Hi all, after checking the new draft I've not found any specific rule about the language and like Lars and Todd say, I would like seriously to have an official answer / specific rule.

Here at VATSIM Spain for the visitor controllers is a requirement to know basic spanish fraseology in order to give ATC service also in Spanish for local pilots. As far as I remember we have this rule since 2015 more or less. In the past we had a short period without it, and we had very very bad situations between ATCs and pilots. We have had during these years some meetings with VATSIM /VATEUD staff regarding this subject, and always the answer was the same: we will take a decission about the language requirement in the future. Until then, nobody have poined us oficially saying "You can't apply this". And if I receive it I will ask where is the point where it says English is mandatory (in VATSIM) for pilots (mandatory... must.. not should). I've discussed my opinion a few months ago in some staff channels in the VATEUD discord so for me this discussion is a dejavú.

I'm not going to defend the spanish in our division because spanish ATCs in real life know Spanish and English nor because it is a ICAO language or any other reason. For me it's more simple: we have local pilots who don't speak english. This is hobby, this is a network for fun and if you can't speak english and you prefer to fly only in your country but you receive ATC only in english, you won't be able. I'm agree that with this decission there is a discrimination with the person who wants to be a visitor, but if you let to control without knowing the local language (again, basically for give ATC service; not to mantein a conversation with me) the discrimated will be the pilot. So, whom must to be discrimate, the pilot or the ATC? The ATC maybe can apply in other country but what are the options of the pilot?

Again, whatever will be the decission, seriously I would like to have one finally.

 

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Félix Zapata (1245159)

vACC Director (ACCSP1)

VATSIM Spain (a.k.a VATSPA)

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3 hours ago, Morten Jelle said:

Remember that we are working with "As real as it gets."

That's a perfect non-statement. This entire discussion is about how real it should get.

But that's not what that expression means anyway.

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According to my current vACC policies, visitors are required to know the standard phraseology in English and in the local language, however they don't need to be fluent in it. Due to this, most of the training can be done in English.

For example: although German is a non-ICAO language, in Germany it's used for local VFR. If I wanted to visit this vACC, I'd try to learn as much as I can the standard german phraseology for that situation. At the end, I'd like to help and motivate new pilots and never create uncomfortable situations for them. But why could these happen? Due to my hypothetical ignorance and undesire to learn. This is the reason why I firmly believe that all visitor controllers must know the local phraseology.

3 hours ago, Morten Jelle said:

However, this is VATSIM - not real life. Remember that we are working with "As real as it gets."

Let's limit until which point it gets real. Of course IRL, ATC must have proficiency in both languages, the local one and English. On VATSIM, this cannot be applied at all, even though learning the local phraseology is not as hard as learning a language for 10 years. You just have to memorise a bunch of phrases and try to understand the ones from the pilots. The same as everyone (except native English speakers) has done when starting ATC-ing.

I don't see the point with mandating pilots to speak English where real communications can be made in other languages. I think the main point for every division is to reach the realism that VATSIM seeks, but obviously always looking after the issues of a simulated scenario. Nevertheless I do NOT think the language barrier is one of them.

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Juan Amado (S3 VATSPA - 1423499)

VATSPA Staff - Events & Members Director

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Hi !

I fully share Felix thoughts. There is strong cultural difference from a country to another regarding usage of English. Even within a division, vACC aren't equals for various reasons: average age of the community, cultural ease of foreign language usage etc.

If I speak for what I know, here in France, we have a huge amount of pilots that doesn't speak English at all (I know it's against CoC etc. etc.) but from what we observe it's a reality that needs to be taken into account. We didn't enforce a local language proficiency requirements but again the reality of the field needs to be taken into consideration: you'll face pilots that don't want / aren't able to speak in English. If you force them they will just leave the network.

Within VATSIM by nature ATC have more responsibility than pilots. I mean if a pilots mess up he will be, more or less, the only one impacted. If an ATC mess up, it will have a bigger impact. For sure english is mendatory for an ATC but for a pilots i don't think so.

At the end we need to decide who should be favored regarding the tradeoff. Do we want to favor ATC by easying to ability to move from a country to another or do we want to favor non english speaking pilots to give them at least a place where they can fly and speak with their language.

IMHO the second option have an impact on a smaller amount of members and only impact "visiting controller" or atc transfer which are not as crucial in my eyes than losing pilots.

 

 

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François-Xavier Obert
French vACC - Training Director

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I would like to offer another perspective to this topic, even though it is not directly related. What might be hard for (only) native English speakers to understand is, that all these sub-divisions are usually communities that are speaking the language(s) of their country. So most communication, be it voice or text will be in the native language. We in Germany accepted a long time ago, that German can not be mandated, and we try to provide all relevant information in English as well, switch to English when one of our members not speaking German joins the Teamspeak and mentor in English if the trainee is more comfortable that way. But essentially it is a German community, speaking German 90% of the time. This lead to some problems in the past, as some of our members that were on the older side were proficient enough in English to use it on frequency, but were for example uncomfortable to mentor in English. This is something that is no longer really a problem, as English proficiency is quite high nowadays in Germany, however there might be other countries, where this is not (yet) the case.

Overall, I am against a local language requirement, but I can fully understand everyone who sees it as a necessary way to uphold these communities. It might also protect controllers from being isolated in their sub-division.

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§1.01 A. Code of Regulations

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Requirements: VATSIM.net is open for membership to all individuals who have reached the age of thirteen (13) years old or older. In addition, membership is available to all individuals regardless of race, creed, color or nationality. Members should be able to converse and/or provide air traffic control services in English, the internationally accepted official language for air traffic control.

Individuals are required to speak English. Everybody, in general terms. Controllers has to know it anyways to provide service, pilots will be able to go through some very basic English phraseology, they can choose text flying, as well, if they don't feel confident enough to speak/listen to English.

Nobody also said, that speaking the local language is prohibited. If you can serve ATS with that, good for you, but it shouldn't be a requirement. Also, all local SOPs and documents should be available in English, and I know - many places don't have it.

Mateusz Zymla - 1131338

VATSIMer since 2009, IRL pilot rated.

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7 minutes ago, Martijn Rammeloo said:

Being able to converse in a foreign language, and being confident and fluent enough to upkeep your community culture in said language, are not the same...

Exactly.

I mentioned this already yesterday on discord, but I cannot see how this will work in some countries. I like the idea, in my view it makes perfect sense not to restrict people only for not knowing the local language, however this will be very difficult to implement worldwide.

The ones who have participated in this topic so far are lucky to either be from a country that natively speaks English, or from a European country. The English Proficiency Index from 2020 (link) shows that all European countries have at the very least a Moderate Proficiency. However, different results are found elsewhere around the world.

There are active VATSIM communities in regions of Low Proficiency, or even Very Low Proficiency. It is no big surprise that people from those place would much rather converse in their local language, then in English, one they do not dominate. 

Regardless of what the GCAP may or may not say, I cannot see some countries change their way of working and suddenly provide all the documentation in English, provide visitors with training in English, hold meetings/event briefings in English, and so on. Even if we were to assume all that would work, and the vACC would indeed change everything to English, there are definitely pilots around that only fly in their local language. How will that work if the controller does not speak the language? Unless we start including an English Proficiency test in the P0 exam, to ensure those joining the network have sufficient English skills.

Long story short, I like the idea of prohibiting the knowledge of a language to be a requirement to visit, but I cannot see how it will work in some countries.

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2 minutes ago, Andre Almeida said:

Exactly.

I mentioned this already yesterday on discord, but I cannot see how this will work in some countries. I like the idea, in my view it makes perfect sense not to restrict people only for not knowing the local language, however this will be very difficult to implement worldwide.

The ones who have participated in this topic so far are lucky to either be from a country that natively speaks English, or from a European country. The English Proficiency Index from 2020 (link) shows that all European countries have at the very least a Moderate Proficiency. However, different results are found elsewhere around the world.

There are active VATSIM communities in regions of Low Proficiency, or even Very Low Proficiency. It is no big surprise that people from those place would much rather converse in their local language, then in English, one they do not dominate. 

Regardless of what the GCAP may or may not say, I cannot see some countries change their way of working and suddenly provide all the documentation in English, provide visitors with training in English, hold meetings/event briefings in English, and so on. Even if we were to assume all that would work, and the vACC would indeed change everything to English, there are definitely pilots around that only fly in their local language. How will that work if the controller does not speak the language? Unless we start including an English Proficiency test in the P0 exam, to ensure those joining the network have sufficient English skills.

Long story short, I like the idea of prohibiting the knowledge of a language to be a requirement to visit, but I cannot see how it will work in some countries.

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Being able to converse in a foreign language, and being confident and fluent enough to upkeep your community culture in said language, are not the same...

Alright, let's ask one, basic question: Does a non-local language speaker really has to "integrate within community"? It may be controversial, what I am about to say, but he/she may be only interested in controlling certain area. He may, of course, learn some local phraseology to make everybody lives a little easier, but expecting him to speak fully given language, and integrate into culture, is a little nonsense. Why would it need to be done? Just to log in for 2 hrs as given vATC? He's not about to move his/her IRL residency to new country...

Mateusz Zymla - 1131338

VATSIMer since 2009, IRL pilot rated.

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They may not need to integrate into any community, it's fine to just do their own thing and not talk to anyone outside of their controlling sessions.

But, they still have to take training. Read SOPs. Be a part of event-briefings (if participating in events). Communicate with pilots and other ATC. And there are regions where some of those things will most likely happen in the local language. I don't want to name regions in specific because that would neither be nice nor fair, but I am sure you can think of a few regions around the world where mostly the local language is used in ATC communications. There must be a reason for that. And I very much doubt it is them thinking their language is better sounding than English.

As I said before, I am all for this limitation, I totally agree with it. I just think its implementation will be difficult, if not impossible, in some countries.

Edited by Andre Almeida
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3 minutes ago, Andre Almeida said:

They may not need to integrate into any community, it's fine to just do their own thing and not talk to anyone outside of their controlling sessions.

But, they still have to take training. Read SOPs. Be a part of event-briefings (if participating in events). Communicate with pilots and other ATC. And there are regions where some of those things will most likely happen in the local language. I don't want to name regions in specific because that would neither be nice nor fair, but I am sure you can think of a few regions around the world where mostly the local language is used in ATC communications. There must be a reason for that. And I very much doubt it is them thinking their language is better sounding than English.

That should be on VATSIM's delegates shoulder to help with that. I guess, we may not expect perfect English proficiency within standard community members, but  subdivision/division directors are suitable enough with English? There must be at least 1 person, responsible for Operations (SOP) and TD (Training) that speaks English for that, can't believe that nobody speaks it at least fluent.

Edited by Mateusz Zymla

Mateusz Zymla - 1131338

VATSIMer since 2009, IRL pilot rated.

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I am sure someone is fluent in English pretty much everywhere.

But what happens when the visitor controls alongside a controller who is not fluent, or even acceptably proficient? Will they coordinate via smoke signs? 

What will happen in event briefings? Will they need to be done in two languages? Will SOPs have to be written in two languages?

I did that once, two briefings, one in Portuguese and in English for the visitors. Two documents, one in Portuguese and one in English for the visitors. I gave up on doing that after 2 meetings, it was a complete waste of my time. So I transitioned to doing English only. Worked well, as pretty much everyone here has good English skills. But not everyone elsewhere might.

 

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If I wanted to control in France, I'd accept that I needed to learn French phraseology for radio calls. It shouldn't be like this, but it is the reality. Same for Spain. On one hand we do not want alienate our customers - local pilots - and on the other hand VATSIM really wants to generate access to all countries/facilities.

Back to our French case: I know basic French phraseology, but I am far from being able to have a conversation in that language. Hence, I should only qualify as a visiting/guest controller, unless I really want to take part in all the conversations in the background.

 

On 7/23/2021 at 12:34 PM, Andre Almeida said:

I gave up on doing that after 2 meetings, it was a complete waste of my time. So I transitioned to doing English only. Worked well, as pretty much everyone here has good English skills.

Since I work for a PT company, I know that the general command of English is quite good and widespread in Portugal. That's very different from Spain, France, Italy etc..

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Personally I don't really care if we allow or disallow such restrictions. What I care about is there being a concise rule.

I understand that we want VATSIM to be as inclusive as possible - and having to learn Japanese to control in Japan (because the documents aren't available in English and some of the pilots don’t speak English) is not that.

I also understand that there are some pilots who have a hard time communicating with a controller who cannot speak their native language. Furthermore we also have to acknowledge that VATSIM Japan is not only the Division controlling Japan - it is also a place for Japanese aviation enthusiasts to meet and discuss anything and everything about planes, air traffic control etc. A community it will be hard for someone who does not speak Japanese to become a part of.

(Replace Japan with any other non-English speaking country of your choice.)

 

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5 minutes ago, Andreas Fuchs said:

....hence why it would be a suitable place if one only wanted to be a visiting/guest controller, not a full time member.

Not if all the training, documents, inter-controller communication and communication with pilots is not available in English.

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If a candidate is blessed with more than just 2 brain cells, they will find the local AIP that offers some advice for phraseology. The rest will be done with Google Translator, YouTube videos and the local staff.

I do, however, sympathize with the fact that it would be a huge task to learn Japanese phrases, for example.

The takeaway from this discussion is, IMO, that this is not a black&white topic, but that it does contain a number of shades of grey.

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On 7/24/2021 at 11:13 PM, Andreas Fuchs said:

If a candidate is blessed with more than just 2 brain cells, they will find the local AIP that offers some advice for phraseology. The rest will be done with Google Translator, YouTube videos and the local staff.

I do, however, sympathize with the fact that it would be a huge task to learn Japanese phrases, for example.

The takeaway from this discussion is, IMO, that this is not a black&white topic, but that it does contain a number of shades of grey.

Abosolutelly agree.

Is it worth the risk of losing a number of pilots who will surely change VATSIM for any other network?

Regards

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Vicente P Mateu

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