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Local language proficiency requirements


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15 hours ago, Vicente Perez Mateu said:

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

But can we agree, that learning standard Spanish/Portuguese/Italian/French ATC phrases is rather easy? Asian languages are rather "distant" for Europeans, for example. But if somebody wishes to go through the process, why stop him or her?

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Probably already mentioned by others, but having a working knowledge of local language phraseology makes perfect sence. We as atc controllers should be able to service local non-english speaking members as well as English. The only reason I see to have an English-only speaking atc in a non-English speaking community is in areas, where local atc is non-existing. To help to establish a local VATSIM ARTCC unit might only be done in this way.

Visiting controllers - well, they are nice to have, but not essential. So if a person really - I mean really WANT to control in a foreign place - he/she should at least learn the local phraseology.

just my 0.02€ worth

Torben

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Torben Andersen, VACC-SCA Controller (C1)

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I usually see "being as inclusive as possible" given as the reason for banning local language proficiency requirements.

 

19 minutes ago, Andreas Fuchs said:

But can we agree, that learning standard Spanish/Portuguese/Italian/French ATC phrases is rather easy? Asian languages are rather "distant" for Europeans, for example. But if somebody wishes to go through the process, why stop him or her?

My inquiry is also related to the question "Can you demand a controller learn the local non-English phraseology?" - which is something currently implemented in some places (while other places are told they could not implement such rules).

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1 hour ago, Torben Andersen said:

Probably already mentioned by others, but having a working knowledge of local language phraseology makes perfect sence. We as atc controllers should be able to service local non-english speaking members as well as English. The only reason I see to have an English-only speaking atc in a non-English speaking community is in areas, where local atc is non-existing. To help to establish a local VATSIM ARTCC unit might only be done in this way.

Visiting controllers - well, they are nice to have, but not essential. So if a person really - I mean really WANT to control in a foreign place - he/she should at least learn the local phraseology.

just my 0.02€ worth

Torben

Just explain to some of the subdivisions, that requiring almost B2/C1 proficiency level is nowhere close to "basic phraseology knowledge".

I would support, to force divisions/subdivisions to write at least "simplified SOPs" in English (details can be nicely and more or less easily checked via Google Translate), and division could specify (by listing) what "basic phraseology" means. So subdivision wouldn't croak around about imaginary and unrealistic language requirements.

Edited by Mateusz Zymla

Mateusz Zymla - 1131338

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As much as I emphasise with the inclusivity argument as someone who is part of that famous tiny minority on this network, it does have its limits. I think the comments from Andreas seem reasonable. As much as we want to create a network where a VATSIM UK controller who wants go to control Tokyo Haneda can do that, it is failing to understand the cultural and language barriers that are very easy to forget about from a global and more European perspective.

Even staff members of these (sub-)divisions can lack the professional English skills to write SOPs and training materials that make sense. Conversational English? Sure! But not the kind of language we see in legalese type documents. This isn't a xenophobic assumption but rather, as other members have said with real statistics on European countries and English profiency, the reality of the world. English isn't a global language.

A good step would be to volunteer our time to work with those divisions who have a language requirement to develop those documents with them, and perhaps open up a couple facilities as designated VC ones (like VATSIM UK visiting groups), and leaving the complex areas that require training to those who can speak the language and get the understanding they require.

To summarise... try to open up, be sensitive about it.

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Liesel Downes
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4 hours ago, Liesel Downes said:

[..] open up a couple facilities as designated VC ones [..]

I like that! And possibly these designated areas/airports within a country would be a good starting point for visitors who would like to stay long term and then go down the road of learning the language.

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This is a really tough one. Really tough. My personal opinion is that we absolutely cannot forbid someone from coming into another division and controlling provided they obtain the necessary endorsements to control the position. VATSIM states in the CoR that members should be able to converse in English as a requisite of their VATSIM membership. This means that all pilots and air traffic controllers should be able to revert to English if it becomes necessary. Either the pilot or the controller is unable to speak the local language. We already have this in another area as controllers or pilots are able to be text only, so we have to accommodate there. 

Imposition of a language requirement by a division or subdivision seems to be an overstep here, how does it help with staffing numbers in these places? 

This isn’t applicable to only English only speakers. What if I’m interested in controlling in Spain, but I only speak German and English? Do I now have to learn a third language in order to participate?  You run into a point where there are limited people interested in ATC as it is, and then you turn them away because they don’t speak the mother tongue.  Seems to me like that would eventually suffocate the place requiring language. 

Is there not a middle ground here where we allow people who don’t speak the language to control in English only, but still allow for communication in the local language if there are speakers? My thought is that eventually the English only speaker would pick up some of the local language and be able to further contribute.

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Matt Bartels
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24 minutes ago, Matthew Bartels said:

This is a really tough one. Really tough. My personal opinion is that we absolutely cannot forbid someone from coming into another division and controlling provided they obtain the necessary endorsements to control the position. VATSIM states in the CoR that members should be able to converse in English as a requisite of their VATSIM membership. This means that all pilots and air traffic controllers should be able to revert to English if it becomes necessary. Either the pilot or the controller is unable to speak the local language. We already have this in another area as controllers or pilots are able to be text only, so we have to accommodate there. 

Imposition of a language requirement by a division or subdivision seems to be an overstep here, how does it help with staffing numbers in these places? 

This isn’t applicable to only English only speakers. What if I’m interested in controlling in Spain, but I only speak German and English? Do I now have to learn a third language in order to participate?  You run into a point where there are limited people interested in ATC as it is, and then you turn them away because they don’t speak the mother tongue.  Seems to me like that would eventually suffocate the place requiring language.

Is there not a middle ground here where we allow people who don’t speak the language to control in English only, but still allow for communication in the local language if there are speakers? My thought is that eventually the English only speaker would pick up some of the local language and be able to further contribute.

Thank you for the response, Matt. 

I think one key element that needs to be considered is that 95% of the places that are concerned with this regard refer to being able to use the local language on frequency only. A lot of such places (in my practice, at least) are still more than happy to provide ATC training and other similar matters in English. Places that do so wouldn't have had such a requirement if staffing was a big issue. Let's take Spain as an example. At this time, Spain requires a controller to be able to use Castillan (Spanish) phraseology and Spain is quite successful when it comes to staffing and have a long waiting list for training and visitors. Places like Spain that do mandate at least some knowledge of a foreign language (only for the purposes of using it on frequency) do not have an issue with staffing. If such places did have staffing issues, they wouldn't mandate the knowledge of the local language.

Let's take Spain for the next example again. All of the controllers and most pilots are quite proficient in English and would be more than happy using English when conversing with somebody else. Obviously, this is mandatory as per the CoR. However, from the pilot's perspective, just because English is required as per CoR doesn't mean that the pilot actually wants to use English in a country where they would love to relax and converse with ATC in their native language. This is especially true in countries such as Russia, where in my practice, about 85% of pilots (if not more) always use Russian phraseology. Even if they are able to speak some English, as per the CoR, doesn't mean that they want to do so. If they enter an airspace, controlled by somebody who is unable to provide a Russian-speaking service, you will very often see pilots disconnect, or be unhappy or have difficulties communicating due to the language barrier. This is, afterall, a hobby for all of us and it wouldn't be nice to the pilots to restrict them from enjoying the hobby in their language, as although they may be proficient in English, they might not be proficient enough to use it on frequency, or to enjoy it at all. I just don't think it's worth losing the interests of so many pilots and their opportunity to fly under ATC in their native language, over controllers who are not native, who can successfully find so many other places across the entire world of VATSIM and control in those areas.

So if we are ever to meet a middle ground, I think that if divisions/sub-divisions ever choose to impose a language restriction of any kind, this should be a very loose restriction that applies only to radiotelephony and the knowledge of appropriate phraseology, and not outside. Training and training documents should still be written in English and to prevent abuse of any kind and this should also be approved and/or monitored by regional staff. How does this sound?

Edited by David Solesvik
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C1-rated controller

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

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On 7/28/2021 at 11:02 AM, Lars Bergmann said:

I usually see "being as inclusive as possible" given as the reason for banning local language proficiency requirements.

 

My inquiry is also related to the question "Can you demand a controller learn the local non-English phraseology?" - which is something currently implemented in some places (while other places are told they could not implement such rules).

"being as inclusive as possible" could in reality mean exclusion of local pilots. It should not be a requirement for pilots to speak English, if they fly locally in their own country.

A thought: I, as a Dane, flies around Denmark, but can not recieve ATC in Danish, because "we" on VATSIM doesn't want to require local language proficiency. Is that fair? You want to exclude me from having atc, because you want controllers to be able to move around a give ATC whereever they want? But in fact you require me to learn English in order to recieve atc in my own country. I would call that being exclusive. In reality most (not all, I know) controllers controls in their native country, so language is usually not a problem. And we, as controllers (non-native-English -speaking), have accepted the fact, that we need to learn English in order to facilitate all pilots flying into my area of control. I think it is a rather small requirement that controllers learn basic atc-lingo in the area, where they control.

Edited by Torben Andersen
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Torben Andersen, VACC-SCA Controller (C1)

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I think Torben here has hit the nail on the head with the post above. Whilst from my point of view it would make my life a lot easier if we were to mandate English fluency for all users (amending/reworking things like the New Member Orientation Course, for instance, would be a lot more straightforward if provided solely in English), the reality is that we don't.

The other issue which I think we need to be conscious of here is one of resource. It's all very well 'forcing' divisions in locales where English is not commonly spoken to accept/train those from English-speaking countries, but that makes the assumption that the requisite documentation and support (AIP etc?) is available and easily translatable to English, and that somebody is able and willing to do so. Like it or not, the reality is that in order to function effectively as a VATSIM controller there are more interactions required than simply being able to speak some words of phraseology over the R/T -- mentoring, briefings and notices, procedure documentation, coordination and collaboration with adjacent controllers, etc.

With that in mind, personally speaking I think there needs to be flexibility in the policy, partly for the reasons which Torben highlights and partly because many divisions simply will not have the resources to convert their entire training system to English to easily accomodate such a requirement.

My other slight concern with this particular discussion is that those participating are for the most part members based in European/North American locales where there is a relatively high degree of English proficiency overall -- it would be interesting to hear the views of members in, say, South America or the Far East where English is generally less widely spoken as well.

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1 hour ago, Matthew Bartels said:

Imposition of a language requirement by a division or subdivision seems to be an overstep here, how does it help with staffing numbers in these places?

I guess that places that have issues with staffing numbers, should not and will not impose language requirements. In such cases both parties (VACC staff and visitors) should be happy that someone is controlling there at all!

 

1 hour ago, Matthew Bartels said:

What if I’m interested in controlling in Spain, but I only speak German and English? Do I now have to learn a third language in order to participate?

No, you only need to learn Spanish radio phraseology, for starters.

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4 minutes ago, Andreas Fuchs said:

No, you only need to learn Spanish radio phraseology, for starters.

The flip side to this argument is that the pilots should know phraseology in English too.  Just because they “want” to converse in the mother tongue, they should still be able to complete their flight if they encountered an English only speaker. 

In practice, I’m not sure how often this comes up. Personally, I wouldn’t visit somewhere where I didn’t know the language and would make an attempt to learn. 

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Matt Bartels
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Yes, Matt, that's the point. When flying (especially) VFR in places that speak French, Spanish, Portuguese (Brazil), it is very common for those pilots to speak their local language only - both IRL and here on VATSIM, too.

And just to be clear: I myself am totally against being restricted from visiting a place just because of local language. I also believe that everyone on VATSIM should know or make an effort to learn at least basic English phraseology when flying. It helps both here on VATSIM (to access others areas where you cannot use your own language) and in the real world (I don't need to explain why, do I?). But it's not how it works, effectively and sadly, both IRL and on VATSIM.

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Admittedly this is entirely the views of someone with a grand total of no hours as a controller, only flying, but I'd much rather have de jure language requirements allowed.

My concern is the scenario where we have a pilot that only knows the basic ATC phraseology in English, and a controller that only knows the basic phraseology in the local language, which would really limit communication for anything outside of prescribed phraseology, which obviously can't cover every scenario - I imaging controlling the UK using only CAP413 RTF would prove somewhat difficult. Combine this with the fact that we are a learning environment, where we can't expect every pilot to be perfectly competent, this just seems like it'll drive new pilots from areas where the English confidence generally isn't as high off the network. I'd much rather, if a pilot gets an instruction they don't quite understand, to ask for confirmation in their own language than either disconnecting, or guessing what the instruction meant and ending up airproxing someone.

As convenient (and arguably boring IMO) the world be if everyone as perfectly confident in English, this just isn't the reality that actually exists, and I think ultimately I'd rather be inclusive to pilots less confident in English, than to the controllers who don't speak the local language.

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2 hours ago, Matthew Bartels said:

Just because they “want” to converse in the mother tongue, they should still be able to complete their flight if they encountered an English only speaker. 

This is a hobby for all of us and not all of us speak perfect English to actually be able to "enjoy" it. My point still stands, it's not worth losing loads of pilots for each non-proficient controller that they meet, over having a controller being able to visit a specific country, when they can just as perfectly visit another place in the world.

2 hours ago, Matthew Bartels said:

Personally, I wouldn’t visit somewhere where I didn’t know the language

So don't. No offense but there are loads of places around the globe that you can visit that don't require the knowledge of Spanish - or any other foreign language for that matter. I don't speak French, so I don't visit France, as an example. 

Edited by David Solesvik

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

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49 minutes ago, David Solesvik said:

My point still stands, it's not worth losing loads of pilots for each non-proficient controller that they meet,

Everyone wants hard data from me. Show me where we’re going to lose a bunch of pilots because they once encountered a controller that didn’t speak the language.  What you’re saying here is you’d rather an airspace go dark, than have a controller on it if they don’t speak the language.

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On 8/4/2021 at 10:08 PM, Matthew Bartels said:

Everyone wants hard data from me. Show me where we’re going to lose a bunch of pilots because they once encountered a controller that didn’t speak the language.  What you’re saying here is you’d rather an airspace go dark, than have a controller on it if they don’t speak the language.

I can't show data - this isn't exactly the type of thing you can display statistically. I know from my own practice - because I've controlled in many places, along with Russia, Ukraine and Spain (whilst knowing the appropriate local phraseology for each of the above), as well as Eurocontrol where I have seen a lot of pilots disconnect after I tell them they have to use English on Eurocontrol. 

And with staffing, as I said, countries that impose language restrictions for phraseology do not suffer from being short-staffed, but rather already have lengthy waiting times, as pointed out before and by others here as well. Countries that "lack" controllers (a rarity on the network) do not impose such restrictions. Losing pilots over one non-proficient controller however, will cause the airspace to go dark. Aircraft-wise. Because yes, there are pilots that would rather fly offline, than to fly under the control in a language they're not fully proficient in.

Quality>quantity.

If the controller isn't able to control in an area that requires the local language, they can visit another country where they can use English or another language that they do know within the phraseology. If a pilot isn't able to use their own native phraseology in their own country because a non-proficient controller is controlling the relevant sector, they can't go to another country. 

Edited by David Solesvik
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Gander Oceanic Operations Director & Instructor | VATSIM Spain Marketing Director & Operations Assistant | Eurocontrol West Sectorbuddy

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1 hour ago, Torben Andersen said:

@Alex Noble"and a controller that only knows the basic phraseology in the local language,"

I don't think that is an issue as controllers need to be able to control in English AFAIK.

Should have been clearer there - I meant that they were fluent in English but only had the basic local phraseology.

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30 minutes ago, Alex Noble said:

Should have been clearer there - I meant that they were fluent in English but only had the basic local phraseology.

Thanks, that makes more sense to me. This is exactly why a controller should think more than twice before moving to an area outside the controllers "natural environment". It is so much easier for a controller, who speaks the local language, to interact with "the locals" and even perhaps educate/give sound advise to the pilot, so the pilot perhaps at some point could move beyond his/her local area. In an ideal world we could all understand each other, but alas this is not the case. I am furtunate enough to live in a country, where eduction in foreign language is a part of the curriculum and have been so for many years. That is offcause of dire needs: The number of people in the World speaking Danish is less than 6 millions. The result is a population, who is generally rather good to express themselves in English (the 1st foreign language being taught in Denmark (not including Greenland and the Faroes). We are also used to watch foreign language movies in the original language, but subtitled naturally, so we hear a lot of English and German (and to a minor extend French or Spanish etc.). In other countries moves are often with voice-over or syncronized, so they do not hear e.g. English as much as we do (First time I heard an American Western with John Wayne on a German TV channel I was stunned: "Hände hoch" doesn't have the same ring to it as in English).

Anyway, my point is that we do all have our challenges and overcomming the nerves when going "on the air" for the first time is not a small feat for those, who are not used to using the English language. I think we as controllers are perhaps a bit more confident in this, as we've had the energy to go thru the books/training material and exams that made us earn the controller rating.

In order to "see things from an other perspective" try to make a thought experiment. Take a controller like me (non-native English speaker) and let me control in the US in my own language. What would the US pilots think of this? I'm not sure they would be very contend with me - and rightly so. But why should you have the right to work as controller in an area, where you were hard to understand? Yes, I know the aviation language is English, - but are you advocating for a situation, where only English speaking persons could work? I don't think you do. And this is why controllers speaking the local language are so important. They make is possible for English speaking pilots to fly everywhere in th World, and are also able to bridge the gap between the local atc-lingo and English atc ligo, which makes it possible for those, who are not so fluent in English to use the network as well.

A final word. I know some very fine controllers not speaking Danish working as controllers in Denmark. It works well and they are doing an outstanding job. Still, I think one of the major reasons for this is because of the status English have in Denmark. In other areas this might not  be the case.

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Torben Andersen, VACC-SCA Controller (C1)

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1 hour ago, Matthew Bartels said:

Everyone wants hard data from me. Show me where we’re going to lose a bunch of pilots because they once encountered a controller that didn’t speak the language.  What you’re saying here is you’d rather an airspace go dark, than have a controller on it if they don’t speak the language.

This is one massive straw man.

Anyway, there's a lot of one key term happening in this thread right now: idealism.

Of course we want everywhere to be accessible by everyone. Of course we want to allow for the American with a very strong Southern accent to go and control in Korea if they want. I don't think anyone here disagrees. 

There's one important person or entity who disagrees here though.... reality. 

5 hours ago, Andreas Fuchs said:

And just to be clear: I myself am totally against being restricted from visiting a place just because of local language. I also believe that everyone on VATSIM should know or make an effort to learn at least basic English phraseology when flying. It helps both here on VATSIM (to access others areas where you cannot use your own language) and in the real world (I don't need to explain why, do I?). But it's not how it works, effectively and sadly, both IRL and on VATSIM.

We have to work around this and I've not seen anyone but Andreas acknowledge my middle ground. We cannot have it black and white, that is impossible. You will alienate and force off the network one group of people entirely or one group from a specific region as they are already. 

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Liesel Downes
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Given that requiring the language is the de facto status quo in quite a few places, is this really a large issue for controllers? Are we losing controllers because they are limited in where they can visit? I'm not a controller, and I don't have the answers to these questions, but surely there are enough places that don't require any additional language - a gross simplification I know, but if you want to control East Asia Hong Kong will happily have you with only English.

Nor, in these airspaces, from personally experience, is there a controller shortage in these areas. No one here is asking for Shona to be required to control Zimbabwe. If a division doesn’t want to require the language, no one is asking for it to be mandatory.

My problem with splitting airspace is how it's dealt with practically. Consider this page for beginners to Vatsim in Japan; amongst it's generally sensible advise, it has that new pilots are advised to start in Japan, because if you don't understand an instruction you can always ask in Japanese. I'm not sure how things like this would work - if you're a new pilot fly in Japan, but not under this list of airspace or these airports.

I'm not opposed to visiting controllers, but I am opposed to visiting controllers at the expense of providing a quality service, in the same way I wouldn't want a visiting controller to the UK who wouldn't know what a basic service OCAS is.

I’m also a bit concerned that is appears that we’re coming in from above and asking quite a large amount of work from the divisions for very little benefit. Vatsim Japan’s English website hasn’t been updated, it seems, since 2010, and we’re coming and asking them to translate all their internal documentation to facilitate visiting controllers. In the nicest possible way, would these visiting controllers actually be worth the effort to the divison? Given we're a volunteer organisation, what's to stop these division managers deciding it's not worth it and walking away? Have these divisions been consulted in their own language? Even machine translation would be better than nowt.

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Alex 1527896 EGTK

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Hi everyone.

I think the language problem is one of the things we have to work together in order to make it more affordable for all of those non native english speakers.

It happenned to me in my first steps here in VATSIM. I remember I liked to fly in the places where the english was more standarized in terms of phraseology because I could understand the whole instruction the ATC had given to me. And there was some places where you receive a "kilometric" instruction, "kilometric" question or "kilometric" clearance and you could not understand nothing. Everyone here should be able to understand "cleared to land", "taxi via A, B, C to holding point rwy 13", "climb and maintain FL320", etc. But when you do not follow the standard phraseology, it becomes quite complicated to understand. I think that is the key problem here, and the same happens with the spanish. I am a spanish native speaker and when somebody wants to practice or improve his/her skills in that language, I normally speak slower in order to sound clearer to them and try to not say too much useless words and phrases.

To sum up, I think we have to make efforts to be more patient with the persons who are not able to understand fluently our language, follow the standard phraseology and help them to complete their flights without any problem.

Kind regards.

Edited by Pablo Maciel
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Pablo Maciel
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Since I posted my opinion here, I see that the most people here agree with a "grey color tone between that black and white".

I've read comments about whether visiting ATC should be proficient in the local language. No one has defended that. We are saying that people should know the standard basic phraseology (only for possible situations on the frequency). Some points I propose to the new regulation are:

- To force divisions to offer trainning in English, if requested by a visitor.

- To force visitors to learn basic phraseology (which is needed IRL), if implemented/requested by the division.

- To recommend divisions to start preparing SOPs at least in English (and in the local language) if they consider it as relevant.

- To recommend divisions to make briefings and debriefings at least in English, if needed.

- To facilitate visitors some kind of basic phraseology dictionary/translator (as this: https://de.wiki.vatsim-germany.org/English-German_phraseology_dictionary_for_visiting_controllers) prior to the trainning process. -> This might acelerate the trainning process and make mentors more efficient.

- To motivate local trainning members (and the rest of the vACC) to handle situations with visitors that might speak only English. Therefore, all members should facilitate the inclussion of visitor controllers and accomodate them to the division culture.

Edited by Juan Amado
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Juan Amado (S3 VATSPA - 1423499)

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Good afternoon everyone,

This regulation makes no sense whatsoever, vatsim's motto is "as real at it gets" and the ICAO language is approved.

What you are going to get will be an stampede to other networks by not being able to use their language, an ICAO APPROVED language.

If a person wants to come to control in an ICAO country, he will have to have a minimum of prhaseology and will have a mentor who will help him in everything, months if needed.

If I want to control in China, I learn basic Chinese prhaseology or I do not control. If this requirement finally comes out, I formally request that the slogan "as real as it gets" be removed from the website.

To give you an idea, VFR real pilots in Spain are not required to have English ICAO on their license. 

As a real ATC this make non sense to me, you can't take away the  Chinese, French, Russian, Arabic and Spanish option.

In a nutshell, this idea is crazy.

 

 

 

Edited by Omar Grande Feij
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