Making a learning activity module from a corpus of pilot-controller communications in English

Researcher: Malila Carvalho de Almeida Prado

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Stella Esther Ortweiller Tagnin

This postdoctoral research project represents a continuation of the studies begun with the compilation of the Corpus SISCEAB: the development of materials for teaching English to air traffic controllers. Therefore, the elaboration of a learning activity module is proposed for controllers that work in the Area Control Centers, which can be replicated to controllers of other facilities. This module will be composed of a set of didactic activities based on English for Specific Purposes (ESP) approach, to be applied in continuing training courses. The activities will be designed based on methodological procedures of Corpus Linguistics through WordSmith Tools software. This tool allows the processing of a large volume of information, electronically, in a uniform, fast and precise manner that allows the performance of various types of data analysis, such as frequency of use, settings, lexical-grammatical patterns, in phonological, morphological, syntactic, lexical, semantic and pragmatic aspects. Considering that the controllers are spread all over Brazil, and work on shifts of the operational scale that runs uninterruptedly (24-7), this module will be developed to be applied through distance learning, by computer. Distance education has been successfully employed in recent years in the Brazilian Air Force for continuous training and operational maintenance of its personnel, thanks to the advantages of allowing a large number of professionals to have fast access even over great physical distances, with flexibility of schedules. It is hoped that the benefits of the research will extend beyond the strictly linguistic scope, and may contribute to the operational safety of traffic in Brazilian airspace.

This is a Post-Doc project is being carried out by Patricia Tosqui Lucks (patricialucks@gmail.com) at USP

Fluency and interaction in aviation English: from their description to their application in the classroom

Researcher: Malila Carvalho de Almeida Prado

Supervisor: Profa. Dra. Stella Esther Ortweiller Tagnin - USP

During classes and in the exams, the language to be approached with pilots and air traffic controllers is that to be used in radiotelephony communications in abnormal situations, for which there is no described phraseology (ICAO, 2010). ICAO suggests a tool for the proficiency assessment – the ICAO Rating Scale – that, in turn, demonstrates difficulty in its understanding due to the lack of knowledge on the construct of which the plain English in radio communications consists as well as to the subjectivity and imprecision in which the linguistic areas of pronunciation, structure, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension and interaction are prescribed. In search of a better comprehension of what the areas proposed in the Rating Scale should contemplate, more specifically in this research, fluency and interaction, we have compiled a corpus of radio communications on situations for which Phraseology did not suffice, to allow us an investigation through Corpus Linguistics. Based on this corpus, we will apply activities in the classroom that promote an enhancement in the students´ fluency and interaction, by employing the language investigated. We will finally analyze the classes and verify their efficiency, by proposing a possible path that takes into account real communications in the language teaching with the objective of intensifying the pragmatic competence as a fundamental element in the interaction of a variety of cultures that share a common language: aviation English.

The performance of operational Air Traffic Controllers in radiotelephony communications in English: evidences of validity in EPLIS

Researcher: Natalia de Andrade Raymundo

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Matilde Scaramucci

The SISCEAB Aviation English Proficiency Exam (EPLIS) is a high-stakes test aimed at assessing the English proficiency of professionals who deal with international air traffic control in Brazil, which follows the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Taking into account that EPLIS has great impact in the lives of those professionals and in the society, it is important that the instrument follows both the patterns established by ICAO and the linguistic need of the test-takers. For this reason, this mixed-methods research aims at developing data analysis of evidences of validity in EPLIS, in order to assess to what extent air traffic controllers who were assessed the operational level can deal with situations in the English language that are not contemplated in the standard phraseology. In the first phase of this research project, interactions between ATCO and international traffic of four professionals who were assessed level 3 or level 4 in EPLIS will be analyzed. In the second phase, the focus will be on the quantitative data generated by a questionnaire responded by controllers who are level 3 and 4, so as to collect their impressions on the operational level 4 and their linguistic and operational needs. The results found in this research will be part of the validation process of the exam, which is a requirement if the stakes of the exam are taken into account.

From needs analysis to the design of an English proficiency exam for military pilots: a project in progress

Researcher: Ana Lígia Barbosa de Carvalho e Silva

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Matilde Virginia Ricardi Scaramucci

English proficiency assessment for Brazilian military pilots is the subject of the Ph. D. thesis project, here presented, in progress at the Department of Applied Linguistics of the Language Studies Institute of Campinas State University, Unicamp (São Paulo-Brazil), whose objective is to design an exam to assess the English proficiency that is necessary to a group of military pilots belonging to the Air Demonstration Squadron (EDA), or "Esquadrilha da Fumaça", whose mission is to disseminate, through its air demonstrations, the institutional image of the Brazilian Air Force (FAB). Among its attributions, the group has to represent the Brazilian Air Force abroad as a diplomatic instrument. The thesis project follows up a master's dissertation (SILVA, 2016) that developed a needs analysis of the use of English for the pilots of this group (See HUTCHINSON; WATERS, 1987; DUDLEY-EVANS ST. JOHN, 1998). The results of Silva's (2016) research indicate that the English language required for EDA encompasses several components: standard aeronautical phraseology; plain English, which is the common English, but restricted to radiotelephony communications; specific vocabulary for aviation; general English. In the Brazilian Air Force - FAB, general English is assessed separately from Aviation English; the standard phraseology, in English, is assessed by means of the so-called "International Air Traffic Test (TAI)", which is not a language test, properly speaking; plain English, on the other hand, is not subject to any of the aforementioned assessments. Facing such a gap, the thesis project, aiming at the outline of an English proficiency assessment for the group, goes back to what should be the first step in the design of any language exam, named by authors in the language assessment area "specifications" (ALDERSON, WALL, 1995; BACHMAN, PALMER, 1996). The thesis project focuses on the first three stages of the "test design cycle" proposed by Fulcher (2010, p. 94): the definition of the purpose, of the criterion and of the construct of the exam. Thus, it goes beyond the scope of the thesis project the planning of other steps related to the operationalization or application of the exam itself, such as the task design and pre-testing, or a rating scale design. (This thesis project is granted with the financial support from CAPES – Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior).

Keywords: Language proficiency assessment. English for Specific Purposes (ESP). Aviation English. Exam specifications.

Compilation of Radiotelephony Communication Corpus of the Brazilian Airspace Control System

Researcher: Patrícia Tosqui Lucks. Curricullum Lattes

This research project proposes the compilation of an electronic oral corpus based on the collection and transcription of recordings of routine and non-routine communications, in English, between pilots and air traffic controllers of the Brazilian Airspace Control System (SISCEAB). First, communication recordings will be collected in the three types of air traffic control facilities (Control Tower, Approach Control and Control Center), in locations with heavy flow of international air traffic. Then, in order to develop the oral corpus, these recordings will be methodologically transcribed in accordance with the procedures of Corpus Linguistics and inserted into the “Wordsmith Tools" software. This tool processes linguistic data, which will, as a result, allow various types of analyses, such as frequency of use, language patterns, lexical grammatical standards, among others, by processing a large volume of information electronically in a uniform, accurate, and efficient way. The research may bring contributions to the development of teaching materials for teaching English to air traffic controllers as well as for the development of test tasks and items in the SISCEAB English Language Proficiency Exam (EPLIS).

The washback of EPLIS on teachers’ and learners’ perceptions, attitudes and actions in an Air Traffic Control Initial Training Program

Researcher: Paula Ribeiro e Souza. Currículo Lattes

The introduction of a test by the authorities is an acknowledgment of its power to change the behavior of those affected by it (SHOHAMY, 1993). Washback effect is defined as the impact or influence of a test on teaching and learning and on the society. This study aims at investigating the washback effect of EPLIS on teachers’ and students’ perceptions and actions in an Air Traffic Control Initial Training Program. Adopting a mixed methods research design, this study comprises two consecutive phases. In phase 1, the focus is to identify some patterns and trends of perception and attitude among students and teachers in relation to EPLIS, as well as the impact of the exam on aspects of English teaching and learning in the training program. A questionnaire will be designed and statistical methods will be employed to analyze the data. The aim of phase 2 is to explain, expand and corroborate the initial results. To this end, qualitative data will be collected through focus group, individual interviews and class observations. Given the high stakes of EPLIS and its introduction as a mandatory test for pre-service air traffic controllers, its effects are expected to have been intensified within the context of this study. All data will be triangulated in order to provide a holistic account of the phenomenon under investigation. The results will contribute to a more robust theory about the washback effect – what its nature is, how and in what circumstances it acts, how it can be measured and what forces intervene in the process.

This project is being carried out by Paula Ribeiro e Souza (paulaletras@gmail.com) who is undergoing a PhD in Applied Linguistics at Unicamp under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Matilde Scaramucci.

The Use of Communication Strategies in English in Brazilian Air Traffic Control

Researcher: Natália Guerreiro Currículo Lattes . Pode-se entrar em contato com ela através do site Aviation English Hub.

Supervisor: Profa. Dra. Matilde Scaramucci

This research aims to describe and categorize the communication strategies found in recordings of Brazilian Area Control Centers (ACC) to later investigate the criteria adopted by experienced air traffic controllers when assessing the efficacy and efficiency of such strategies. The researcher collected ACC air traffic control audios to identify the explicit use of communication strategies and, thus, check which communication strategies arise in the target language use situation. After that, she will select critical snippets of those recordings in which communication strategies were used or could have been used to solve problems in aeronautical communication. Those short interactions between pilots and controllers will then be used to promote reflection and debate in a focus group with experienced Brazilian air traffic controllers who also act as supervisors, instructors and/or accident investigators. Therefore, this study aims to contribute to a definition of strategic competence within the proficiency of English for air traffic control.

Key words: indigenous assessment criteria; target language use definition; strategic competence; communication strategies; Aviation English

This project is being carried out by Natália Guerreiro, who is undergoing a Master's in Applied Linguistics at Unicamp under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Matilde Scaramucci. You can get in touch with her via the website Aviation English Hub.

Considerations on the language proficiency rating scale for air traffic controllers

Researcher: Beatriz Faria Aragão. (biaaragao@yahoo.com / beatriz@icea.gov.br) Currículo Lattes

After conducting the analysis of several incidents and accidents, the Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) concluded that the language used in radiotelephony communications had played a major role as a contributing factor. As a consequence, ICAO required that all professionals involved with international air traffic operations were submitted to an English language proficiency exam as part of the Language Proficiency Requirements, LPRs. These requirements are related to the operational safety, concerning the need of communicating in a safe way in radiotelephony, using a restricted and coded language, called phraseology, and the plain English in situations where pharesology does not suffice during all international communications. Subsequently, on March 2004, ICAO published the Manual on Implementation of ICAO Language Proficiency requirements- Doc.9835 AN/453. This manual brings on its attachment an analytic rating scale which is used both on international and national context to assess the language proficiency of those professionals. The scale has six categories: pronunciation, vocabulary, structure, fluency, comprehension and interaction. Each category has descriptors for each one of its proficiency levels; level 1 elementary, level 2 pre- elementary, 3 pre operational, 4 operational, 5 extend, 6 expert. For licensing purposes the candidate has to achieve a level 4 in all the categories. Nevertheless, both the language proficiency requirements and the scale trhave been criticised since its implementation. Eventhough this issue has already been discussed and studied by some researchers, there is still the need of a better understanding about the nature of the language used in radiotelephony. During the development of this study, drawing on indigineous assessment criteria, we searched for a better understanding of the main characteristics of an efficient and well succeded communication in radiotelephony as well as the main linguistic aspects that contribute to that. The aim of this research is to contribute to a review of the actual rating scale in order to have a better representation of the target language use situation which in turn, may contribute with the develpment of better instruments to assess language proficiency in this specific context. Focal groups with Brazilian air traffic controllers were conducted and used as the primary souce of datta colleting and analysis and on the job observations were also made as a secondary source. For the analysis section, the collected data were categorized and classified into more specific subcategories which were discussed and analysed in terms of the most recurrent aspects providing some reflections and insights on the review of the actual rating scale.

Key words: rating scales; indigineous assessment criteria

This project is being carried out by Beatriz Faria Aragão, who is undergoing a Master's in Applied Linguistics at Unicamp under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Matilde Scaramucci.

Exploring the construct of pilots and air traffic control officers’ international radiotelephony communications and its operationalization in test design: A mixed method approach

Researcher: Ana Lúcia Tavares Monteiro.

In this multiphase mixed methods (MM) design, three interrelated studies will be conducted as part of the same program of research. The main objective is to increase the safety of pilot-ATCO intercultural communications through the exploration of knowledge, skills and attitudes required for effective radiotelephony (RT) interactions, and through the design and trialing of new test tasks that aim to operationalize the identified construct.

In phase 1, an exploratory sequential MM design will be applied, based on an initial qualitative investigation of intercultural factors that arise from case studies of international pilot-ATCO communications, which can affect the way they interact in the English language. Those factors will be thematically coded and categorized into a taxonomy. The categories and sub-categories will then inform the subsequent quantitative phase – the development of an online survey – aiming to give voice to pilots’ and ATCOs’ perceptions of the potential threats of intercultural factors to the safety of RT communications.

Phase 2 builds on phase 1, consisting of a qualitative study based on a review of theoretical and empirical research in order to propose models of language use relevant to RT communications, from which a matrix of relevant constructs will be specified. In order to validate this matrix, focus groups and individual interviews with aviation English (AE) stakeholders (pilots, ATCOs, AE teachers, AE examiners/test developers, and AE researchers, and regulators) will be conducted.

Phase 3 includes the steps of task design and task trialing. After the design of draft task specifications and two draft role-play tasks, a convergent parallel MM design will be applied during task trialing. Qualitative and quantitative data will be collected from test takers, interlocutors and raters, related to their perceptions of task appropriacy, impact on test-taker preparation, confidence of interlocutors, use of language functions and evidence of skills/behaviors indicative of effective communication. Transcripts of data yielded from task performances will also be analyzed. Evidence of relevant aspects of validity drawn from both QUAL and QUAN data and their evaluation through merging the results will allow for stronger inferences and a greater insight into task design, based on domain experts’ perspectives.