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In plane English: teaching and writing aviation English for international military aircrews

Sarah Hodge, Defense Language Institute-English Language Center's lead aviation English curriculum developer, conducts a flying exercise in the
Simulator Lab with Lt. j.g. Anderson Spedini De Oliveira of the Brazilian Navy. Spedini is currently attending the English Language Skills for Communication Course at DLI-ELC. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Annette Janetzke)

Sarah Hodge, Defense Language Institute-English Language Center's lead aviation English curriculum developer, conducts a flying exercise in the Simulator Lab with Lt. j.g. Anderson Spedini De Oliveira of the Brazilian Navy. Spedini is currently attending the English Language Skills for Communication Course at DLI-ELC. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Annette Janetzke)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- The roar of two F-16 Fighting Falcons in full afterburner rattles windows as we discuss the day's low-level mission and do one last check on fuel calculations. A rainbow of squadron patches, flight suits and accents fills the room as pilots check radios and dial in altimeter settings, request taxi then take-off clearance, and one by one, take to the clear-blue skies over San Antonio via Microsoft Flight Simulator X. In the adjoining room, a group of classmates and aviation instructors play the role of the various air traffic control facilities. This mission provides the capstone to six weeks of aviation English academics, from aerodynamics in week one to flight planning using the Air Force Form 70 and DD-175 in weeks five and six.

As an English for specific purposes curriculum developer at DLI-ELC, JBSA-Lackland, my goal is to get our international military pilots and aircrew proficient in aviation English and to familiarize them with the associated flying tasks and duties they will encounter at follow-on training bases around the United States. The Institute's six-week Aviate, Navigate, Communicate curriculum is built around a variety of authentic materials, including dash ones/dash tens, aeronautical charts, military air traffic control recordings, Air Force and Army training videos, aviation safety publications, computer-based training such as the commercial radio simulator COMM1 instrument flight rules and COMM1 visual flight rules trainers and having students plan and fly low-level missions in Flight Simulator X in the aviation lab. Students are instructed by a combination of English as a second language/English as a foreign language specialists and aviation subject matter experts. In 2012, more than 330 international military students completed the Aviate, Navigate, Communicate Course.

The Institute's first two-week block of instruction, English Language Skills for Aviation, is designed to support a wide range of aviation backgrounds, limited not just to pilots and aircrew members but also to air traffic controllers, weapons controllers, weather forecasters and others. The class structure allows for a two-tiered approach to language learning via both group instruction and more individualized self-directed study. A single class may have a combination of experienced senior pilots with thousands of flying hours to fixed- and rotary-wing student pilots with zero flying hours, so DLI-ELC has spent several years developing a curriculum that meets the needs of the customer and is adaptable to a spectrum of aviation backgrounds and language levels. In this case, the customers are Air Force and Army flight training bases and posts. In support of our mission, I recently spent six months stationed with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force at Fifth Technical School, Komaki Air Base, Aichi, Japan. I taught nearly 200 Japanese F-15 Eagle and C-130 Hercules pilots, aircrew members, air traffic control and ground control intercept officers general and aviation English to prepare them for participation in multinational exercises Cope North Guam and Red Flag Alaska.

On weekends, I had opportunities to travel and participate in Japanese cultural activities, including traditional New Year's rice pounding or "mochitsuki" and several Japanese cooking classes.

I keep in touch regularly with many of my Japanese military students via Facebook and volunteer my off-duty time to teach conversational and aviation English to JASDF pilots currently studying at DLI-ELC. The many cultural exchanges and friendships I forged in Japan and through the Defense Language Institute-English Language Center truly exemplifies our mission statement: building bridges through communication and peace through understanding.

Biography:

In addition to being a lead aviation English curriculum developer at DLI-ELC, Sarah is also a SMART Exemplary Educator and frequently delivers training on integrating SMART products into language and technical classrooms at JBSA-Lackland.

She is a proud member of Women in Aviation and is active on several military aviation forums online, including Women Military Aviators.