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ENGLISH FOR AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL

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With the completion of the new Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, and the upgrading of facilities at the regional airports, the number of vacancies for the post of air traffic controllers in Malaysia is projected to increase. In order to
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  ESP Malaysia, Vol. 3, Issue 1, 1995 ENGLISH FOR AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL Ainol Haryati Ibrahim Faizah Mohamad Nor  Noor Mala Ibrahim Zanariah Md SaHeh Abstract - With the completion of the new Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, and the upgrading of facilities at the regional airports, the number of vacancies for the post of air traffic controllers in Malaysia is projected to increase. In order to meet this demand, the course in Diploma in Air Traffic Control commenced in July 1994, at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Universiti Teknologi Mlllaysia (UTM). The present English Language program in UTM aims to equip the students with an integration of the four skills, i.e. reading, listening, writing and speaking. However, because air traffic control is a highly-specialized area, with specific communicative demands on members of its community, a separate English Language course is needed to prepare the students to be communicatively competent at the workplace. This paper describes the research undertaken to design an English Language course for this group of students. The issues emphasized include materials preparation and teaching methodology. Since the pilot study on the first group of students has been completed, the problems faced by the language teacher in this particular classroom will also be highlighted. 1.0 Introduction Air traffic control services are crucial in aviation, and an air traffic controller is a professional, at par with pilots and flight engineers. In the past, the air traffic control program in Malaysia was conducted only at the School of Air Traffic Control, Department of Aviation, (DCA) Subang. The objective of this program, which spanned a period of 66 weeks, was to train and produce Air Traffic Control Officers (ATCOs) who would serve with the DCA. Candidates for this program were those who held a diploma or a degree from various disciplines. 65  ESP Malaysia The Diploma in Air Traffic Control commenced in July, during the academic year of 1993/1994 at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM). The main aim of this program is to reduce the time and cost needed to produce a competent ATCO without compromising the quality of the product. The duration of the program is 3 years : the first two years in UTM, and the final year at the DCA College where the students will undergo practical training following the syllabus specified by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Upon successful completion of the program, the students will be awarded the Diploma in Air Traffic Control by UTM, and an internationally-recognized license in air traffic control by ICAO. In other words, the graduates of this program are qualified to work at any airport in the world. The present English Language Program in UTM aims to equip the students with an integration of the four skills, i.e. reading, listening, writing and speaking. However, because air traffic control is a highly-specialized area, with specific communicative demands on members of its community, a separate English Language course is needed to prepare the students to be communicatively competent in the workplace. 2.0 Literature Review 2.1 Needs Analysis Air traffic control and language teaching belong to two different 'worlds'. To obtain an in-depth understanding of the air traffic control 'world', ethnography was the approach employed by the researchers in carrying out the needs analysis. Ethnography was srcinally developed in anthropology to describe the ways of living of a social group. This approach involves examining the "patterned interactions" and "significant symbols" of specific groups to identify the norms that govern their behavious, and the meanings these  people ascribe to each others' behaviors (Frey, et al.: 1991). A distinct characteristic of ethnography is that the researchers usually deal directly with the people being studied. The researchers are concerned with the natural interactions of the people studied: what these people say and do as they go  English For Air Traffic Control about their usual routines. In gathering data, methods such as observations (participant vs. non-participant) and interviews are employed. For this study, the observations were carried out at the Sultan Ismail Airport in Senai, Johor; the Subang International Airport in Kuala Lumpur; and the Changi Airport in Singapore. At these airports, the researchers were non-  participant observers, getting a first-hand look at the working life of ATCOs. The observations were conducted over periods ranging from five hours to three days at a time. Due to the different sizes of these airports, hence the differences in the volume of air traffic, the researchers were exposed to the varied situations under which ATCOs are expected to operate. Interviews were conducted with the ATCOs at the Sultan Ismail Airport; the ATCOs at Subang International Airport and the instructors at the DCA College; and the ATCOs and trainee ATCOs at Changi Airport. These interviews were open-ended : the interviewees were encouraged to elaborate and pursue their thoughts on the matter under discussion, rather than be restricted by the narrow boundaries of  prepared questions. In this way, the researchers gained a deeper understanding of what it takes to be an ATCO. Other than fieldwork, discussions were also held with the faculty to identify the academic needs of the students. These discussions helped the language teacher to determine the skills the students will need to perform effectively in their academic area. 2.2 Materials Production Instructional materials are essential especially in a course as specific as English for Air Traffic Control. In discussing the importance of materials in the classroom, Allwright (1981) presented two views namely "the deficiency view and the difference view". The deficiency view holds that teaching materials are needed to save learners from the teachers' deficiencies to ensure that the syllabus is properly covered and the exercises are well thought of. The difference view, on the other hand, holds that the materials are needed  ESP Malaysia  because they are "carriers" of decisions best made by someone other than the teacher because the expertise required of materials writers is different from that required of classroom teachers. In relation to the English for Air Traffic Control course, both views hold some truth. Instructional materials are essentially required because the teachers lack knowledge of the subject-matter. With only a minimum exposure to the field, the teachers are unable to deliver the subject very effectively. Hence, with the help of the materials, teachers can plan lessons as effectively as possible. Nevertheless, the teachers cannot rely solely on the materials without trying to understand the contents. As mentioned by White in her article entitled The Subject Specialist and the ESP Teacher, a classroom teacher needs to know about the specialist subject of the students for two important reasons. First, by knowing the subject matter, the teacher will feel more confident in teaching. Secondly, the teacher's lack of understanding of the subject will be reflected in his/her handling of the lessons, which will result in confusion on the part of the students. This in turn can make learning much more difficult. Therefore, it is vital for the teacher to  be familiar with the subject contents of the students. In this course, even though the teachers and not the subject specialists who prepared the materials, they are still "carriers" of decisions made by the latter. This is because during all phases of materials preparation and implementation, the subject specialists have served as an important source for all kinds of activities created. The DCA officers were constantly consulted so that the materials are parallel with the requirements given. The guidance from the specialists are invaluable, because besides knowing the types of situations the learners are more likely to encounter, the subject specialists also know if each activity intended for the students has been introduced, if not taught, in their other courses. In short, not only the accuracy and appropriateness of the materials are guaranteed, but the level of difficulty can also be controlled. Another point to consider in the production of materials is that of authenticity. Robinson (1991) refers to authentic 68 English For Air Traffic Control  materials as ". . . material srcinally produced for purposes other than the teaching of language." In other words, it can  be ''. . . material normally used in the students' own specialist workplace ... ''. In this course, although the materials are specially produced for classroom implementation, they depict the real-world situations which students are expected to face. This is because in the air traffic control field of work, the conversations that they may have are almost standard and predicted as far as the common flight procedure is concerned.  Nevertheless, exposure to real-world conversations where interactions are much more "unprepared, unstructured and unpredictable" (Tay: 1988) is also required because the ATCOs could face situations of emergency in which utterances produced are spontaneous and within a very short  period of time. Accuracy and the orderly presentation of information are also of utmost importance in order to achieve explicit and direct meanings. In brief, the materials designed must be able to expose students to abilities of interpretations, expressions and negotiations that can foster communicative competence. 2.3 Methodology Methodology should ensure that language used in the classroom should approximate as closely as possible to authentic language behavior so that the learner acquires relevant input to be produced when required. Widdowson (1990: 46) emphasized that "the teacher's business is to induce (his emphasis) learning and the techniques that are used have to work to that end." To see that learners are sufficiently motivated and thus to ensure that learning takes place in the classroom, not only the language has to be authentic; the texts, the situation, the interactions that occur, too, should be as realistic and as authentic as the 'real world'. Breen (1985: 61; c.f. Widdowson, 1990) distinguishes 4 types of authenticity, i.e. 1.   Authenticity of the texts used as input data for the students.
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