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Do ATC have a system for keeping track of which language to use to call an aircraft?

I often find, in France, and much less often in Germany, that ATC call me up in French (German).

This is after I have been speaking to the unit previously in English.

Usually it is not obvious they are calling me (I speak neither language), so after the 2nd or 3rd call they switch to English and then I respond.

I wonder if ATC have some sort of a “language tag” for this purpose?

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I don’t think they do, I think they tend to go by the registration. In your case because you are N reg maybe they think you must be one of the N regs based locally and being flow by a National. Also I think sometimes they get confused and forget to speak what is perhaps their 2nd or 3rd language and just say what comes naturally.
However, having spoken to many International controllers in France, a large proportion of them don’t know the language they have just spoken to you ie if you speak to them in English they respond in English speak them in French they respond in French. If you ask them afterwards which language did they speak to Air Algeria 123 in, they wouldn’t know.
Many kids in countries like Switzerland are the same. Small kids not long in the walking stage can speak 5 or 6 languages fluently but if you ask them, they couldn’t tell you which language they are speaking and they could not translate for you.

France

If you cross Germany IFR the chance on being called up in German is pretty much zero. Usually it´s the other way round…a VFR flight crossing airspace C being adressed in English instead of German. We usually underline the callsign on our electronic strips in this case, but since we only use the German phraseology every once in a while we definitely prefer to speak English on the radio.

EDFZ

Peter wrote:

I often find, in France, and much less often in Germany, that ATC call me up in French (German).
This is after I have been speaking to the unit previously in English.

Happens all the time to me flying an F, and I have heard a G with a french pilot being called in English.
So its a callsign thing – and its usually when a different controller calls you back after a shift change.

Regards, SD..

As far as I know in Germany they do mark the language in the commentary field visible on their screen. At least the option seems to exist, so I was told by a controller some years ago. But it’s second-hand information, as I do not have access myself.

Last Edited by UdoR at 10 Jun 07:36
Germany

gallois wrote:

I don’t think they do, I think they tend to go by the registration

When I’m speaking French in a G-reg, ATC usually forget on approx the third transmission and change to English.

EGHO-LFQF-KCLW, United Kingdom

It happens a lot to me too in France. I talk to them in French, but flying an N-reg if happens that they start calling me back in English. Once with Nice she did it 10 times and then said “I should have written French on the strip”. So some controllers do mark the language but it doesn’t seem consistent or reliable.

During one of my more Francophile phases I was on the apron at Angouleme (LFBU) and after start I called up the tower and explained (in French) that I would like to conduct two flights: the first a 30 minute local flight to the east and then I’d land and change passengers before departing to La Rochelle.

The tower replied (in perfect English) that it was very good and he understood perfectly and was really pleased that I had made the effort, but he thought it would be easier if we spoke English today!

EGLM & EGTN

Peter wrote:

I wonder if ATC have some sort of a “language tag” for this purpose?

AFAIK Swedish ATC does not. If you’re SE-reg they occasionally change to Swedish even if previous exchanges have been in English.

ESKC (Uppsala/Sundbro), Sweden

In Spain they sometimes talk to me in Spanish if I start with greetings with good pronunciation and accent but it’s rather exception than rule.

LDZA LDVA, Croatia
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