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

Graham wrote:

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!

My Mexican corporate pilot neighbor was many years ago on his first professional jet flight from the US to South America, having been picked as copilot for the trip based on language skills etc. As they crossed the Mexican border he apparently called up Tijuana tower in native Spanish and they immediately replied with Mexican-accented “it’d be easier if we did this in English”. The way he tells the story, complete with facial expressions going from pride to dejection, the captain on the flight just about died laughing but did manage to keep the plane under control

Last Edited by Silvaire at 10 Jun 14:24

Sometimes in France – either after a change of Controller, or perhaps because they are recovering from a good lunch! – I find they sometimes inadvertently use french, even though they have been using English earlier.
I find the use of the phrase: “ Est-il possible d’utiliser l’anglais, s’il vous plaît” , produces the most abject apologies and always a very cooperative clearance.

Last Edited by Peter_G at 10 Jun 16:51
Rochester, UK, United Kingdom

Useful as an F-reg owner with pigeon French

EIMH, Ireland

From my point of view, in principle it isn’t and shouldn’t be a call sign thing. The language that you use in the initial call should determine the language throughout the time on frequency IMO. This is how I was taught, though I wouldn’t have any reference on regulations.

I suppose the way it is managed (if at all) varies between countries/organizations?

In Germany, I always use English when communicating with FIS and/or ATC. I do, however, often add a quick greeting in German and I think that even over the radio, it is quite possible to understand if a “Guten Morgen” is native or near-native. So sometimes, when there is a need to discuss something outside of phraseology, either the controller or myself have switched to German temporarily.

And yes – it has happened to me a couple of times that FIS seems to have “forgotten” after e.g. a longer time of radio silence that I’m D-reg, but English-speaking so they continue in German.

Hungriger Wolf (EDHF), Germany

I was talking to Cazaux (big military base near Bordeaux) yesterday. Everything was in French except that on my second initial call they didn’t understand something and came back to me in English. Since my main goal right now is to develop decent French-language ATC skills, I persisted with French and everything was in French after that. You hear about 50/50 with Cazaux, including sometimes French military pilots (to judge by their accents) in English.

A few years ago I flew out of Mandelieu (Cannes). It was ironic, I was about the only one using French. The rest were all French pilots trying to improve their ATC English.

KPAO, United States

I seem to recall a friend of mine doing her English qualification calling “English for training purposes” as a requirement if you are not actually qualified yet?

johnh wrote:

I was talking to Cazaux

Cazaux will sometimes ignore an English GA pilot if busy until you call them in French – Ive had it happen more than once, though they are usually very good at giving access to their RAs once in 2-way comms. They have foreign pilots based there for training – these may have been the accented mil-pilots using English?

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