Real Answers from Real Pilots

Still hesitating

(Nate) #1

I got this far already.

Into flight: done
Loan: approved
First class medical: passed

I was listening to ATC on YouTube then I got scared… I can only understand about 10% what was actually being said. Either I don’t understand the phrases or to me it’s like they are not speaking clearly sometimes making its hard to understand.
Now, English is my second language, so it may be because of that too? I l lived in USA 20+ years, the instructor during my into flight said I still have a bit of accent. Sounded bit discouraging but I appreciated his honestly and nothing to be ashamed of because I speak three languages.

So my question is what should I do now??


Nate my friend, you’re a big boy and no one can tell you what to do but let me offer you some thoughts.

First I speak one language English. I’m absolutely horrible with languages but lord knows I try. Reading your post you appear to be beyond English proficient so I don’t believe that’s your issue. Right now I’m in Poland and if someone told me the Polish word for pen I would have no idea what they’re saying, but if they showed me a pen, pointed to a pen and said the word there would be a understanding because I’d have a point of reference. I see the pen, I know what a pen does etc. etc. While you speak English you’re not a pilot, never taxied an airplane and literally have no idea the information they’re trying to convey. Trust me I’ve known MANY native born American English speaking pilots who have struggled terribly with ATC communications. Yes it’s English but you literally have no point of reference to what they’re trying to say. That comes with time and practice. You hear them spitting out taxi instructions like auctioneers but when you’re looking at a taxi diagram AND know where you are AND know where you want to go it makes a whole lot more sense. Make sense?

Again your life your decision but I think you need a better reason not to. This one is a little weak :wink:


(Steve Kittel) #3

Hi Nate, Like Adam said…communication is something that will come with practice. I was always nervous worried I would mess up. Now it’s second nature. The good thing about ATC communication is that its pretty standardized so you will know what to expect. Listening to is a good way to get your feet wet, but don’t worry about not knowing all of it now. Best advice when you start is to think about what you want to say before pressing the transmit button.



You write very well in English, so I would be willing to bet that your English skills are just fine.

Let me tell you a quick story. My kids are really into watching trains, but all of the trains near where I live are freight trains and do not run on published schedules, so we have a hard time finding them. I bought a radio scanner to listen to the train dispatchers in hopes that it would help me find trains. I can not understand hardly anything they say. I understand the words just fine, but not the meaning. Now I am sure that with some training, I could be taught to speak train language, but right now I am at the same place you are with aviation language.

Give it time and practice, I bet you get it before I understand those train dispatchers.


(Nate) #5

Thanks everyone for the feedbacks.
I was hoping it’s normal to not know what’s going on on the radio without any flight experience at all.
I wonder how well foreigner pilots communicate when flying into the USA thru busy airport like JFK.


Some of the foreign airline pilots struggle a bit, but the controllers usually slow down a bit when talking to them.

Here is a tip that applies to radio communications and life in general. When the controller is talking, just listen to them and d =o not just think of what your reply is going to be. Listen first, then speak.

(Robert Griffin) #7

I was the same way when I started my training. I didn’t understand a single thing and I was so overwhelmed. Now I am at 13 hours and I solo next weekend. Talking to ATC has gotten much easier and it makes more sense with context.