Monthly Archives: October 2010

Bomb threat

Have you ever thought that there might be a bomb in the airplane you’re on? What would you do if there was a bomb threat on your flight? If you were a pilot, what actions would you take? If you were a flight attendant, how would you keep the passengers calm? If you were a passenger, how would you collaborate with the crewmembers?

The pilots of two cargo flights and all the people on board a passenger flight bound for Chicago had to think about those questions yesterday. Potentially explosive material was found on board two cargo aircraft, one in the U.K. and one in Dubai. Also, a passenger flight from Yemen to Chicago had to land in New York City after being escorted by fighter jets. Was it really a threat? See what is said by news agencies below:

You can read the news here,  here, here and here.
Watch it in video here, here and here. (The last one is a statement given by President Obama)

You may want to check out the different approaches taken by American websites and British ones.

Are you able to answer these questions?

– As a pilot/ flight attendant/ passenger, how would you react to an inspection performed by authorities in search of explosive material?
– What precautions should you take to make sure no objects are out inside your luggage during the flight?
– What items are forbidden to be taken on board due to explosive hazard, and why?
– What’s the difference between “friends” and “allies”?


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It’s not always your fault

Do you feel frustrated when you can’t understand a few lines in a really interesting movie you’re watching? Or when you miss some words of that cool song everyone’s been listening to lately? How about when you travel abroad and feel like you’re under water because everyone’s accent seems so different from what you expected? Let alone when you try to ask the guide something and he just looks at you like you’re from outer space! Ok. Count to ten, take a deep breath, let it out, and get ready to read something that will make you feel better:

it’s not always your fault.

Yes, my friend, it’s that simple. All those times you felt like the tiniest living being on the face of the Earth, you were just fretting over nothing. Because, the movie? Didn’t you realize that the characters were all speaking at the same time?  Maybe you weren’t even supposed to understand that line clearly. And the song? Do you know how many times the singer had to record that part so it came out correctly? It’s not easy to say that many words in such a short time. And the trip abroad? Are you sure all those people were locals? I’ll tell you, the hardest thing to find in New York is a New Yorker! You may think everybody was born in that area, but you might be talking to people from all over the world, with a wide variety of accents. And the tour guide? Do you have any idea how many questions these guys answer everyday? Maybe he was thinking about the pizza he was going to have with his girlfriend later on and didn’t even hear you, but was embarrassed to ask you to repeat.

Hey, I’m not letting you off the hook here! I’m not saying that you always speak perfect English, with a perfectly clear pronunciation and that you should always be able to understand what everyone’s saying. All I’m saying is: it’s not always your fault. You shouldn’t beat yourself up just because you didn’t get what someone said or someone didn’t get what you said. Just remember all the times this has happened when you were speaking your mother tongue.

How many times have you had to ask someone to repeat what they’ve just said – in Portuguese?! Until fairly recently I thought the lyrics to Rita Lee’s “Lança Perfume” went: Lança menina/ Lança todo esse perfume/De baratinha/ Não dá prá ficar imune. That song came out when I was 8 years old, how could I know what ‘desbaratina’ meant? What does it mean anyway? And don’t get me started on Legião Urbana…

And I always tell my students what happened to me when I was in England for the first time. I was staying at a youth hostel (good old times when I was a youth!) and I wanted to try the typical British breakfast. Call me crazy, but I was excited to eat that heavy food first thing in the morning. The problem was: there was a breakfast buffet, and I wasn’t quite sure what was typical and what wasn’t. We had to order the food from a lady who commanded the buffet, so I asked her in my most perfect International English: “please, I’ll have a typical English breakfast”! For the life of her the girl could not understand what I was saying! After repeating and rephrasing it a few times, I asked the guy beside me to just say the same thing. He did. And she got him perfectly. You know what she told me? “Sorry, love, I don’t speak your language!” (I’m pretty sure she wasn’t a native speaker of English herself, and wasn’t used to accents other than the ones she heard everyday).

So, my point is: if you’re having trouble understanding or being understood, keep trying until you succeed, but even if you don’t, don’t blame yourself. It’s not always your fault!

Please don’t take this as encouragement to stop studying…


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Expression of the week: horário de verão

Com certeza essa dúvida já lhe passou pela cabeça: como se fala “horário de verão” em inglês?

DST= daylight saving time (porque seu objetivo é economizar eletricidade aproveitando melhor a luz do dia)
Summer time (é, parece bobo mas é verdade)

Sample sentences:

“the meeting is scheduled to start at 3pm, DST”

“summer time this year goes from October 17 to February 20”

Do you think daylight saving time works?

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Good x Awesome

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That’s not what I meant: ok

Pretty much everyone can agree that “ok” can mean a lot of different things. It depends on how you say it, when you say it, to whom you say it… Well, the other day I saw someone receive a message from someone else saying “sorry” (because they had made a silly mistake when playing an online game). As the reply was about to be sent, I pointed out that it should be changed or it could be misinterpreted. Here’s why:


This probably means that I accept your apology, but it might be interpreted as ” I don’t care”, or even “I don’t believe you”, especially because it’s in writing and the other person can’t hear your tone or see your face.

“that’s ok”.

Now the recipient of your message will understand what you meant in the first place: he shouldn’t be upset, his mistake wasn’t a big deal after all.

Even a very common – and short! – word like “ok” can send the wrong message… watch out!


Acho que todo mundo concorda que “ok” pode significar várias coisas diferentes. Depende de como você diz, quando você diz, para quem você diz… Bom, outro dia vi uma pessoa receber uma mensagem que dizia “sorry” (“desculpe”) (porque a pessoa havia cometido um errinho bobo num jogo online). Quando a resposta estava pronta para ser enviada, sugeri que a mensagem fosse modificada, ou poderia ser mal-interpretada. Eis o motivo:


Isso provavelmente significa que aceito seu pedido de desculpas, porém pode ser interpretado como “não tô nem aí”, ou “sei – não acredito”, principalmente porque é por escrito, e a outra pessoa não pode ouvir seu tom de voz ou ver seu rosto.

“that’s ok”. (tudo bem)

Agora a pessoa vai entender o que você queria dizer desde o começo: não se preocupe, seu erro não foi importante.

Mesmo uma palavra comum – e curtinha! – como “ok” pode causar um mal-entendido… cuidado!

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The importance of good pronunciation

Pronunciation is one of the most relevant contributing factors to misunderstanding among non-native speakers of English. That is because our brains are hard-wired to understand our mother tongue, meaning that when someone mispronounces a word in our mother tongue, we are usually able to understand it anyway. That doesn’t happen in another language.

Non-native speakers rely heavily on the correct pronunciation of words in order to understand them correctly. They are not so well-equipped in the foreign language to grasp the meaning of a mispronounced word just from the context (ICAO itself acknowledges this in their Doc 9835). That explains why we find regional or foreign accents hard to understand, or why sometimes we only understand a word after we’ve seen it written down.

Why does that matter? If you are aware of the important role of pronunciation when communicating, you will certainly do the following:

1)      When you can’t understand someone immediately, don’t be embarrassed to ask them to repeat or rephrase their sentence; maybe the second time around they will articulate the words more carefully and you will be able to get the idea.

2)      You should improve your own pronunciation to help other non-native speakers of English understand you more quickly.

Remember, Aviation English is all about safety: we must all be committed to making our skies safer every day.


A importância da boa pronúncia

A pronúncia é um dos mais relevantes fatores contribuintes para mal-entendidos entre falantes de inglês como língua estrangeira. Isso porque nosso cérebro está programado para entender nossa língua materna, o que significa que quando alguém pronuncia mal uma palavra em nossa língua-mãe, normalmente conseguimos entendê-la de qualquer maneira. Isso não acontece em outra língua.

Ao falar uma língua estrangeira, nós dependemos muito da pronúncia correta das palavras para entendê-las corretamente. Não temos tanta bagagem na língua estrangeira para compreender uma palavra mal pronunciada apenas pelo contexto (a própria OACI reconhece isso em seu Doc 9835). Isso explica por que sentimos dificuldades para compreender sotaques regionais ou estrangeiros, ou por que às vezes só entendemos uma palavra ao vê-la por escrito.

Qual a relevância disso? Se tiver consciência do importante papel da pronúncia para uma boa comunicação, você certamente fará o seguinte:

1)      Quando não entender alguém de primeira, não tenha vergonha de pedir para a pessoa repetir ou reformular a frase; talvez da segunda vez ela articule melhor a palavra e você consiga captar a ideia.

2)      Você deve melhorar sua própria pronúncia, para ajudar outros falantes de inglês não-nativos a entendê-lo mais rapidamente.

Lembre-se que o Inglês de Aviação tem como objetivo a segurança: temos o dever de tornar nossos céus mais seguros a cada dia.

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Typical pilot mistake: cabin

First of all, the word ‘cabin‘ refers to the passenger cabin, not to the cockpit.

Second and most important, it’s pronounced /.bin/ Oo

Let’s practice!

What other words do you find difficult to pronounce?

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