Lack of English Proficiency Nearly Dooms Polish Airliner

This June 12, 2008 article of the TimesOnlline tells the harrowing story of how a LOT Boeing 737 very nearly perished due to the pilots’ lack of proficiency in English.

A common argument against using Esperanto as an international language is that “everybody already speaks English.”  Not only is that not true, but even the pilots who get you to your exotic foreign port of call may not be able to speak it.

The problem isn’t isolated to Polish flightcrews, either.  I worked for many years at an airport in southern California, and I often had to find a translator in order to speak with the flight crews of foreign registered aircraft.

While it’s true that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has declared that English is the official international language of aviation (and we could spend days debating the socio-political forces behind that decision), we are left to ponder if they could have possibly picked a more difficult language for an adult to learn as a second language.

I love English.  It’s my native tongue, and I have spent years admiring its richness and poetry.  But it’s damn hard to learn as a second language.

There is an organization dedicated to making Esperanto the official international language of aviation.  As both an esperantist and an aviation professional, I joined the email group.  I wish them the best, but I don’t foresee any fruit of their labor any time soon.  English is far too entrenched, and  Esperanto shares many of the same problems with English that the group cites, like words that sound too much alike.   One problem it doesn’t share, however is difficulty in learning.


5 Responses

  1. Ever heard about the book AVIADA TERMINARO de Gilbert R. Ledon 2002

  2. Yes! I have this book! Great addition to the fakvortararo.

  3. Perhaps the linguistic imperialism of English has caused more problems than it has solved.

    That is why I find it relevant that eight British MP’s have nominated Esperanto for the Nobel Peace Prize 2008

    You can check detail on

  4. One small correction: the nomination for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize was by members of the Swiss national Parliament, not (malfeliche) the European Parliament.

  5. Sorry to disagree. IN ADDITION to two Swiss MP’s, eight British MP’s also nominated Esperanto for the Nobel Peace Prize 2008.

    The names of those MP’s can be seen on

    Perhaps the media haven’t picked up on the point yet!

    Euro-MP’s are not eligible to nominate for the Nobel Peace Prize, unfortunately

    Eble venontjare.

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