ATC Languages in France/World


I read on the archived forum that allegedegly, “in some international airport, only english is allowed”.

While that may be true for Korea or Japan, they specifically included France in that, do you have any information confirming that ?

I know for a fact, that, if you take CDG (LFPG), the official VFR AIP map from SIA doesn’t state anything about a language. While on some others AD, french is actually mandatory for air to air transmission.

It’s weird to talk about VFR rules for Charles de Gaule since it’s surrounded by class A airspace of Paris, but the AIP map includes all the rules for VFR flights and repporting points, and so on.

Languages allowed on frequency should be the ones stated on AIP, period. Some vACCs might have different local regulations, but I don’t know of any.

In France you may speak French to ATC, if you have a French language proficiency certificate (real world). Here on VATSIM you can talk French to French ATC if you like to, but you will need to know/learn the correct phrases. Same goes for Spain: you can speak official Spanish phraseology to them. Russia is Russian and China is Chinese (Mandarin). All in all, these are the official ICAO languages: English, Spanish, French Russian, Mandarin.

Please let’s not mix ICAO languages into this :confounded: completely unrelated

I believe it’s a legislation matter and yes, unrelated.

So if you wanted to fly in France as a german, you’d need either a level 4 part.fcl french (forgot code) or level 4 part.fcl.055, if you “speak french”, or “speak english”, by itself, not enough to cross that border as I understands it.
And so the ICAO languages mean, there wont be an officiel part.fcl for, say, Italian, so if I want to fly in Italy, I’d still need part.fcl.055 and if I speak italian, I could speak to them in italian there.

Same for me as a (future) french PPL, I’d need a part.fcl.055 if I want to fly outside France, unless french speaking country, since I’ll be given a level 6 french unpon validating PPL.

So, the AIP not saying anything about english for CDG => We can totally still speak french at CDG.
Unless there are specials rules for IFR I’m not aware of.

I wanted to do the PPL in english with a certified english instructor, but I find it could seem somewhat arrogant, wont automatically deliver me a part.fcl.055 anyway (unlike for french) and I’d still have to speak french for A/A mandatory in french. All in all, useless to train in english unless I wanted to be an airline pilot.

Yes it does. AIP aerodrome section 2.18 always states languages allowed at the Aerodrome.

For enroute, section ENR 2.1

I don’t really agree, it just state here the callsign in english or french, it doesn’t say that it’s english only or french only. (And yes, you could extrapolate that if there is a french callsign, you can speak french)

That information is usually on the first page of the AIP map example below for Redon

mistake above, it’s not 2.18, but 2.17 that states the languages allowed.
CDG example

Lisbon LPPT

Frankfurt EDDF


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Although German is only allowed within the CTR of Frankfurt airport. Basically, IFR flights are not supposed to talk German to Frankfurt TWR and lower, although technically they can. When going airborne, they’ll have to switch to English in any case. This section practical for VFR flights to, from and through the Frankfurt airport CTR.

It’s an old discussion: in my opinion, using any other language but English for IFR flights is a grave degradation of situation awareness and thus safety. Not everyone using the same piece of airspace will understand French, Spanish, Russian or Mandarin. It has to stop, everyone should speak English in these circumstances.

Except German is not an official ICAO language while french, spanish, etc… are.

Why everyone has to speak english ? It’s both the role of the ATC/PIC to avoid collision.

You don’t have to hear “cleared to cross runway 04” to not land/takeoff on runway 04, because you should have not be allowed that.

The only dangerous collations are “after traffic land, align rwy 04…” and are still ATC/Pilot responsability (and pilot should see with his eyes that a freaking plane is landing).

Those collations are dangerous because a poor comprehension of english may cause you to even collation that, without understanding it, and start alligning.

While if it was in your language, you’d get it. (Better if they simply do not use such clearance tbh)

ICAO languages have nothing to do with this matter…

Incorrect. Trust me.

It kind of does to be honest.

Andreas suggest that all countries on earth just speak english and call it a day.

Therefor erase the origin of ICAO which is only called ICAO from YOUR perspective, we refer to it in our local name for it, in my case, OACI.

That’s like saying the United Nations (which we call the Nations Unies) should only speak english, which they do not, they have hundreds of translators present to avoid… misunderstanding in a foreign language… to avoid critical diplomatic issues.

The problem is the same here, if everyone is forced to speak english in their home nation, in an international airport which also does works as HUB for the inside of the country itself. (CDG is a hub for many internal flight, you will fly Nice > Paris > Nantes for instance, those pilots doesn’t need to fly abroad at all)
they might ensue misunderstanding like people going on a runway they were not cleared off because they didn’t understand the instruction.

You want to understand everyone ? What about learning the language of the country you’re flying in ? Since you’re absolutly fond on pushing english to every country, why not the other way arround ? :slight_smile:

Or, for a critical perspective, have a second ATC person that make sure no crucial informations are lost.
Let’s be honest, they already do that, if they cancel a clearance, they’ll probably relay it in both language if it’s a matter of emmergency. Let’s not create an issue where there is none, yes, at some point 20 years ago, there was a communication issue that caused an incident, but it’s the responsability of both the air traffic controller and all pilots involved, not the language.

The first rule is to be in command of your machine and you’re responsible for that.

Have a great flight, wether in english or french)) And trust your clearance… to an extent. :wink:

Hi Marc,

I think there are more than one topic within your question/answers:

  • Can you speak French in LFPG? Answer is yes. It happens all the time.

Where does it say you can? In the AIP: Difference from ICAO/EU Rules
Particularly note 1: Important note 1 : In France, it is possible to use the French language in radiotelephony on all aerodromes, including airports with more than 50 000 international IFR movements per year.

  • Should we use English only at larger airports (IRL) ? I personally believe so.

The lack of understanding creates a clear lack of Situational Awareness. It’s not only about crossing a runway, it’s about knowing where the others are, what they are cleared for/to, what is going on etc…

I’m lucky enough to speak both but in a multi-crew non-native environment, it clearly is an additional threat which I think we could mitigate. All pilots operating into CDG have an ICAO English level 5 so no real reason why that wouldn’t be possible at least during normal operations… but that’s a big debate so we might just leave it at that :slight_smile:


Those big hubs airport do handle local/regional/national flight too, even though it would bring more stress for some VFR pilot to land there, they can.

The thing is, there are known misunderstanding in english as well, you can listen to american ATC recording of foreign not understanding anything, because of an accent, or “conversation” outside of basic phraseology, etc…

Because there are more than one way to get a PART.FCL.055, some requires you to “SPEAK” english, while some simply requires you to pass a practice exam in simulated flight condition (basic phraseology…). All of them being certified exams. For instance, the DGAC exam for english is more of the later.

As for pilots, it’s their job, doesn’t mean they “like” to speak english, especially, imagine an Air France Paris - Nice flight, with a full crew of french speaker, french dude on the receiving end, and they have to switch to english just because some people think it causes misunderstanding.

It adds added stress more than anything, in a job we don’t need that. Also those flight are so short, they’re mostly typing things into their onboard computer all the time and it’s already time to land. Very busy.

A french dude speaking english with a french accent, to a french dude speaking english with a french accent, it’s definitly giving higher risk of misunderstanding :wink:

Unless you want all ATC to be english native speaker with perfect speech, and requires everyone to validate a level 5 or 6 fluency in english, even new pilot students, all over the world.

Thank you for providing the actual part of AIP that justify the use of french on the territory by the way.

No Marc, you are completely wrong.

With proper application of English radio telephony phraseology, no ambiguity will exist. That’s why this is standardized, just like all our cockpit procedures (SOPs). People have to stick to standard phraseology - I don’t care if they fall back to their native language if something more complicated/non-standard needs to be communicated in an abnormal situation. All French speaking pilots who operate IFR do speak good enough English. A minimum of Level 4 is mandatory. I have been flying international since 1999 and I can assure you that Air France pilots can speal proper English, because outside France (and French territories) they have to speak English.

The main point is: especially within a TMA and on the ground I want to be able to understand everything that is being said. I need to and I want to build my own mental image of what is going on around me. ATC and pilots make mistakes and it is not a rare occurrence that such situational awareness triggers a call for confirmation of information that leads to a correction/clarification.

Not using the same language with all users of the same aerodrome is a clear degradation of safety, it’s one more hole in the often used Swiss Cheese Model.

There is no way of denying this, please don’t.

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You have to go back to your studies years to understand.

A student want to “pass an exam”, not actually learn something.

You ask people to pass Level 5 Part.Fcl.055, they’ll pass it, no issues there. :wink:

Life long learners are going to actually -learn-, students will just “pass”.

A passing grade never gave anyone the knowledge required to be professionnal.

My point being, anything outside basic “english radio telephony phraseology”, which is… basic english conversation, wont be understood. You can listen to ATC conversations on youtube and such, and you’ll quickly realize that the basic phraseology is not always applicable, and as soon as you step on the side, it’s a big misunderstanding.

Worst is in situation of EMMERGENCY, when they’re super stressed, trying to make some sense of things, and the two people cannot even understand each others.

Finally, it takes 200-300 hours to increase ONE level of english (A1>A2, etc…), you’re asking people to be C1, which takes approx a good 1000 hours of english knowledge+experience (production of language).

I know Air France people have a good level of english, though, is it clear and understood everywhere ? The french accent is heavy on them.

PS: You’re a professional in aviation, you forgot the little PPL/students PPL people who just want to have some good life experience in the flow of things.

I think the VFR question within CDG is quite frankly irrelevant. That would probably be the one helicopter once in a while.

I can recall multiple occasions where I had to translate something to my colleague to help his SA when flying into/out of French airports.

Do I expect ATC and pilots be able to operate fluently in English? I absolutely do. That is part of the job and they prove they can do so when operating outside of France.
Again, I’d probably leave some provision for emergencies where reverting to the mother tongue might help - there again, might, try doing that in a multilingual flight deck which nowadays is quite the norm.

Again nothing’s black and white, but that’s my personal view/experience on it.

To add to this, If you read the preliminary report of the recent NZS incident in CDG (wrong QNG during LNAV/VNAV approach). You might notice the following. I’m not saying it would have happened differently but clearly (among many other things) a clue was missed here due to French being used.

At 11:36:04, the ITM instructed an Air France flight crew, in French, to descend to 5,000 ft, with the
correct QNH 1001. The Air France crew read back with the correct QNH 1001.

The DGAC probably analysed statistics of such incidents happening.
With 1500 flight daily at CDG, it’s probably insignificant.

Also, I don’t really understand that case, from the line you gave, it just seems they forgot to read-back the descent ? (which wouldn’t be language related, but incorrect collations?)

Or did they say QNH instead of QNG ? Also it was “french to french”, it wasn’t “a foreign pilot didn’t get crucial information for a second flight because it was in french”, or was it ?

Now, we speak VFR, but there are IFR private jet, IFR PPL, regional flight, and so on. As long as they don’t have to work outside France, those short-courrier flight don’t really need a good english (unless they don’t want to be stuck in their career :smiley: )

Anyway, you confirmed the rules which allow all french AD to have a french phraseology, thanks, I was sure you could even in CDG, but never went there (it’s a widespread misconception that you can’t). And my local AD -is- a customs airport and I speak french to the ATC ground/tower and ATIS is in both languages.

My bad you might not be aware of what happened.
Here is the preliminary report.

In short the problem lies with a wrong QNH setting (10hpa off - which is about 280ft - and eventually 6ft off the ground, 0.8nm short of the runway). Like always there are plenty of factors and we should wait for the final report but the crew was non-French speaking; I’m just pointing out here that they could have missed a clue when the correct QNH was given in French to an Air France flight.

To me, the big picture is that at a large international airport, it’s then not only about you and your own understanding but also about others and general SA.

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