As most of you know IH Cape Town is more than just a school building where you learn new skills and improve your English language level. It is a little community that grows and reforms very quickly with every new arriving student. People from all over the world come together for the purpose of learning English, be it Standard, Business or Aviation English, exam preparation, or private lessons. But as soon as they arrive through the door, English is only one part of the whole experience.

In this blog post, we have asked Mauricio from Brazil to talk about his experience in South Africa, at IH Cape Town and studying Aviation English with us. He came as a student in 2018, preparing for the ICAO exam (International Civil Aviation Organization) and is now still close friends with old classmates, teachers, and Gavin, the Managing Director.

Aviation English student is meeting friends
Aviation English students meeting friends a bar in Sao Paulo

Aviation English is more than phraseology

When it comes to Aviation English, most of us pilots think of the ICAO exam. As a matter of fact, this exam is required, almost mandatory, if we want to fly or even to operate in countries where English is not spoken. Most of the materials, manufacturer’s handbooks and manuals, are written in English. Checklists and even cabin communications are performed in English. Moreover, some of us have the ambition to work abroad. Aviation English is more than learning standard phraseology; that’s why you should consider studying English somewhere else than in your country.

Experiencing South Africa for the first time

My first experience in South Africa was in 2017, not to come for Aviation English lessons but as a tourist. I must say that I bought the tickets because they were on sale and I didn’t know what to expect about the country. I didn’t even know that they speak English. After all, when someone refers to Africa, we always think of beautiful landscapes and social problems.

But as soon as I landed in Johannesburg, my friends and I felt surprised. We drove around “Jo’burg”, visited the Kruger National Park and then travelled all the way to Cape Town. Literally, we crossed the country from east to west by car. In contrast to what we had thought about the country, we saw an environment that surprised us day after day.

In between many impressive places, one of the biggest positive revelations was Cape Town. What a beautiful city! Unfortunately, we had only three days in the Mother City which is definitely not enough to enjoy everything Cape Town has to offer.

Map of South Africa

Where to prepare for my ICAO test?

After a few months, almost one year, I realized that I needed to get ready for my ICAO exam. A friend, who is a captain at one of the biggest airlines here in Brazil, suggested that I study Aviation English in a country where I would be able to literally live in English. He explained that standard phraseology is fundamental, but not enough. It can be sufficient for the ICAO exam, but real life is far more than that. Pilots (as well as cabin crew) should be prepared not only for ATC communications but also for troubleshooting and regular conversations. For us, English has to be more than a second language. At that time, I already knew that South Africans speak English and that International House Cape Town was there offering this course.

Aviation English student as pilot in the cockpit of a plane
Our Aviation English student is a pilot, sitting in the cockpit

Cape Town is a great place for Aviation English preparation

I arrived in Cape Town as a student expecting to stay for three weeks. Since it was not my first contact with English, I just wanted to have a quick review before the exam. However, it took three months before I came back to Brazil: the experience was so amazing that I decided to extend my stay. The way the Aviation English course is structured allows us to get ready not only for aviation situations, but also to daily life and routines. In the morning, we had General English classes, and, in the afternoon, we studied Aviation English. Yes, pilots, as always, have to study a little bit more than everybody else!

students and teacher in Camps Bay

I know that you are already used to it! But this characteristic makes all the difference since you’ll be able to meet people from all over the world and interact with them 24/7.

IH Cape Town will teach you so much, not just Aviation English

The overall environment at the school is incredible. All the staff members are friendly and will be there to make sure you will have the best experience. In addition, the teachers are friendly and build strong relationships with students. International House Cape Town also organizes activities and events where students can get together and interact. The infrastructure of the school and it’s accommodation options are another positive point, not to mention that the school is located in Sea Point, the coolest area of the city and opposite one of the places that I like the most in Cape Town: Mojo Market. You will always be busy, but if you have nothing to do, just cross the street, go to Mojo, grab a beer (maybe wine), listen to live music and talk to people. South Africans are extremely friendly, and it is easy to start a conversation with local people. They are like us Brazilians: they like people and they are always happy. Informal conversations make a big difference in improving your Aviation English. Even though it is not “our language”, our brain adapts to the sound of English. Understanding ATC communications becomes easier, particularly when the clarity is not good.

I could spend hours and hours here sharing my experiences in Cape Town. There are so many things to do, so many places to go. But this is not my goal here; I don’t want to write a travel guide! But if you are thinking of studying English, I highly recommend you visit South Africa. I’m sure you’ll be as impressed I was and that you will visit more than once.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact us. We would love to hear from you!

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