ICAO language requirements
are included in Annex I to the International Convention on Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention):
Annex 1, 18.104.22.168
Aeroplane, airship, helicopter ... pilots shall demonstrate the ability to speak and understand the language used for radiotelephony communications.
Annex 1, 22.214.171.124 (Recommendation)
Flight engineers, and glider and free balloon pilots should have the ability to speak and understand the language used for radiotelephony communications.
What does ICAO mean by 'ability to speak and understand the language used for radiotelephony communication' ?
The ICAO Rating Scale
The levels of language proficiency were defined by ICAO in the so called 'Rating Scale', which is an appendix to the ICAO Annex I.
The Rating Scale defines 6 Levels of language proficiency, starting from Level 1 (not proficient at all) to Level 6 (near-native speaker) and defines the abilities that a candidate must demonstrate during the language test to be awarded a specific level.
No Writing, (almost) no Reading
The ICAO regulations require the candidates to be able to speak and to be able to understand.
This means that Listening comprehension and Speaking are the primary focus of the aviation English language test. Reading comprehension and Writing exercises are not part of the test.
EASA language proficiency requirements
are included in the European commission regulation 1178/2011:
EASA implements the ICAO requirements on the European level - making the ICAO language proficiency regulations binding for all European pilots
EASA FCL.055 requires every European airplane and helicopter pilot to have a language proficiency level endorsed on their licences.
However, EASA regulations do not specify which type of test is to be used- instead, each national aviation authority has the ability to decide what tests are accepted. This means that not only are ICAO and EASA provisions applicable to language testing, but also national regulations apply.
The ICAO recommendation for Glider & Balloon pilots
ICAO recommends that pilots of gliders (sailplanes) and balloons should also undergo language proficiency testing.
However, EASA did not implement this recommendation in the European regulations. For Pilots of Gliders and Balloons, language proficiency testing is mostly voluntary.
But keep in mind: there are many states outside the EU which require sailplane / balloon pilots to have a language proficiency endorsement. If you want to fly there, you need to take the test first.
Austrian regulations on language proficiency
The national Austrian regulations lay down administrative procedures for the conduct of language proficiency tests,
quality criteria for language assessment bodies, examiner training and examiner acceptance. Compared to the standards of
other EU and non-EU countries, the Austrian regulations on language proficiency give us one of the most detailed
legislative frameworks for our operations, directly implementing the ICAO standards of Doc 9835.
LAB-106 is a language assessment body approved by the Austrian civil aviation authority
in accordance with the provisions of
Austrian national regulations.