Have you ever encountered an airline pilot who liked to show off his language prowess? I sure did on my last United flight.
While flying on Middle East Airlines from Beirut to Frankfurt last Friday, I was impressed that the pilot greeted passengers in Arabic, English, and French. I suppose that’s hardly a surprise considering that all three languages are widely spoken in Lebanon, but I appreciated the effort.
From Frankfurt, I connected to Washington Dulles on United Airlines. In all my years of flying United (well over one million miles), I can count on one hand the number of times I have heard a pilot offer greetings or flight updates in a language other than English.
The captain began by greeting passengers in English. Upon completion, he made the same announcement in German. He had quite an American accent, but I was impressed by his smooth delivery and effort.
Then he made the same announcement in French. His French was flawless. I thought, wow, this pilot is impressive. It was the first time I had ever encountered a tri-lingual pilot on United.
Then came the announcement in Spanish. I just laughed out loud. Now he was showing off!
I’m sure there are quite a few polyglot pilots out there, but this is the first one I have ever encountered. You could argue the French and Spanish announcements were unnecessary on a flight from Germany to the USA, but I’d want to make Spanish and French-speaking passengers more comfortable as well.
The first officer took over for the rest of the flight and made all announcements in English only. But the captain left his mark. Kudos to him.
Wish I was a polyglot.
So do I!
Bonjourno, mi Francais amigos. We are now going to departo for Pa-reee. We will arrivo en Pa-ree en approximente neuf horas. Gracias para flying United. That’s my idea of multilingual, and sadly that of most Americans.
1.5 years of study for each added language will get you there. Or, live in a country for 1-2 years where English is not spoken will get you there ! Examples: Ainu of Japan or Bisaya in the hills of Philippines. Thailand, China, Myranmar…..etc.
I had to look up what polyglot meant…
Had a Delta pilot once do near-flawless greetings in Portuguese and Spanish as well as his native English. Given it’s not that hard to learn a few stock phrases and practice with the native-speaking flight crew I’m surprised more pilots don’t give it a try just for fun.
Excellent! Many flight crew are educated beyond the perceived opinion of passengers. Not showing off, knowledgeable.
There is a phrase going ’round. How do you know when anyone is an American? They speak only English LOL
I SINCERELY HOPE AND PRAY that schools required students graduating to speak at least 2 languages other than English.
Unfortunately thats not going to be. We are afraid to step out of our sand box. Sigh.
I’m American , we spoke Spanish and French . Required one at school. Now, I never learned either one well, but later learned Japanese by living there. Now live in Bisayan region of Philippines
Spanish does make sense between Germany and USA. The USA is the second largest Spanish speaking nation after Mexico.
Matthew, the bio is rather vague
How exactly do you make your money?
I think this is an example of when it’s OK to be boastful. It sounds like the captain made his announcements in good humor, and I think even most polyglots would appreciate his effort.
On a side note… I ‘think’ I could probably do the captain’s pre-flight announcement in German, but I’m sure I’d have a pretty ridiculous accent as well.
Why aren’t you? Language learning never stops unless you stop it for yourself. I can’t really say that I’m a polyglot. However, I can say that I’m fairly conversant in Spanish and Japanese, along with my native English. Other than that, I can get by with some basic Korean, Dutch, and Afrikaans.
I don’t know how far I will go with these languages. However, I’ve never stopped learning for myself; even if it’s just a few words or phrases. Every bit helps.
I wish the best of luck to you. If you fall, just get up and continue. Again, learning never stops.
On another sybject, on a UAL flight out of Portand for Los Angeles the plane was ready for push back but didn’t move. The Captain came one the p.a. after 10 minutes telling us we were delayed due to a requirement for a check flight for this crew BUT Uniteds chief navgatior got lost on the way to the airport. After the laughter subsided one last person in crew uniform boarded, went forward to the flight deck and we pushed back.
Best and funiest flight ever.
English is the official language of Aviation.
Yeah, so he memorized a few lines of 3 languages. WHOOP-DEE-FREAKIN’-DOO. WWWWOOOWW!
It is a SCRIPT for God’s sake!!!
“””Welcome to flight #xxx
My name is so-n-so
We are going point A to point B
The flight time is xx:xx
The weather is xyz
Thank you for flying AMAZING airlines…”
He seriously had you fooled. Freakin’ kidding me??
G. U. L. L. I. B. L. E.
I have a ketchup popsicle for you.
Now that, ladies and gents, is enough to make me want to fly on that airline. Wowee wow wow.
On a Crossair flight from Basel to Hamburg a few years ago, the Captain made the announcement “Gooday folks”. By those two words I knew he was, like me, a New Zealander. On arrival in Hamburg, I poked my head into the cockpit and said “Gooday mate”. By those two words, he knew I was a New Zealander and he spun around in his chair with a big grin on his face. He said there were three Nzers flying for Crossair – a part of Swissair.