Publised : July 28th, 2019
Miscommunication can make even a praise sound like an insult. Since the discovery of verbal language and scripts, humans have been trying to bridge the gap between various lingual groups to form a common ground for communication. Due to the colonization by the Western English speaking countries and many other geo-political reasons, English is now accepted as the international language which is supposed to bring the world closer. But even after laying the foundation of a common tongue, have we made sure that things don’t get lost in translation?
Charkhi Dadri Mid-Air Collision
On November 12, 1996, a Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747 collided with a Kazakhstan Airlines IL-76 in the air above Charkhi Dadri, India. According to the Air Traffic Controllers Guild, the crash was caused by a misunderstanding between the crew of the Kazakh plane and air traffic control.The Kazakh co-pilot thought they had been told to fly at 14,000 feet, but they had actually been warned not to because the Saudi Arabian plane was flying at that altitude.The planes collided, killing all 349 people on both planes. It was the world's deadliest mid-air collision.
The cause of the disaster can be traced back to communication difficulties in the Kazakhstan plane. None of the Kazakhstan flight, except the radio operator, understood English, so they were completely reliant on him to communicate with Air Traffic Control. The radio operator also lacked his own set of instruments and had to look over the shoulders of the pilots in order to find out information about the position of the aircraft.
The Tenerife Airport Disaster
On March 27, 1977, two planes collided on the runway at Los Rodeos Airport, now called Tenerife Airport.
A terrorist incident at a nearby airport caused a number of flights to be redirected to Los Rodeos Airport, where visibility was poor due to fog.
The native languages of the crews involved were Dutch on one plane, English on the other, and Spanish in the control tower. The crews had difficulties understanding each other in English because of their accents, and they were confused by the vague language used when asking for permission to take off.
The planes, which were unable to see each other in the fog, collided when one plane tried to take off, wrongly thinking it had permission to do so. The resulting fires killed 583 people, with only 61 surviving, making it the deadliest airline accident in history.
This gives us the proof that not knowing English can indeed be fatal. To exchange thoughts on a global level and to form connections with one another, English is a language which plays the most important role.