English for airport ground staff
The Moray House School of Education, The University of Edinburgh, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh EH8 8AQ, UK
Available online 6 August 2011
Airport ground staff
This article describes part of a European Commission Leonardo project that aimed to design
a multimedia course for English language learners seeking work as ground staff in Euro-
pean airports. The structural–functional analysis of the dialogues written from the course
showed that, across the four trades explored (security guards, ground handlers, catering
staff and bus drivers), the present simple and clausal ellipsis abounded. It also revealed dif-
ferences between trades. Will future was mostly used by security guards, ground handlers
and bus drivers, when referring to regulations and offering their own action. Direct orders
were given mainly by security guards and bus drivers, to enforce the law and keep passen-
gers moving. Passenger complaints were met by security guard pseudo-apologies, but bus
drivers rarely apologised. Catering staff and bus driver dialogues featured the polite would,
can and could in offers and requests, accompanied by greetings, farewells, pleases, thank
yous and formal address forms. Security guards used hedges to mitigate their threat to pas-
sengers while ground handler routines allowed little time for interactional softeners.
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1.1. The ELSY project
At the beginning of the 21st century, airports in Europe had unﬁlled job vacancies in the area of airport ground staff; part
of the reason was that those applying for the jobs did not have the required level of English language proﬁciency (Brun,
Journaud, & Venderbecq, 2003). In 2003–2005, a group of regional government and airport ﬁrm managers, linguists and
language teachers from Barcelona, Berlin, Besançon, Edinburgh, Paris and Turin carried out a European Commission Leonardo
da Vinci Language Competencies project. The project was led by the Conseil Régional Ile de France, Paris and coordinated by
the Groupement d’Intérêt Public (GIP) Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris, which was responding particularly to the needs
of the large, young, second generation immigrant population living in the environs of Charles de Gaulle Airport, who were
both unemployed and under qualiﬁed. The ELSY project (ELaboration d’un SYllabus multimédia aéroportuaire pour les
jeunes sans emploi et peu qualiﬁes) aimed at opening the doors to employment opportunities for these job seekers, by
devising an ESP syllabus and producing multimedia English language learning materials for both future ground staff and
those currently employed. Trades targeted were security guards (who carry out document and baggage checks and metal
screenings of individuals), ground handlers (who ensure safe and timely movement of aircraft, drive the ‘push-back’
communicate with pilots and load and unload baggage airside), catering staff (who work in bars, fast food outlets and restau-
rants) and bus drivers (who handle the loading and unloading of both passengers and crew). It aimed to enable speakers of
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Aircraft do not usually reverse; they are pushed back by a truck.
English for Speciﬁc Purposes 31 (2012) 3–13
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English for Speciﬁc Purposes
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/esp