I'm considering flying in a Spanish-speaking country and would like to have a passing familiarity with how to communicate with ATC in Spanish. Is there an ATC English-to-Spanish dictionary?

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    $\begingroup$ This doesn't really answer your question, but are you sure you want to talk to ATC in Spanish? If you aren't a fluent Spanish speaker, you might be better off just speaking English to them (which they're generally required to be proficient in.) IIRC, speaking Spanish to them gives them implicit permission to send further transmissions to you in Spanish, rather than English. Of course, understanding Spanish phraseology could still be helpful for understanding what the locals are saying to ATC for situational awareness purposes. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 7:08
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    $\begingroup$ @reirab is completely right, if you can't speak fluent spanish, and in the local dialect and accent you are probably better off using English. I've not flown into Spain, but I have to France and I couldn't understand a word, even though I'd studied the phrases. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 8:01

2 Answers 2


ICAO has defined in their Annexes that English is only one of the available langauges to ICAO and that ATS should either use the language specified in the country's AIP or use English.

1.2.9 Language proficiency Aeroplane, airship, helicopter and powered-lift pilots, air traffic controllers and aeronautical station operators shall demonstrate the ability to speak and understand the language used for radiotelephony communications to the level specified in the language proficiency requirements in Appendix 1.

Note 2.— The provisions of 1.2.9 refer to Annex 10, Volume II, Chapter 5, whereby the language used for radiotelephony communications may be the language normally used by the station on the ground or English. In practice, therefore, there will be situations whereby flight crew members will only need to speak the language normally used by the station on the ground.

Personally, additional to my proficiency level in English, I also hold a Level 6 language proficiency German in my pilot's license.

Below is a screenshot of the Aerodrome Description for LEBL/Barcelona, taken from Spain's AIP. You see that ES/EN is listed as available languages.


If you are looking for Spanish Phraseology, you can find it with Argentina's Administracion Nacional de Aviacion Civil.


ICAO's official language is English, and they have introduced a Language Proficiency Requirement aimed at raising proficiency for pilots and Air Traffic Controllers.

Licensing for both ATC and Pilot licence holders has a requirement for proficiency at ICAO Level 4 or above

ICAO in Spanish is, therefore, something of a contradiction in terms. You should be able to get by just fine in English, but if you actually need to speak Spanish then you're probably not going to hear much ICAO phraseology.

  • $\begingroup$ Fair point - I've updated the question to be more general $\endgroup$
    – Mike
    Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 4:49
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    $\begingroup$ For what it's worth: "Radio traffic for flights under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) must be conducted in one of the ICAO officially approved languages. These are English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Arabic." (source). $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 6:05
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    $\begingroup$ User 11892 is actually wrong. English is not the only ICAO language. There are 7: English French Spanish Russian Portuguese Chinese Arabic Therefore ICAO Spanish IS NOT a contradictory term, and Spanish RT is "ICAO phraseology." The requirement to be able to speak English is separate, and not enforced in every ICAO country, like France and Germany, where French/German only airfields exist. $\endgroup$
    – Tar Ikm
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 11:27

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