What is Maritime English?
Shipping has never been more international, with up to 50 nationalities working on one ship alone at times. Maritime English is the language by which crew communicates with each other, irrespective of their role. It is estimated that shipping carries over 90% of world trade.
Clear, precise English is therefore vital for:
A. Health, safety, and security on board, across all operations below and above deck to ensure the well-being of all those on the ship
B. Communication with shoreside authorities such as vessel traffic services, port authorities, cargo, customs, and other personnel
C. Handling emergencies where simple unambiguous communication must be used not only on board, but also between search and rescue personnel and in possible ship-to-aircraft interchanges, and often between different nationalities and in very challenging circumstances.
D. Customer service on passenger ships, where communicating accurately and appropriately is vital to maintaining excellent standards of customer service and customer experience on board.
Maritime English is not the same as regular, everyday English. It is specific to life and works on ships and the oceans.
Maritime English covers the specific language used to describe the parts of ships and the procedures involved in sailing them. It also reflects the situations in which seafarers need to communicate, both with each other and with shoreside authorities. These situations can of course be both routine and non-routine.
Maritime English varies according to where the language is used. The core language used ‘above deck’ includes navigation, safety communications, and cargo operations, while ‘below deck’ might focus on the operation and upkeep of the main and auxiliary engines, electrical and electronic systems. The Maritime English used onshore may also include commercial or legal shipping matters.
Why Maritime English is Essential
Several recent incidents have served to highlight the role of miscommunication in their causes, including the recent Costa Concordia disaster.
Having a common language in a highly international industry where health, safety, and security issues are critical is vital to the smooth running of any ship, and to the well-being of the crew, port personnel, and passengers.
How to Learn English on the Internet
As popular as it is as a native tongue, English is far more prevalent as a second or foreign language. Only about one-third of the people who speak it learned it at home. The rest learned how to speak basic English in school because it is widely accepted as a lingua franca.
In other words, English is the closest thing we have to a universal language. Wherever you might go in the world, odds you will be able to find someone who speaks at least some English. No other language compares when it comes to utility.
Why study it?
One of the reasons English is nearly ubiquitous is that it is the language of popular culture. Movies, music, advertising, and other forms of international media are generally transmitted in English. All of us know at least a few songs from English-speaking bands like the Beatles, which helps us learn how to speak basic English, whether we know it or not.
English is also the language of business, which is why salesmen and investors from Berlin to Beijing either know it or are currently studying it. It is also the language of choice for science, letter writers, and internet users the world over. Not to mention the fact that along with French, English is the only tongue that is spoken on more than four continents!
The single largest English-speaking nation is the United States. Because it is a nation of immigrants, the country has yet to declare English as its official language. Even so, well over 90 percent of the population speaks it, either as a first or second tongue.
This means that those who do not learn how to speak basic English are at a serious disadvantage, both socially and economically. It is honestly almost impossible to get a good job in the U.S. if you cannot speak English.
Now, that doesn’t mean you have to be Shakespeare or even particularly articulate. As long as you can understand the language, it is possible to complete everyday tasks. Without that knowledge, however, you may find yourself relegated to menial jobs and may have a hard time making new friends.
So, as comfortable as it may be to fall into old routines and simply speak your native tongue when and where you can, that will not help you succeed in an English-speaking nation like America.
For parents, learning English also helps them take a more active role in their children’s lives as they assimilate to a new culture, and they will invariably assimilate. Why do you think the children of immigrants rarely have accents?
Because they learn how to speak from their teachers and friends, not their parents! So, if you want to give your children a head start in a new country, it is always a good idea to learn the local language.
How to Learn English
In addition to traditional English classes, it is now possible to take online courses. Although more research is needed, studies have shown that online students learn just as quickly and as well as those that take language lessons in regular brick-and-mortar classrooms.
As one of the first online language schools to guarantee fluency in only a year, Open English has helped countless students learn to speak basic English on the Internet. Students can review tutorials, and multimedia sessions, and take unlimited live sessions any time of the day or night.