Foreign languages on test, what’s happening?

You’ve probably heard that from 7 April 2014 everyone who takes their theory test or practical driving test must do it in English or Welsh.

What’s that all about?

Well, before 7 April people whose first language isn’t English could:

  • Take their car and motorcycle theory tests with a voiceover in a foreign language
  • Use interpreters on theory tests and practical tests.

There was a consultation about this last year – which meant that everyone was invited to have their say. Almost 2,000 people (members of the public, driving instructors and examiners, candidates and others) told the government what they thought about the use of interpreters on tests.

The result was that 70% of these 2,000 people said they thought people shouldn’t be allowed to use interpreters. The three main reasons for this were:

  • Road safety implications – it was felt that people who couldn’t speak English well enough to pass the test probably wouldn’t be able to read road signs or communicate with enforcement officers very well
  • The risk of fraud – there are statistics which tell us that some interpreters have given driving-test candidates advice beyond a translation of the theory test questions or the examiner’s instructions
  • The cost of providing translation – at the moment DVSA (which sets the test) has to pay a fee for the foreign-language voiceovers in the theory test.

But what about people with disabilities who need help to understand the test? Don’t worry; we’ll still be able to provide this. For example

  • Candidates with dyslexia or other reading difficulties will still be able to take their theory test with an English - or Welsh - language voiceover
  • Candidates who are deaf or have hearing difficulties will still be able to ask for help in their test. For example, they can

o   Take their theory test in British Sign Language (BSL)

o   Take a BSL interpreter with them on their practical test.

So, people whose first language isn’t English will have to take their theory and practical test in either English or Welsh from 7 April. We hope this will encourage people to learn English, which will help them to settle into their lives in the UK.

If English (or Welsh) isn’t your first language and you’ll be taking your theory or practical test after 7 April, please remember that

o   The staff at the theory test centre will do everything they can to make your test as stress-free as possible

o   If you find it easier to understand spoken English than written English, you can use the English voiceover in your theory test

o   The driving examiner on your practical test will be prepared to speak slowly and in basic language if they see that your English isn’t fluent. They’ll also be happy to repeat or rephrase anything you don’t understand the first time they say it

o   You can take your driving instructor with you on your practical test. They won’t be allowed to translate anything during the test, but they can tell you what the examiner said after the test finishes.

Although you’ll have to take the tests in English or Welsh, you may still be able to learn the theory in your own language.

We allow people to translate what learner drivers need to know into various languages. This includes things like the theory test revision questions.

Some of our translators and their products are listed here. If you need material in a language that’s not listed, we may still be able to help. Please call us on 0115 936 6123 to see what else is available.