End to foreign language support for driving tests

From April next year UK driving test candidates will no longer be able to use foreign language voiceovers and interpreters on test. The move, announced today by Road Safety Minister Robert Goodwill, follows a public consultation.

Currently people whose first language is not English or Welsh can request pre-recorded voiceovers for the computer-based car and motorcycle theory tests in 19 different foreign languages. Candidates can also use approved interpreters on theory tests and practical tests.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “We want to make sure that all drivers have the right skills to use our roads safely and responsibly. One area where we can help ensure this is by requiring all test candidates to take the test in English or Welsh, the national languages.

“This will help to ensure that all new drivers will be able to understand traffic updates or emergency information when they pass their test. It will also help us to reduce the risk of fraud by stopping interpreters from indicating the correct answers to theory test questions.”

The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) consulted earlier this year on a series of proposals reviewing the level of foreign language support available to candidates. This was in response to concerns about potential road safety implications and the risk of fraud, as well as the cost of providing translations.

The response to the consultation was positive with more than 70 per cent of respondents supporting the withdrawal of foreign language voiceovers and interpreters on tests. The consultation received close to 2000 responses.

Key outcomes of the consultation included:

  • the majority of respondents supported the withdrawal of all foreign language assistance
  • many agreed that a lack of understanding of the national language meant that some drivers may not be able to understand road signs, speak with traffic enforcement officers or read details of the rules of the road
  • there was also support for encouraging candidates to learn the national language to improve social cohesion, and for the potential savings to DSA from no longer paying for voiceovers

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