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TODAY'S QUESTION: Should Missouri implement English-only driver's exam?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 12:45 p.m. CST, Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A bill proposed by Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O’Fallon, seeks to make the driver’s license exam in Missouri an English-only test without the use of an interpreter.

Missouri offers the written exam in 11 foreign languages including Spanish, Chinese, Greek and Bosnian.

In support of the bill, Oklahoma state Rep. Randy Terrill said making the change to the test would encourage immigrants to learn English and helps immigrants avoid being a “safety hazard” on the road.

Oklahoma is one of nine states currently offering English-only written test. Other states include Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. However, South Dakota allows for assistance from interpreters.

Before Missouri voters passed Amendment 1 in 2008, making English the official language of government proceedings, Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates argued most immigrants want to learn English, but there weren't enough English language courses for adults.

Missouri isn’t alone in a current push for English-only exams. Georgia, Idaho, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee are also considering similar legislation.

Should Missouri make the driver’s license exam available only in English?


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Comments

Jude Huntz February 16, 2010 | 9:29 a.m.

This bill is useless. If the motive is to punish the undocumented immigrants, the state already prohibits them from even obtaining a driver's license in Missouri. That would leave documented people to suffer under an unjust and undue burden. This bill would do nothing but to harm our economy by inhibiting lawful people from obtaining that which is necessary to have a job.
Learning English is an important skill that we should encourage. However, the legislature would do well to encourage through funding of English as a second language programs in the state. As noted in the article, there are not enough of these programs to go around. Anyone who has tried to learn another language knows how hard it is. Don't punish people - lift them up.
If you look at the states that have enacted this directive, all of them have worse economies than other places because they lose new residents, income, and jobs to these bills.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 16, 2010 | 10:45 a.m.

Of course it should be. Especially if we agree that there's value in having English as the primary national language of America. If we wish to change that to Mexicalyish then by all means please do so and let's all be done with it.
I also concur that we need more ESL classes. Perhaps public libraries can recruit volunteers to help tutor. Sample written driving exams could be incorporated into the reading materials.
[The road test, however, can be done in any language. Considering that there are so many foreign cars on the road, it would be too big of a burden to accommodate all of them.]
(...be able to speak, read and write simple English, and pass a test on U.S. history and government.")
http://www.ptla.org/immigrants/english/c...

(Report Comment)
George M Melby February 16, 2010 | 11:47 a.m.

I wholeheartedly agree that the Drivers License test (and all documents) should be in English only. However... as soon as Missourians prove themselves intelligent enough to learn a NEW language before this law passes, I am all for it. Be careful what you ask for, you may just get it!
What a foul, anti-human bill this is!
Dakotahgeo

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 16, 2010 | 1:56 p.m.

@George M Melby:

Nearly 2 billion people speak English. Spanish comes in second at almost 500 million. In America, if I chose to live in parts of Florida or parts of Southern California or South Texas, I would probably need to brush up and improve on my High School Spanish.

However, in Missouri, ideology, philosophy, religious beliefs and the tower of babel aside, what possible logical reason would suffice for having 11 optional foreign language written exams provide other then discourage people from learning English?

The drivers license is considered by many as a privilege. And even if it were argued to be a "right" there are still contingencies which should be met when it comes to operating a motor vehicle.

Why must everything become a human rights issue?

Assimilate people by offering free ESL classes in libraries, in churches, in foreign language households and via other non-suffering servants of God.

Explain to me why having the written portion of an exam to issue a Missouri, USA drivers license not be given in English only?

Why is that inhuman or inhumane?

(And, kindly give me your answer in English, por favor.)

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith February 16, 2010 | 2:39 p.m.

There is another, technical, reason for requiring that motorists in the United States be able to read English. Our road signs are in English. Folks who drive in Europe, for example, encounter a rather extensive array of standardized signs, most of which have no writing at all on them. That is how the language barrier is overcome: one doesn't need to know German, French, Spanish, Czech and Greek, or whatever else in order to "read" the signs.

Could we do the same here with signs? Yes, but the cost would be considerable - and of course we have nothing better that we need to spend the money on! - and if we started tomorrow it would probably take several years to get the job done. Then what would we do with already licensed drivers? They'd need to learn what the new signs mean. Maybe we'd feel we had to test them? That would be popular!

BTW, international road signs are not that hard to learn. If I did it, so could you.

(Report Comment)
Rob Weir February 16, 2010 | 3:22 p.m.

Ellis: Good point, but most signs in the U.S. use standard symbolic language as well. This sign is in Spanish -- is it hard to understand?

http://media.wiley.com/Lux/47/73947.imag...

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 16, 2010 | 4:35 p.m.

@Rob Weir:
If I were driving down Creasy Springs Road and came across that, I'd first be wondering why an Italian was suddenly giving me the high sign?
Then I'd realize that it probably meant Stop, tall amigo crossing.
In shock, I'd be waiting for the sign to turn green.
Finally, I'd check my Global Positioning System, realize I was not in the Twilight Zone, regain my composure and proceed with caution.
But that's just me.

(Report Comment)
Mahrya Monson February 16, 2010 | 5:34 p.m.

What is the point? To punish whom? WE ARE A NATION OF IMMIGRANTS. There is no reason to prohibit people who are in this country legally from having the opportunity to have the language of the test something they can understand. I have been in a country where I could not speak the language. That did not mean I did not want to obey the laws. We need to continue to welcome those who are "not like" us. Once we were the people who "were not like'us.'" Why do some of us want to punish those who want to become a part of our nation and obey our laws? I am proud that we offer the test in all these languages. That is much safer for all of us.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 16, 2010 | 7:55 p.m.

("Why do some of us want to punish those who want to become a part of our nation and obey our laws?")
Legal immigration is a good thing.
I contend that preparing those who do not understand the simple written exam for a driver's license conducted in my native language as a reward, not as punishment.

(Report Comment)
Judy Diaz February 16, 2010 | 10:22 p.m.

It's true... this bill is useless. The undocumented immigrants can't get their driver's licence in Missouri.
But there are other immigrants coming to study, to work "with papers" and at the beginning they need the licence and they are not ready to take a test in English.
The regular citizen is the one suffering... everybody should get their license... with test taken in any language... If everybody takes the tests "understanding" every single word... then there is no mistake and everybody knows the law...
Do you speak another language? No? That's why you don't know what it means...
As another reader says (I quote) "This bill would do nothing but to harm our economy by inhibiting lawful people from obtaining that which is necessary to have a job.
Learning English is an important skill that we should encourage. However, the legislature would do well to encourage through funding of English as a second language programs in the state. As noted in the article, there are not enough of these programs to go around. Anyone who has tried to learn another language knows how hard it is. Don't punish people - lift them up."
Do our representatives need ideas to work on real bills? Bills that will solve real problems? I have a list... just tell me and I can start...

(Report Comment)
Lea Koesterer February 17, 2010 | 10:05 a.m.

If Missouri had adequate mass transit systems then getting a driver's license wouldn't be so essential to the well being of the residents, regardless of the language they speak. The current reality is that people living in Missouri need to be able to drive. The ability to drive safely is not limited to those who speak English. Remember: the objective of requiring a driver's license is for people to drive safely. The International Driver's License test is administered in English for us. We can drive in Germany, France, Spain, etc., even if we don't speak German, French or Spanish. I suspect there is a hidden agenda behind the move for an 'English only' test.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 17, 2010 | 12:12 p.m.

("I suspect there is a hidden agenda behind the move for an 'English only' test.")
A visit with Rep. Cynthia Davis might help you quell your suspicions.
http://www.cynthiadavis.net/

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 17, 2010 | 1:50 p.m.

("Remember: the objective of requiring a driver's license is for people to drive safely.")
That could be an objective. There's probably many more reasons, objectives and benefits for requiring a driver's license.
Maybe if a non-English speaking person, who can afford to purchase and maintain a car, were to first spend their own money on hiring their own private tutor to learn how to pass a relatively simple Motor Vehicle's exam they would actually have accomplished a pretty noble thing.
Should government entities of the US of A also be expected to provide automobiles, "free" petro, insurance and maintenance to those who can not pass a simple English MV exam as well?

(Report Comment)
Fred McMurray March 31, 2010 | 2:10 a.m.

Traffic safety, my foot. In case you haven't noticed, ALL signage on the roadways are required to be symbols and all signs are particular shapes and colors to preclude the need for reading text. Yes, there are signs that state road names or what have you, but the real traffic control signs can be observed completely and wholly without reading a word of English. This is a racist bill and a huge waste of time and money.

(Report Comment)
Russell Kaiser April 28, 2010 | 7:53 p.m.

In case you haven't noticed, ALL signage on the roadways is NOT required to be symbols and some signs regarding construction work and change in road conditions are often the same shape. Some states may have them ALL as symbols, but not MO. If you believe so you haven't traveled around the entire state as I have. All it takes is one non-English speaking immigrant to miss a sign about construction being done, a lane being diverted up ahead (before the big lit up flashing arrow if there is one) or something such as that to have them run over some construction workers or rear end the person in front of them or beside them because they realize it too late. Oh well, honestly, half the people in this state that drive shouldn't be doing so anyway so what does it matter?

(Report Comment)
Dennis Carr January 15, 2011 | 7:57 a.m.

"Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates argued most immigrants want to learn English" These "advocates" of criminal behavior lie! Most Immigrants since this country started have learned English. Even children in China are being trained in English,...Hispanic's do want to learn and will refuse and why bother, everyone offers the signs and instructions in Hispanic,,,Which is not Spanish, but mostly Mexican street language. Remember these are not scholars coming to work in the meat processing plants and working the fields, in most cases they have minimal understanded of what it right and wrong, which they learned from their very own Government that has no respect for it's citizens.

(Report Comment)
Dennis Carr January 15, 2011 | 7:58 a.m.

Should have read!.......
Hispanic's don't want to learn and will refuse and why bother

(Report Comment)
Polly Brown January 15, 2011 | 8:53 a.m.

Absolutely, the exam should be in English.

(Report Comment)
Polly Brown January 15, 2011 | 8:55 a.m.

Who remembers "Driving is not a right, it's a privilege."

(Report Comment)
Eric Cox January 15, 2011 | 10:14 a.m.

Driving should be a right, in order for free people to do any kind of business they need to travel, public transportation in this country is practically non-existent. I think it's obvious if you can't drive you are at a huge disadvantage, it's just one more way the established try and keep the non-established down.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire January 24, 2011 | 2:29 p.m.

Who let all the people come over here from Trib Talk?

(Report Comment)

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