Both the theory and practical driving tests are only available in English or Welsh.
This was a change that was called for by 70% of respondents to public consultation by the then DSA (now DVSA). Previously candidates could take their car and motorbike theory tests with a voiceover in one of 19 foreign languages, and use interpreters on theory and practical tests. This gave rise to a number of fraudulent operators who assisted candidates with what answer to select rather than directly translating.
As all our road signs are in English or Welsh, it doesn’t make sense to have tests in languages other than English and Welsh.
Over 60,000 people sat a driving test in the UK using an interpreter or foreign voiceovers in 2013. The tests were available in 19 different languages.
The system had an obvious weakness that examiners didn’t always understand the language that it was being interpreted to, and therefore the interpreters could easily offer coaching or indicate the correct answer to the candidate. This had been happening and over 1000 licences have been revoked since 2009. Since the fraud was discovered several people were charged and have gone to jail for this, like Solomon Tweneboah and Allyson Ng.
Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, said: “We want to make sure that all drivers have the right skills to use our roads safely and responsibly and one way we can do 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 government currently supports the translations to the tune of around a quarter of a million pounds per year.
If you have dyslexia or other reading difficulties you will still be able to take the theory test with an English or Welsh voiceover, and if you are deaf or have hearing difficulties you can take the theory test in British sign language (BSL) and take a BSL interpreter with you on the practical test.