California DMV Removes 25 Language Options from License Test

The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles has limited the languages available for written driver’s license tests to seven options, removing some of the state’s most-widely spoken languages.

(TNS) — The California DMV is preparing to stop offering written drivers license tests in 25 languages, reducing the available test languages to seven, according to a directive issued last week.

After the change, the test would be offered only in English, Spanish, Armenian, Chinese, Hindi, Punjabi and Vietnamese, according to the April 27 memo.

The directive says those are the only languages in which the department is required to offer the test under a state law passed in 1973. The Dymally-Alatorre Language Services Act says an agency must offer translation in the native tongue of any group that makes up at least 5 percent of the population the state or local agency serves.

The full list of 32 languages in which the test is currently offered is not readily obtainable on the DMV’s website. The department didn’t immediately provide a full list upon request Thursday afternoon, nor did it immediately provide responses to other questions.

The most spoken languages in California are English, Spanish, Chinese (including Cantonese and Mandarin), Vietnamese, Tagalog (including Filipino), Korean, Armenian, Farsi, Arabic, Russian, Japanese, Punjabi and Khmer, according to a 2019 report by the state’s census advisory committee.

The DMV memo describes the changes as part of a Knowledge Testing Modernization project, but provides almost no details. In addition to reducing the available languages, the modernization project will increase the number of test questions to 25, from 18, according to the memo.

The memo says the department “revised the knowledge tests using industry best practices to ensure high quality, valid, reliable, and fair tests are available.”

Modernizing the DMV was one of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first priorities upon taking office, and he appointed Steve Gordon, formerly a corporate executive at international conglomerate Cisco, to head the modernization effort as the department’s director.

Accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the department has moved many services online that once required an office visit, and the department has begun accepting credit cards and other mobile wallet payment options, according to its website.

©2021 The Sacramento Bee. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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