Associated Press — People who hope to drive New York City’s famous yellow cabs must pass tests on such details as driving rules and where they can pick up passengers. But one test they no longer have to take? Whether they have a grasp of English.
A new law that streamlines licensing requirements for different kind of drivers has done away with the longstanding English proficiency test for taxi drivers, which supporters say will eliminate a barrier to the profession for immigrants, who make up 96 percent of the 144,000 cabbies in the city.
It’s also a recognition of how technology has transformed the business. Many drivers now rely on computer navigation programs, rather than verbal directions, to reach a destination. For-hire drivers for app-based services such as Uber, for example, never had to take an English test.
But critics, including some drivers, are giving a side-eye to the idea that a good command of English is no longer considered a basic requirement for a job that involves communicating with passengers and reading street signs.
“If you’re going to work in this country serving the population which is majority made up of American citizens that speak English, you probably should learn how to speak English,” said Tanya Crespo, who was visiting Manhattan from Newport, North Carolina.
Kathy Amato, a tourist from Baltimore, said she wouldn’t ride in a taxi with a driver who couldn’t speak her language.
“They should speak English because we’re in New York City,” she said.
New York City’s taxi and for-hire drivers are already an international bunch, hailing from 167 countries, according to the Taxi and Limousine Commission, which currently offers its licensing tests in English, Spanish, Bengali and Urdu. Click here for more www.ap.com