Can I use an interpreter for my driving test?

In the past, the DVSA permitted anyone who did not speak English as their first language to have an interpreter during a practical test. Their interpreter could be either their driving instructor who fluently spoke the pupil’s first language or alternatively, a family member or friend who was over the age of 16. During a theory test, learners also had their choice between 19 different language voiceovers along with English and Welsh to help translate test questions.

The interpreter or translator was able to repeat instructions no more than once, and if there was any hint the pupil may be cheating, the examiner was entitled to abort the test.

However, as of April 2014, these laws changed. You can no longer have an interpreter during your practical test, and all theory test voiceovers have been removed.

man wearing ear piece

Laws On Language Support During A Driving Test

During 2013, the Driving Standards Agency reviewed the use of an interpreter during a practical test and voiceover during a theory test.

They had four different options to choose from:

  • Option 1: Remove voiceovers altogether and no longer allow any interpreters during practical or theory tests.
  • Option 2: Remove voiceovers but still allow interpreters.
  • Option 3: Allow voiceovers but allow interpreters during practical tests.
  • Option 4: Keep the laws the same.

After weighing up several different options on the best route to move forward, they decided that, due to the high level of support for option 1, all voiceovers would be removed from theory tests and interpreters were no longer allowed during practical and theory tests.

Although language support in regards to voiceovers and interpreters has been removed, support is still available those who have a disability, health condition or learning difficulty. For example, British Sign Language interpreters are still available and adjustments such as extra time can be given to those with dyslexia.

For full details on support for those with a disability, health condition or learning difficulty and laws on language support during a driving test, head over to the following GOV.UK information page.

Why Can You No Longer Have An Interpreter Or Voiceover?

Interpreters and voiceovers were removed for many different reasons, including the following:

Road Safety – Removing interpreters and voiceovers meant that learners have to learn all road signs in English or Welsh. Driving in the UK means that drivers will come across several signs indicating a hazard, road closure or diversion. Learning road signs in English or Welsh means pupils will understand every piece of information they will come across.

Encourages Learning The National Language – As taking your practical and theory test in the UK’s national languages is now the only option, this will encourage more non-English speakers to integrate into society and communicate with others.

Reduce Chance Of Cheating – If the examiner does not speak the language interpreted, there are simply no ways of knowing whether the interpreter is giving advice or answers to the learner. Removing interpreters means there is no risk of cheating.

Fewer Costs – Having to fund theory test centres to update their voiceovers each year with new terms costs a considerable amount of money. Removing voiceovers means no additional costs.

If you would like to research further into the review, investigation and final documented outcome of language support, take a look at the Driving Standards Agency Response to consultation report.

We asked John Smith, who is one of our local driving instructors in Luton, regarding his thoughts on the new changes, he said:
“I understand that, at first, the idea of no longer having the option for a translator may be rather annoying and seem unfair; however, I do think it was the right thing to do. I’ve had a pupil in the past who had a translator to give instructions in Urdu during their test. I could tell that the examiner, who was new to the centre, wasn’t too happy with it and to no surprise, he aborted the test claiming they were cheating. It was really disheartening for the pupil.”

driving test marking sheet

Taking Foreign Language Driving Lessons

Although you will need to gain a basic understanding of the English language to take your theory and practical test, if you feel as if you will learn quicker with an instructor who speaks your native language, this can be arranged.

In the first few months, when driving is unfamiliar and grasping basic driving safety skills are vital, you may benefit from taking foreign language driving lessons. It means that your instructor can explain things such as manoeuvres in a manner you will understand more, helping you to learn quicker.

Due to the high demand for driving lessons in a foreign language, we are always eager to take on driving instructors who are able to make our pupils feel more comfortable and confident. driveJohnson’s has several different driving instructors across the UK who speak more than one language including Punjabi, Polish, Romanian and Hindi, all of which can help you to prepare for your theory and practical test. We do not charge more for foreign language driving lessons and can help to tailor your learning experience to your requirements.

To give you an insight into learning with a foreign speaking instructor, we spoke to one of our former pupils Imran Sadiq, who was taking driving lessons in Romford and he said the following: I had a driving instructor who spoke Urdu and also took my test with an interpreter, so passed easily. However, now my sister is taking lessons, and I think she may struggle with not having the same help I had. I do agree its important to understand road signs, but I don’t agree with the changes in language support.

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