Are we breaking down language barriers or are we enforcing them?
Recently there has been a law passed in New York City that no longer requires taxi drivers to have to take an English language proficiency exam in order to receive their driver’s credentials. While there are people, drivers, and passengers alike that are both for and against this concept, I think there is a bigger underlying reason for them to bring about such an arbitrary law during these times. Think about it, in a job where communication is minimal yet necessary, why would you make the task of doing so even more difficult? Now, before I provide my thoughts on this situation, I would like to first say that part of me understands, with the way GPS technology is progressing it can be said that the need for a taxi driver to speak English is invalid. I mean all the driver would have to do is place the address of the destinations into their phone and they will be provided with turn by turn directions in the language of their choice. But, what if there is an emergency situation, or to take it down a notch, what if the passenger simply has a change of plans and they must provide an alternate destination to their driver. The lack of common language, which is English in this case, will provide more complications than necessary and could lead to confusion which could lead to a passenger arriving at their destination tardy, missing an appointment, or as stated before, could cost them precious moments that may not be so easily salvageable. 96% of the taxi driving population in New York City are immigrants, some of whom have been driving long enough to have had to take the language proficiency portion of their test, some of whom view the passing of said test as a rite of passage providing them with the skills necessary to do their job and provide for their families easier, as people are more prone to tipping when the ride goes smoothly. However, there are some drivers who feel that there isn’t a need for any proficiency in English speaking, even though they’ve chosen to live in a country whose primary language is in fact English, stating that a person’s driving ability should not be quantified by how well they can speak a particular language. I personally believe that this is all a part of a much larger agenda, which may seem a bit like a conspiracy theory when you read it, but humor me for a second. The entire country has been up in arms about the immigration situation in America and the upcoming election, along with some of the more colorful xenophobic commentary by Presidential hopeful Donald Trump. I believe that the removal of the English proficiency portion of the taxi drivers licensing process is underneath the surface, a ploy to drive an even bigger wedge between those who were born on American soil and those who immigrated here for whatever reasons. Most conservatives are always looking for something to voice their objections about, especially when it comes to people who they don’t deem as “American” so this lack of communication and the possible disarray that it can cause on a day to day basis will become even more fuel to add to their fire and it will push the current state of xenophobia in this country even closer to its tipping point. Now of course that is just my opinion and speculation on the matter; there’s no way to know what the true purpose of adjusting the licensing process in this manner is however, it does make one think about how often there have been laws passed under the auspices of positivity and progress that, in the end, did more harm than good.