Lawsuit seeks driver’s license exam in other languages

Kikko Sana Eram, who is a court interpreter for those who speak Chuukese knows how hard the Hawaii driver’s license written test can be.

“I think three, four of the test I failed,” Eram said.

She studied the manual, but that didn’t help.

“It was kind of confusing repeating the same thing over and over,” Eram said.

Which is why a group called FACE, which stands for Faith Action for Community Equity, filed a lawsuit against the State Department of Transportation.

Years ago, the state used to offer the test in these languages: Tagalog, Mandarin, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, Samoan, and Tongan.

The state says it’s planning to bring those back and add Spanish, Marshallese, Chuukese, Ilocano, and Hawaiian. But it won’t happen until the end of the year — at the earliest.

It’s not soon enough for the group filing the lawsuit, which says at the very least, allow test takers to have an interpreter.

“There’s absolutely no reason why people can’t have interpreters assist them with the driver’s license test. People should be able to go in there and take that test today,” attorney Gavin Thornton said.

As for why the state stopped offering it in other languages in the first place, a DOT spokeswoman says new questions were added to the test and they were never translated. So the state did away with the other languages altogether.

KHON2 spoke with other test takers at the Department of Motor Vehicles and they don’t necessarily agree that it should be offered in other languages.

“We’re in America and it’s expected for everybody to know how to speak in English,” Joyce Jimenez said.

“I’ve been to a lot of countries and it’s more emphasized in their language, so over here we should emphasize more on English, so it’s unsafe,” Aristotle Jimenez said.

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