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English No Longer Requirement for New York City Taxi Drivers


It is not always easy to get a cab in New York City. But once you get one, you may not have to say a word. Pictured here, a taxicab drives past 51 Park Place, NYC. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

It is not always easy to get a cab in New York City. But once you get one, you may not have to say a word. Pictured here, a taxicab drives past 51 Park Place, NYC. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

In New York City, taxicab drivers are a largely immigrant community. And now, they are no longer required to know English.

In April, New York City’s city council approved a bill that allows tests required to get a taxi license to be given in foreign languages. The bill went into effect on August 26.

New York City's taxi industry has been dominated by foreign-born drivers for decades. Only four percent of current New York cab drivers were born in the United States. That statistic comes from the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Sponsors of the bill in the city council argued that the law will allow more immigrants who need work to support themselves.

Some New York City residents are concerned that the new law would make communication between the driver and the customer even more difficult.

Residents are also unsure how they would instruct a driver which route to take or precisely where they are headed. Also, what if payment issues arise? How will the drivers communicate?

Perhaps technology is the answer.

Before advances in technology, the conversation between driver and customer might go something like this:

Driver: Where are you heading?

Customer: I need to go to West 79th Street and Broadway. But I saw there was construction on the West Side Highway, so can you go up 10th Avenue?

Driver: The traffic there is terrible. How about 8th and cut across on Broadway?

Customer: Sure, but I’m really in a hurry. Can you step on it?

Driver: Okay, here you are. West 79th and Broadway. That’ll be $22.50.

Customer: Here’s $30. Do you have a five?

Driver: Let me look.

Customer: Never mind! Just keep the change.

But these days most taxi drivers use automated payment systems. People pay the fare with their credit or debit cards. They can also use the machines to add a tip.

Also, with the increased use of GPS and navigation apps, communication between drivers and riders has decreased. They really don’t need to talk to each other.

Many New Yorkers feel that as long as their driver can get them to their destination safely, conversation is not needed. Generally speaking, New Yorkers are not known for chit-chatting.

Even hailing or flagging a taxi does not require speaking. Simply raise your arm and a taxi – you hope – will come.

I’m Anna Matteo.

Esha Sarai wrote this story for VOA News in New York City. Anna Matteo adapted it for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.

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Words in This Story

taxicab – n. an automobile that carries passengers for a fare usually determined by the distance traveled : also called simply “taxi” or “cab”

dominate – v. to be predominant in

statistic – n. a number that represents a piece of information (such as information about how often something is done, how common something is, etc.)

precisely – adv. exactly

to head – v. to go in a specified direction or toward a specified place

step on it informal phrase : go faster, typically in a motor vehicle

fare – n. the money a person pays to travel on a bus, train, boat, or airplane or in

credit card – n. a small plastic card that is used to buy things that you agree to pay for later

debit card – n. a small plastic card that is used to buy things by having the money to pay for them taken directly from your bank account

tip – n. a gift or a sum of money tendered for a service performed or anticipated

GPS – n. abbreviation for global positioning satellite a radio system that uses signals from satellites to tell you where you are and to give you directions to other places

navigation – n. the act, activity, or process of finding the way to get to a place when you are traveling in a ship, airplane, car, etc.

app – n. computers : a computer program that performs a special function

chitchat – n. friendly conversation about things that are not very important : – v. to talk about things that are not very important

destination – n. a place to which a person is going or something is being sent

hail – v. to greet or summon by calling <hail a taxi>

flag – v. to signal to stop <flag a taxi>

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