Passengers taking a cab in New York City may want to brush up on their languages as their driver is no longer expected to speak English.
New rules came into force on Friday scrapping the English proficiency exam faced by anyone wanting to drive one of New York’s iconic yellow cabs.
There are about 13,600 taxis in New York and more than 40,000 drivers, of whom, at the last count, 82 per cent were born outside the United States.
Leap into a cab in New York there is a fair chance the driver’s first language could be Urdu, Sylheti or Spanish.
Cab drivers in New York are drawn from an estimated 167 countries with the largest proportion, 24 per cent, coming from Bangladesh.
Unlike their counterparts in London, New York drivers are not expected to go through a test as rigorous as “the Knowledge”, which requires the ability to memorise thousands of streets within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross.
Last year even the rudimentary ability to navigate around New York was watered down with the 80 question test being cut down to only 10.
Many taxi drivers in New York, where the heart of the city is built on a simple numerical grid, use portable satellite navigation devices as an aid.
Like many cities, New York’s taxi drivers are facing competition from Uber and the changes are intended to make sure that the same rules apply to all drivers.
Under the latest changes the New York cab driver’s test is now available in several languages.
The Bill which passed the city council and was signed off by Bill de Blasio, New York’s mayor, was intended to make it easier for immigrants to find work as cab drivers.
However some foreigners going through the more rudimentary test told the New York Times that they believed the changes were wrong.
“You have to communicate with the customer,” said Pasang Sherpa, 40. “You’re not working in a kitchen. You’re driving a cab; you’re dealing with the public.”