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Norway taxi drivers hope for easing of 'university level' language requirement

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Norway taxi drivers hope for easing of 'university level' language requirement
File photo: Aleksander Andersen / Scanpix
16:15 CEST+02:00
Earlier this year, regional municipal authorities in Norway’s Buskerud county said that it would require taxi drivers to speak Norwegian at university level. This week, a final decision will be made on the language requirements for drivers.

Taxi companies in Drammen hope that the high demands will be eased, reports broadcaster NRK.

Taxi driver Usman Mohammed Ahmed told NRK that he found the requirement currently specified – B2 level – more advanced than necessary for his role.

“For many people driving taxis today this is a bit too high, because that level of language is required at college or university, not in the taxi business,” he said.

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) definition of level B2 includes being able to “understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in their field of specialization”; as well as "interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party".

The transport department in the Drammen Municipality where Ahmed works is currently preparing its final decision on language requirements for taxi drivers, according to the report.

Odd Ivar Gjersvik, manager with taxi firm Drammen Taxi, told NRK that he expected requirements to be reduced to B1 level.

“I think that the regional municipality will drop to [B1] level, as anytning else would be unreasonable,” he said.

Taxi drivers’ Norwegian skills should nonetheless carry higher expectations than for bus drivers, he added.

“A taxi driver must transport school children, the elderly and people with dementia. They must feel comfortable that they can communicate with the driver well. As such, we believe that B1 is a sufficient requirement,” he said.

CEFR’s definition of B1 includes being able to “understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.”, and the ability to “deal with most situations likely to arise while travelling in an area where the language is spoken”.

Gjersvik added that his company would do all it could to help drivers reach the language demands set down by the municipality, adding that many of his licensees had attended the evening school (folkeuniversitet) in Drammen to improve their Norwegian.

Drivers that had attended the classes had received positive feedback from clients, Gjersvik said.

Ahmen said to NRK that some drivers were awaiting the municipality’s decision with anticipation.

“Many feel that language level B2 is unnecessary, since they have worked for many years and never received complaints,” he said.

Transport officer Gro Solberg of Buskerud Regional Municipality (Fylkeskommune) declined to comment on the issue but confirmed that a decision would be made this week, writes NRK. 

READ ALSO: ‘Skam' hailed for making Norwegian language cool

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