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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Not Passing your HAZARD test - Driving

Not passing your hazard test means another $30 or so. This can add up if some people fail to achieve the test- over and over. Failing is easily done if the student doesn't have the language or computer skills to pass.
I found myself in the Burwood VicRoads Office the other day (with my own son) and happened to meet a Karen student from Burma. He recognised me and changed seats to come next to me & showed me his ticket. They were reading out the tickets in a robotic voice, "ticket, zero, N, R number, seven, teen, go to counter, number, 8"  and followed quickly by the next announcement for the next number. This Karen man, his name was Bell, looked like he'd just walked out of Asia, complete with dark green woven shoulder bag with long pink & green tassles draped over his shoulder, could not keep up with the speed of the spoken words and numbers. I helped him get to the right desk and the lady just said, 'yes can I help you?'
So after working out that he needed to pay for his (3rd) failed test and book the next one, I decided to take things a bit further. I said to the Australian woman, obviously there is a problem here, and it may not be that his knowledge of the driving skill is limited but perhaps there was a communication problem or a lack of computer skills. (The test is done on a computer, and knowing how to use the mouse is essential). Could we get an interpreter to sit with him during the test to identify the problem? She went away and came back to say there was a Burmese interpreter to which the student replied he definately did NOT want this. But he would accept the Australian one. I tried many times to find out the reasons for this. Finally, a Burmese Chin driving instructor, with better English, entered the waiting room and told me that the students' Burmese was very limited. Therefore it would be more stressful. Just because the man comes from Burma, doesn't mean that he speaks Burmese! I explained this to the woman who gave a look of slight shock. There are so many ethnic language and cultural groups in many different states in Myanmar country, that people don't necessarily have the knowledge of the national Burmese language. They also may have been fleeing their land and experiencing many hardships that 'going to school' (and therefore learning 'Burmese'), has not been an option.

The encounter in the license office last week taught me that while many service officers and administrators deal with refugees, they often don't know a lot about them nor how to deal with situations. English teaching has taught me the skill of communicating across barriers. It is an art that many people don't see as an art. Often I have been in the situation of interpreting English language into ESL or vise-versa.
 I hope that people will learn to trust Australians and start to feel like they are welcome and they can make a positive difference to our country with their presence.

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