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New Law Lets People Take Part Of Drivers License Exam In Spanish


A new law will let people take part of the South Dakota drivers license exam in Spanish. The measure takes effect January 1st.

Many South Dakota industries, including agriculture and tourism, rely on Spanish speaking workers. And the ability to legally drive a car is necessary, especially in rural areas.

Debra Owen is Director of Public Policy for the Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce.

Owen says Spanish is the primary language for around four percent of the state’s population.

She says a recent conversation with a rancher highlights the need for multilingual tests.

“He said ‘Jesus is a fabulous worker on my ranch, he’s a great guy and we can talk all day long. I understand him, he understands me, but if he had to read the breakfast agenda – for our breakfast this morning – he couldn’t do that.’”

Owen says driving can be necessary for employment and providing written materials in Spanish helps people drive safely and legally.

Alex Ramirez is Owner of USA Media TV in Sioux Falls. He says it took more than a decade to pass the new state law.

Ramirez says there is a big difference between being able to speak conversationally and read in a second language.

“People think that, just because you have been here a number of years, you should be speaking the language 100 percent and I came here when I was 17. We’re talking about thirty-something years now and I still have difficulty with certain things, you know, understanding certain phrases.”

Ramirez says driving legally gives immigrant workers a sense of self reliance.

He also says it allows them to take care of their families.

-Contact SDPB’s David Scottby email.