Dennis Baron has a great post on driving while Spanish.
Manuel Castillo, a California trucker with twenty years experience, was stopped and ticketed by an Alabama state trooper for failure to speak English well enough.
I did not know this was a crime, but it is for commercial truck drivers.
U. S. Department of Transportation regulations require commercial truck drivers “to be able to read and speak the English language sufficiently to” speak with the public, understand road signs, respond to “official inquiries,” and keep records. The states are charged with enforcing these requirements.
Of course enforcement can be tricky.
But since there’s no tube a driver can breathe into that will produce a readout of the amount of English that they know, police officers have no objective standard for assessing whether a driver speaks English well enough to continue safely to their final destination.
These guidelines are funny, especially the scare quotes around hauling:
I can imagine the discussions the team responsible for developing the brochure had about the quotes.
Via Language Log.