Learning English - Words in the News
31 October, 2005 - Published 14:16 GMT
A test to be British
About ninety thousand adults apply to become British citizens every year. Now each and every one of them will have to take a written test before they can qualify as citizens. This report from Paul Keller
For years those becoming British citizens simply had to swear an oath of allegiance in front of a lawyer and then receive a certificate in the post. But in 2004 Britain introduced a compulsory citizenship ceremony which required new citizens to take a broader oath promising to respect Britain's rights, freedoms and laws and all of this in front of civic dignitaries dressed in full regalia. Now the government is going even further: it's launching a test designed to establish knowledge of the country and its language.
The test contains twenty-four questions on life in the United Kingdom and will last for 45 minutes. If applicants don't pass the first time they can try again and again. The questions range from simple tests of knowledge such as - what's the minimum age for buying alcohol? To exploring more complex cultural issues - How interested are young people in politics? The government believes the test is part of a process that will help new citizens to feel they belong and ease racial tension by removing suspicion of immigrants.
Supporters point to other countries which have similar schemes - particularly the United States where citizenship classes and ceremonies have long been common practice. Opponents however say it's all too nationalistic and puts undue pressure on newcomers to conform, working against the efforts to build a multi-cultural society in Britain.
Paul Keller, BBC
to swear an oath of allegiance
ease racial tension
have long been common practice