English test revised

Language test for foreigners

The Immigration Department has developed a new English skills test to give to prospective foreign workers.

Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson said he expected the Immigration Department would start conducting the new tests on 2 October, after a public education campaign.

‘We have heard your complaints about the English test for work permit holders,’ Mr. Manderson said to the members of the Cayman Islands Society of Human Resource Professionals at their Annual General Meeting last week. ‘Hopefully, the new test will be welcomed by the general public and will effectively eliminate complaints about work permit holders’ inability to speak English.

‘I hope you will find it easier to communicate with work permit holders in the future.’

The changes to the test were made also after the Office of the Complaints Commissioner looked into the testing method and made recommendations.

Mr. Manderson said work permit application forms will be amended to contain questions that require prospective employees to state the level of their proficiency in the English language. The Immigration Department will also publish guidance notes on the subject.

‘The English Skills Test takes approximately 20 minutes and will be conducted by a Senior Immigration Officer assisted by another Immigration Officer in the offices of the Immigration Department at the airport,’ Mr. Manderson said.

The test will have four parts, including a listening comprehension and speaking tasks oral segment.

‘We want to ensure that the worker can speak and understand English well enough to be able to live and work in an English-speaking community,’ Mr. Manderson said.

Test takers will also have to answer very basic questions after reading a simple sentence to test their reading comprehension. The prospective employees will also be asked to read dates on a calendar and newspaper advertisements.

In addition, those taking the test will have to show their ability to write sufficiently well to communicate ideas and information, allowing for some grammatical and spelling errors.

‘Obviously, this is a much more comprehensive test than the current test,’ Mr. Manderson said. ‘However, I strongly believe that the single greatest obstacle to work permit holders assimilating in our community is their inability to speak the English language.’

Mr. Manderson said that he has been asked why an Italian cook who works in a kitchen with other Italians has to know how to speak English in Cayman.

‘I told them it’s because he doesn’t live in that kitchen,’ he said, adding that the ability to read such things as road signs is a matter of safety.

Mr. Manderson said the Immigration Board instructed the Immigration Department on what level of proficiency in English they required of work permit holders and then the test was developed accordingly.

Because the new test is in writing, it will provide a method of proof in case anyone complains about the results.

‘We’ll have the document and we’ll have the score,’ Mr. Manderson said.

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