Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.

JLL generously supports MinnPost’s New Americans coverage.

State of Minnesota to provide driving permit test in Karen language

It’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally here: The state of Minnesota will include Karen on the list of languages provided for the driving permit test.

The news came two months after MinnPost first reported that leaders of Minnesota’s Karen community — an ethnic group originally from southeast Asia — were unable to get officials at the Department of Public Safety (DPS) act on one urgent request: Offer the permit test in Karen. 

George Thawmoo
MinnPost photo by Ibrahim Hirsi
George Thawmoo

Speaking with MinnPost earlier this summer, George Thawmoo, a bilingual counselor at the Wilder Foundation, and Morrison Johnny, a program manager at the Karen Organization of Minnesota, noted that they have had several meetings with senior officials at DPS about the matter — but to no avail.

“We are asking the driver’s manual to be translated into Karen,” said Johnny of the department, which provides the test in five other non-English languages: Hmong, Russian, Somali, Spanish and Vietnamese.  “They offer the test in many other languages. Why can’t we have it in Karen?”

Today, DPS has an answer. In an email to MinnPost, the department stated that it’s in the process of adding the language to the list. “Negotiations are underway with a vendor who can provide the knowledge tests in as many as 50 languages,” said Doug Neville, the department’s deputy spokesman, in the email. “We requested Karen be one of those languages.”

The Karen language is spoken by the more than 9,000 Karen refugees in Minnesota who escaped persecution and ethnic cleansing in Burma. 

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Mike Schumann on 09/10/2016 - 01:08 am.

    Foreign Language Drivers Test

    This is absolutely ridiculous. What about German, French, Dutch, etc….. Where will this end.

    English is our official language. If you decide to move to the US, your number one priority needs to be learning English. If you are not interested in doing that, you should move somewhere else.

    There are MANY more refugees trying to come to the US than we are taking. Priority should be given to those refugees who know English. If you are in a refugee camp waiting to relocate to the US, wouldn’t it make sense to learn the language while you wait, so you can hit the ground running when you get here?

Leave a Reply