Nashville man fails drivers test 14 times due to no Arabic option

A Nashville man says he’s failed his driver’s license test 14 times, but it’s not because he doesn’t know the material.
Published: Apr. 25, 2022 at 6:50 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - A Nashville man said he’s failed his driver’s license test 14 times, but it’s not because he doesn’t know the material.

The written portion of the state’s driving test is offered in five languages: English, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, and German. Unfortunately, Arabic is not offered despite being a widely spoken language in our state. That’s causing significant issues for one Nashville man.

Traveling on foot is one of the few ways Nagi Abaza gets around, book and bag in tow.

Inside the bag is a driver’s manual. Abaza’s New Jersey license expired a few years ago, but he needs a Tennessee license now.

“The main reason I got a good chance with Amazon. $31 an hour,” says Abaza.

Abaza needs to pass a written test at a Drivers Services Center to become a delivery driver. He says he knows that place well.

“Everybody knows my name already,” he says. “You know why? Because there are more than 14 times I’ve not passed the test.”

Abaza’s first language is Arabic, a language Tennessee doesn’t offer for the test.

“Believe me, I study very well,” Abaza says. “But believe me, the questions come in like (throws punch). I want to explain, but the language is not allowing me to explain what the problems are in the DM test.”

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security says while people can’t use their phones to translate, they can use dictionaries. Abaza, on the other hand, knows that will take time.

“If the test is three, four hours, believe me, I need more than four hours,” Abaza points out.

If the state offered the test in Arabic, he says he’d already be behind the wheel.

“Believe me in one second, I would answer. Why? Remember this is my language. And then I’ve studied already. I know everything in English I know already.”

Census data shows Arabic is the third most spoken language in Tennessee. The test is offered in Arabic in 20 other states.

The Department of Safety and Homeland Security said they are always looking for ways to expand their services. However, they said changes depend on economic and population trends.

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