Calls to abandon English language citizenship test

This time from a Lebanese migrant that has failed the test eight times:

Obtaining Australian citizenship has been a “dream” that Lebanese father-of-two Radwan Sharaf has held since arriving in 2009.

The 39-year-old works as a house painter and relies on his job to support his family…

But it has been his inability to read and write in English and Arabic which has placed a roadblock in his path to obtaining citizenship.

He has tried and failed the Australian citizenship exam on eight occasions, and his constant failures have placed added pressure and anxiety on him.

“I have taken the test eight times – eight. My English is non-existent…

To pass the exam, an applicant must answer 75 per cent of the 20 English questions correctly…

Mr Sharaf said the federal government needed to consider easing its regulations regarding the test, and perhaps running the exam in languages other than English..

“I ask the government to bring in an Arabic translator to translate the exam”…

A spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs told SBS Arabic24: “The Australian Citizenship Act 2007 requires applicants to have a basic knowledge of English. The citizenship test is not available in languages other than English”…

The spokesperson said the department “recognises that some people may experience difficulty in passing the test” and that there are a “range of measures in place” to assist…

Although admitting that the assisting procedures appear to be appropriate, Mr Sharaf said it does not take into account illiterate people who do not know how to read and write at all.

The Productivity Commission’s Migrant Intake into Australia report explicitly noted “the fundamental importance of strong English-language skills for an immigrant’s integration and wellbeing in Australia” and explicitly recommended “significant reforms within the current system” and “‘raising the bar’ by shifting to a universal points test while tightening entry requirements relating to age, skills and English-language proficiency”.

In principle, it makes perfect sense for prospective migrants and citizens to be required to speak and read English. It is Australia’s national language and being able to understand and effectively communicate in English is central to integrating into the broader community, gaining employment, as well as to fulfil the responsibilities of residency.

The importance of English-language proficiency is also reflected in the median pay of permanent migrants. According to the ABS, migrants with English-speaking backgrounds earn significantly more than those from non-English speaking backgrounds:

All visas:

Skilled visas:

That said, mandating English language proficiency is a second order issue to lowering Australia’s turbo-charged immigration intake to more sensible and sustainable levels.

Leith van Onselen
Latest posts by Leith van Onselen (see all)


  1. The BystanderMEMBER

    Can’t wait for the inevitable Guardian op-ed about how being ‘forced’ to fit into an existing society is racist and discriminates against people who want to create their own exclusive ethnic enclave in another nation…

    • +1 (as an immigrant I strongly believe one needs to understand the culture and have agreed to migrate into the Australian culture. I agreed to accept and respect the Australian rule of law ….) I do however, strongly believe the dole should be abolished

      • The BystanderMEMBER

        Dole’s fine with me – I’d abolish the JSAs who are leeching off the government’s welfare teat and do sweet f.a. for jobseekers.

      • Let’s get rid of all corporate welfare too eh? And all welfare for the oldies! It’ll be a real hoot! Every man for himself.

    • rob barrattMEMBER

      Racist? Absolutely. And I’ll have the smashed avocado with my usual latté please Pierre….. Mind you, it’s probably a good thing those sort of people can’t afford to live around here. Could bring prices down.

  2. Gotta fill them empty cracking crumbling apartments somehow I guess!

    Harry and Jerry will be stoked! Open the gates! #NoskillsRequired whatsoever…

    Last I heard the boomers were working on devising a scheme by which they would be permitted to take all of their houses with them to heaven, to both live in AND rent out, all tax-free of course. Last word was that it was to pass through the house of reps as early as next week… more to come.

    • Taxpayers will be funding a translator for people like him in order for them to be able to function in this country. Just to add insult to injury.

      In other words, net economic contribution to the country? Deeply negative.

      • This already happens in public hospitals at taxpayer expense. Having a translator in an exam would simply encourage cheating.

  3. If a 39 year old person without established learning difficulties can’t cram for a 20 question test in English proficiency after 11 years of residing in an English speaking country then it’s obvious their participation in that country is within a closed community of the type that nation does not want encouraged. It also shows that they’re contribution to the host country is negligible.

    Back to Lebanon you go.

    • I think this is a great observation.

      Can you imagine rocking up to Switzerland (or anywhere really – Lebanon) and pulling this sh$t. I mean, I am thinking about CH down the track and would not go without improving my tourist French and having some rock solid German to hand.

      • In Switzerland, in addition to Federal requirements for citizenship (which include a language test), local communities also get to set standards that must be met to be naturalised.

        As with most things, they have their sh!t together on this.

    • That can be said for the majority of ethnic communities across Australia. Birds of a feather …

      How many non-white friends do I have? Close to 0. Not that I don’t try … its just we move in different circles.

    • Reckon that Farrakh has a point, actually. We don’t deny citizenship to local-born illiterates, so why should we deny him?

      And it sets a dangerous precedent. If we deny Farrukh in this occasion, the next illiterate housepainter will choose to pursue opportunities in US or Canada rather than Australia and we’ll be left with a massive housepainter shortage that we won’t be able to solve.

  4. Sadly, this is not a surprise me.
    My kids go to a “public” primary school in Sydney North Shore. The notice board at the front of the school and most of the P&C paper handouts are written in both English and Mandarin. I find this very disrespectful to Australians generally.
    Personally I think Public Schools should communicate in English only.

    • I was told that starting in 2021 the entire curriculum will be taught in only one language – mandarin

    • Seriously? Are you able to post a photo and link it? It’s treasonous.
      I’m glad I now don’t pay a cent in taxes to Australia.

      What a pathetic disgrace my country has become that I was once proud of.

        • johnoconnorMEMBER

          Holy moly! You weren’t joking. Who’s paying the future mental health bills for the triggered Taiwanese and HK students (should there be any)? Those two flags represent antithetical and irreconcilable value systems. What a disgrace. My football club (Port Adelaide)’s social media this year went mental for ‘Chinese’ new year for a week straight. But come Australia Day – nothing! Ditto the Australian Ballet. The two Australian institutions closest to my heart. Wither this country.

  5. So Radwan Sharaf has been in Australia since 2009 (11 years arrived as a 28 year old) and their “English is non-existent…” but they have been working “as a house painter and relies on his job to support his family…”. So in that time they have been reading/understanding/signing; mobile phone contracts, car loans, maybe a mortgage and definitely submitting tax returns and declaring income to the govt. So maybe the new citizenship test should be “Do you know enough English to apply for consumer debt?”

    • Adam is right.

      The only question is whether the person will require accommodation and is likely to take on debt. If they tick those boxes, we should find a way to bring them in and keep them here.

  6. I was more functionally literate in Chinese than my cleaning lady from Anhui province in all the years I lived in China. I found learning Chinese difficult due to the crap way I was initially taught the language but I persevered. I eventually found that getting out and just interacting as much as possible with Chinese society and some disciplined self study was the most effective way to improve my language skills. Interaction with Chinese people led to so many amazing benefits and I actually managed to integrate into the society to a level that I was comfortable with and that China and it’s people wanted. It’s not that hard if you don’t have a learning impairment. I knew I could never migrate permanently and that one day I’d leave but I persisted over many years despite having health problems that sometimes made me want to give up because I understood the benefits of acquiring the language of the society I had chosen to live in. This bloke has the opportunity to get citizenship. FFS Just do it.

    • Most human problems are just a lack of effort i can confirm this as someone who is lazy as you can get. We don’t have enough measures to punish this, i was crap at school and still passed and the same with the university units i have done so far.

    • Mining BoganMEMBER

      Whilst in Mexico I had a morning coffee every day with a local bloke who wanted to learn English. Wanted to marry a white girl see, the racialist scum. Changed his mind though when I told him they wouldn’t cook and clean for him. Anyhow, I would rock up with a Spanish paper and he would show up with an English one. Three weeks was enough to enable us to have a stilted but passable conversation in either language… although he did better because it was about chicks.

      Surely eight years of immersion could get this bloke to that stilted level, ’cause from what I see you don’t need much more than that to pass.

      • Lol the lure of exotic relations is eternal and universal. I that is our gentleman’s problem, his wife is also Lebanese. He needs a mistress that he can only communicate with in English. That’ll fix it.

        • Mining BoganMEMBER

          Well thought out plan Poppy. I’d encourage any woman out there who thinks not allowing him to do an English test in Arabic is racialistism to fight for their cause by letting this Lebanese man have his way with them whenever he so desires. In English.

          It’s the New Australian way!

        • John Howards Bowling Coach

          A slight issue, not so many Non Lebanese women care for the company of Lebanese males, some other Arabs perhaps, but they are likely to also not speak English well. I used to work for a company who had a lot of them in the factory, lazy trouble makers who sexually harassed most of the female staff, who were largely Vietnamese.

          If he wants to become a citizen he needs to make some effort to learn English and they should put a caveat on his application also, he also needs to pay at least the tax of an average wage earner over the years he has been working here, before being eligible to become a citizen. Working cash jobs forever like the Mediterranean taxi drivers did for decades and never paying tax, doesn’t make them good potential citizens.

          • Those wog taxi drivers typically have 3-4 IPs. So they are wonderful citizens by the government’s standards.

          • John Howards Bowling Coach

            Also notorious for being the most stingy landlords. I guess they can’t claim any tax deductions on maintenance work when they never pay any tax…

  7. Lemme get this straight. He’s failed the English language test 8 times. Now he wants to do the English language test. In Arabic.

    That seems like a profound redefinition of the phrase “English language test”.

    Clearly this bloke has the intellect of an oyster and is useless. He should be put in a box and shipped back to China on the first available ship.

      • Cheers mate, glad to contribute and hopefully inspire some thought and/or provide information while raising a smile.

        MB is the only site on the internet that I pay to visit, and that’s as much due to the perspective provided by the commentariat as it is to the original posts, which are also great.

        • John Howards Bowling Coach

          LSWCHP I guess it was deliberate on your part, but I need to question your own English comprehension, you do realise the male in this tale is from Lebanon and NOT China don’t you? Not so much Arabic spoken in China, not even in the concentration camps for the Muslims.

          • Yes, it was deliberate. As nexus789 mentioned below, that would be cruel, and that was my thinking. Sometimes my sparkling razor sharp wit doesn’t transfer so well onto electrons on the screen. More smiley faces needed.

          • John Howards Bowling Coach

            What is more cruel, being deported to China or Lebanon?

            Actually from talking to one of my former staff who had just been home after a long long time, lifestyle in Lebanon sounds very good, and it also explained why they were all so damn lazy.

  8. I see Lebanon is still sending us their best and brightest.
    Give this man a chance.
    He could become a surgeon, lawyer or captain of industry.

  9. Wow. No offence, chaps, but this one ‘second order case’ has unleashed a lot of pent up rage: it’s all the ABC’s fault…or those wankers at the Guardian…and ‘I know a school where there are signs in Chinese, so our country is about to go under…’. Is this commentary or low level hysteria?

    • Wuhan City Blues

      Urban capital, area of need – vibrancy

      This visa entitles you to:
      – work
      – bring out extended family
      – not feel the need to assimilate
      – not pay tax unless you feel like it
      – enter and leave Australia as many times as it suits
      – free health care and social security benefits
      – smoke untaxed tobacco

  10. Not sure but sounds like his wife & family automatically get “citizenship” if he passes….wot? Why isn’t his wife ALSO subject to an English citizenship test? This Lebanon family received entry into Australia under the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd era and have had ample time to attend English classes yet they demand instant citizenship, despite being unable to read a ballot sheet…..please put them out of their misery and return them from whence they came.

  11. What good is knowing information about the law, the national anthem or the parliament if someone steals, or does drugs.

    I agree with him! All vibrants should be tested for drugs.

  12. reusachtigeMEMBER

    I want to pose the serious question – is English the most efficient language we could be using or should we adopt something superior? Also, is phonetics a scam and characters are better understood? We need to be logical about this and not some bogon backwater.

    • Esperanto is a super logical language. And it’s sh!t.

      Use what works. Use what works in practice, not in theory. English works, so English is the sh!t.

      Besides, language is not about “efficiency”. On the contrary, to get anywhere in society/business/relations you have to be crafty and obsequious with your language. This is very inefficient. But it’s what works.

      Efficient phrasings like “me work good, you give me raise now” or “I like your thighs, let’s root” generally don’t.

    • Let me just point out that the majority of internet traffic is pr0n, and that vast majority of that is pictures and videos.

      Maybe we should get with the program, and run the test with graphics only? eg “What is this nice lady doing with the giant bottle of lubricant and the chicken”.

      • John Howards Bowling Coach

        I wonder how many Lebanese feature in porn compared to Asians? Albeit under the White Australia Policy they were classified as Asians and kept out.

        I guess Peter Dutton will be fighting any changes to favour this Lebanese chap anyway, having famously stated that it was a mistake to allow the Lebanese men and women to come here as they are over represented in both Centrelink and the Prison System. His words, not mine.

        • I knew a cop who said that the vast majority of organised crime in western Sydney is carried out by Lebanese crims…people who came here as refugees from the Lebanese civil war in the 80s, and now their children. You get some idea of this from the fact that Hell’s Angels used to be called “Chopper” and “Bazza” back in the day, but now they’re all called Achmed and Mohammad.

          Dutton is a dimwit, but like a stopped clock he can still be right twice a day.

  13. Sorry but he can FRO back to Lebanon. If I moved to Lebanon I wouldn’t expect citizenship if I couldn’t read, write or speak Arabic, but to demand the equivalent of him here … racism!