THE path to U.S. citizenship may be more difficult as the naturalization test now features an expanded version of the civics portion — but a free educational tool is helping applicants prepare with study materials in their native language.
USAHello, a non-profit dedicated to providing an online center of information and education for refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers, has released translations for the 2020 version of the U.S. citizenship test in nine languages on its website.
The organization partnered with Translators Without Borders to translate the civics test in Spanish, Arabic, French, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Tagalog, Swahili, and Vietnamese.
“For the citizenship test, in particular, we have found that many people in preparing for the exam were focused solely on memorizing the English questions and corresponding answers,” Sarah Ivory, president of USAHello, told the Asian Journal in an email.
“Time and time again we found that when people failed to pass the civics portion of their exam, it was because the phrasing was slightly different in the in-person interview and the memorization tools they had used were not triggered,” she added.
The free translations aim to not just help future Americans study for and pass the exam, but to help them fully understand the content so they are answering the questions with the benefit of the larger context.
“Rather than repeating memorized responses, people who learn in their first language may be more likely to comprehend the material,” Ivory explained.
USAHello released the translated study materials based on the number of speakers of those languages inside the U.S. Of the nine offered languages, seven represent the top languages spoken in the country.
Tagalog, a language spoken in the Philippines, ranked fourth, with 1.7 million speakers in the U.S.
Spanish leads the ranking right after English with 41 million speakers. Other languages in the top seven are Chinese (3.5 million), Vietnamese (1.5 million), Arabic (1.2 million), French (1.2 million), and Korean (1.1 million).
USAHello said it is planning to add more languages soon.
The naturalization test has two components: an English test, which has not changed, and an expanded version of the civics test.
The English test allows the applicant to demonstrate an understanding of the language including the ability to read, write, and speak basic English.
Meanwhile, the revised civic test assesses applicants’ knowledge of American history, government and civic values. An immigration officer will ask the applicant 20 questions from a list of 128 civics test questions. The applicant needs to answer at least 12 of the 20 questions correctly to pass the revised version.
Previously, the civics test only asked the applicant up to 10 questions from the list of 100 civics test questions. The applicant needed to answer six questions correctly to pass the test.
The revised civics test did not change the passing score, which remains at 60%.
Applicants who apply for naturalization on or after December 1, 2020 will take the updated version of the test.
USAHello also offers trustworthy and verified information about recent news and policy updates, such as changes to immigration programs like the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, as well as articles about understanding American laws and cultures, educational opportunities, and job preparedness.