TAXI drivers in Manchester face a test to prove they can chat with passengers in English and do basic sums.
The council is set to introduce the `basic skills assessment' for all new applicants for private hire and hackney - black cab - taxi licences. Candidates will have to prove they can respond appropriately to commonly-used expressions like `Can you drop me after the lights?' and `Can I have a receipt?'
They will also have to speak clearly on topics including recent journeys they have taken and their favourite places in England.
The council has indicated the oral exams will be in the form of a `relaxed conversation' with follow-up questions to prevent learning `parrot-fashion'. Candidates would be given multiple-choice maths questions, such as how much change should be given from a £20 note if the fare cost £9.30.
Those who fail the test will not be allowed to take the standard `knowledge' test, which assesses their ability to use an A-Z as well as their understanding of routes. The move, set to be approved as a 12-month pilot, will be paid for by adding £10 to the fee for applying for a new licence.
Groups representing drivers of black cabs welcomed the scheme, admitting members of the public had expressed concern about the standard of English of some drivers.
George Simms, of the Taxi Owners and Drivers Association, said: "People need to know drivers can be understood and make themselves clear. Probably the majority of taxi drivers now are from communities that do not have English as a first language."
Any candidate who failed would be helped in improving language or number skills. Existing drivers of black cabs and private-hire drivers will not be forced to take the exams. It currently costs £155 to apply for a black cab licence and £207 for a minicab plate.
A council spokesman said: "Taxi drivers are ambassadors for Manchester. The vast majority do an excellent job but we are considering the introduction of a basic skills assessment for new applicants as part of our focus on improving the experience of taxi customers."