U.S. Citizenship Interview: Your Ability to Speak English

When you apply for U.S. citizenship, you will be required to participate in an interview with a USCIS (U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services) representative, which will consist of a variety of questions and tests. One of the most important aspects of your U.S. citizenship interview is your ability to speak the English language.

Unlike other parts of the U.S. Citizenship interview, your ability to speak and understand English will be tested throughout. When the interviewer asks you questions, you will be expected to understand them and to answer in understandable English.

Your Ability to Speak English: Directives

When you are invited into the interview room, the interviewer will give you instructions (or directives) that will test your ability to comprehend English. For example, he or she might ask you to sit down or to remain standing. If you fail to comply with these directives, the interviewer may decide that you do not understand English.

Your Ability to Speak English: Your Answers

When you answer questions that are asked during the citizenship interview, you will be judged on your ability to deliver those answers in a coherent fashion. The best way to demonstrate your ability to speak English is to answer each question in a complete sentence. For example, let’s say that the interviewer asks, “Where were you born?”. Your answer should be, “I was born in Ixtapa, Mexico”, rather than just saying, “Ixtapa, Mexico.”

Your Ability to Speak English: Don’t Worry!

If English is not your first language, you may become nervous about having your English skills tested. Don’t be! If you’ve studied the language and have successfully held conversations with English-speaking citizens, then you’ve probably learned enough. You don’t have to use five-dollar words or know the definition of platitudinous.

Your Ability to Speak English: It’s OK to Request Clarification

If the interviewer asks you a question or gives you a directive that you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to ask him or her to clarify. Simply say, “I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what you asked me. Could you repeat it in a different way?” The interviewer doesn’t expect you to understand or comprehend every word in the English dictionary, and he or she will be more impressed if you can ask him or her to clarify in a respectful and understandable manner. If you take your best guess rather than requesting clarification, the interviewer might simply ask you to leave.

Your Ability to Speak English: Prepare

Before you go into your interview for U.S. citizenship, prepare for the English-speaking portion of the interview. Hold as many conversations as possible and carry a dictionary for words you don’t understand. Talk with friends and ask them to ask you questions and give you directives. Practice responding in complete sentences wherever possible.

Practice Your English on the Internet

Bell English Online
Rice’s ESL
English Learner
ESL Go

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