• Immigration Assistance & Services

Is my English good enough to pass the naturalization interview?

Video Description

If you are worried about failing your naturalization interview, this fear is common.  Even though you have two chances to pass the exam and interview part of your naturalization application, having to do it a second time can cost you extra time, money, and energy. Not to mention give you added stress. The risk of failing can be avoided.

The English required for the naturalization exam and interview is different from the English you use in everyday conversations. This video reviews the lesser-known English skills needed to confidently manage- and pass- your interview.  

Being one of the most important interviews you'll have in your life, how do you know if you are ready to pass? Watch this video to evaluate if you have what it takes and learn how to get the right support to improve your skills, if needed.

Read Video Transcript

 Are you delaying applying for citizenship because you're worried your English isn't good enough to pass? How do you know if it's good enough to pass? We are going to give you tips so you'll be able to gauge if your English is good enough to pass.

Hello, my name is Mike Oliver. I am the director of St. Mark Community Education Program based in Massachusetts.

Our program has been around for almost 20 years. The common reason, according to USCIS, that people fail the interview is because of poor English skills. Well, here's what you need to know and for you to decide whether or not your English is good enough. Let's talk about the beginning, that little five-minute walk to the office that's called small talk. Can you carry on a conversation? A very simple conversation such as, "How is the weather?" "Oh, it's a little warm today." "How are you?" "I'm fine, thank you. A little nervous perhaps, but fine." And then, "How are you?"

Now remember, it's the job of a person or who works at USCIS to get you to become a citizen. That's what they get paid for. Their job is not just stop you from becoming a citizen. They want you to become a citizen. So they wanna establish a connection as well as to determine the level of English you have. Now, what are you doing in that small exchange?

Number one, you're assessing a couple of different things. Now, how friendly is this person? Is this someone that you feel like you connect with? Number two, how fast does that person speak? Number three, can you understand them? You have the power now to control some things. So let's go back to the beginning where you're walking toward the office and you say, "Oh my God, this person is speaking too fast." You're thinking this, "My person is speaking too fast. How am I gonna understand what this person's saying?" Or the person speaks too soft. "How am I gonna hear all this?" Or, "I'm having trouble understanding this person through his accent." My goodness, what can I do? Well, here's what you can do. So for example, if someone's speaking too fast. All you have to do, very politely now, "Would you please speak more slowly?" That's all you have to do. And the person then will slow down. Only have to say it once, that's it. If you do all those things, and you should not be afraid to do any of those things. You should not be afraid to ask a question at all. Why? 'Cause these examiners or officers, as they're sometimes called, expect this. If you could do a few things, like carrying on a conversation, a very short one, read a sentence, write a sentence, explain parts of your application. Doesn't have to be perfect, doesn't have to sound like you've been here for 30 or 40 years.

As long as the officer can understand you, your English is good enough. And if your English isn't good enough, then there's places you can go to get it to be good enough. It's not gonna take as long as you think. It's not a year's process. However, you have to start somewhere. You think you're ready to become a citizen? We think you are as well. What do you have to do now? Is my English as good as it has to be? Can I do all the things that I heard about in this video? Of course you can, we think. We can. And if you can't, if you're almost there, we can help you go the rest of the way. It isn't as bad as you think it is. It's not gonna take you forever to do it, but you need to do it.

The benefits of becoming a citizen are enormous. You deserve it. We can help. Don't hesitate to reach out to us. We're here for you.

Contact this Expert

Headshot of Mike Oliver

Mike Oliver

Executive Director
St. Mark Community Education Program
Mike Oliver has been the director of the St. Mark Community Program (SMCEP) since 2013. His contact with immigrants goes back 30 years, to when he was an instructor in training programs in Boston and Cambridge. He has always admired those who left certainty in their motherlands for an uncertain future in a new country.

During his tenure, Mike has maintained and expanded SMCEP’s core mission to give immigrants the tools to have a seat at the table. In March 2018, he began Citizenship for All, a project that trains volunteers to teach citizenship classes in libraries and other public spaces, partnering with Boston Cares, the Boston Public Library, MIRA and Project Citizenship. Since then, over a hundred volunteers have made St. Mark’s one of the biggest providers of citizenship classes in the Northeast area.

St. Mark Community Education Program


25 Beach Street
Dorchester, MA 02122
United States


SMCEPs English programs include 4 levels of English classes with trained instructors, pre and post assessment tests, as well as individual in-class practice with tutors. The program is 100% donation and grant funded and relies on the commitments from volunteers.

Products & Services: 

  • English classes for career 
  • English classes for naturalization test 
  • Writing classes 
  • Conversation groups 

Location: Massachusetts (in-person) and National (virtual) 

Languages:  English and Spanish.

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