TBILISI, DFWatch–The Georgian parliament has begun discussing a draft bill which will require all public employees to pass a language test to prove that they know either the Georgian or Abkhazian language.

The latter is also an official language in Georgia, as stipulated in the constitution.

According to the bill, knowledge of the official language by public workers shall be assessed by the use of special exams. Details of these exams will be determined by the Department of the Official Language and the Ministry of Education and Science, and then adopted by the government.

Those who successfully pass the exams will get a special certificate.

According to the draft, all those who have graduated from universities or have received education in Georgian are not obliged to pass the new language test.

Many Georgian citizens don’t know Georgian language, especially minorities who are living in Kvemo Kartli and Samtskhe Javakheti, regions that have a large Azerbaijani and Armenian population, respectively. Hundreds of thousands of public employees will be affected by the law, but minority Georgians may get half a year to prepare for the exams, said Avtandil Arabuli, a professional linguist and co-author of the draft bill.

Another feature of the new law is that grammatical errors in usage of the Georgian language in public places, such as advertising posters, will be fined.

The media will be exempt from this, though, and instead be given recommendations. Fines will be in the range between GEL 100 to 300. In case of repeat offense, the fine is doubled.

“This doesn’t apply to the labeling of some brands in other languages, if it is accompanied by Georgian text,” Arabuli said.

The bill was initiated by the parliamentary committee on education, science and culture. Ivane Kighuradze, a prominent mathematician and chair of the committee, said that the first hearing will be held in parliament by the end of September.

The people behind the initiative also plan to create a new department and a committee to oversee the usage of the official language.