[WWW - 2023.07.31]
Identifying and Definitional Attributes
QH 040849 v1
Data Element
Data Element
A person's self-assessed level of ability to speak English.
Proficiency in spoken English
Representational Attributes
Permissible Values


0Not applicable (persons under 5 years of age or who speak only English)
1Very well
3Not well
4Not at all
Supplementary Values


9Not stated/inadequately described
Collection and Usage Attributes
Code 0 Not applicable (persons under 5 years of age or who speak only English)
Not applicable, is to be used for people under 5 year of age and people who speak only English.

Code 9 Not stated/inadequately described
Not stated/inadequately described, is not to be used on primary collection forms. It is primarily for use in administrative collections when transferring data from data sets where the item has not been collected.
This metadata item is only intended to be collected if a person has a main language other than English spoken at home; and/or first language spoken is not English.

Recommended question: How well do you speak English? (tick one)
1. Very well
2. Well
3. Not well
4. Not at all

Generally this would be a self-reported question, but in some circumstances (particularly where a person does not speak English well) assistance will be required in answering this question. It is important that the person's self-assessed proficiency in spoken English be recorded wherever possible. This data element does not purport to be a technical assessment of proficiency but is a self-assessment in the four broad categories outlined above.

This metadata item is not relevant to and should not be collected for persons under the age of five years.

While agencies are encouraged to use the recommended question described above, it is acknowledged that this is not always possible in practice. For example, where the data collection is a by-product of the provision of a health or community service, the information may be ascertained using different means. However, this standard should be used wherever practically possible.
The ABS advises that the most useful information provided by this metadata item is in the distinction between the two category groups of Very well/Well and Not well/Not at all.
This metadata item identifies those people who may suffer disadvantage in terms of their ability to access services due to lack of ability in the spoken English language. This information can be used to target the provision of services to people whose lack of ability in spoken English is potentially a barrier to gaining access to government programs and services.
In conjunction with Indigenous status, the main language other than English spoken at home and the country of birth, this metadata item forms the minimum core set of cultural and language indicators recommended by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Relational Attributes
Related Metadata References

Related Metadata References_IR

  • 1 - 2
ViewRelationshipMetadata Item TypeMetadata Item SubtypeNameIdentifier & VersionApproval Status
Relates toData ElementData ElementMain language other than English spoken at homeQH 040848 Version 1Superseded
Relates toData ElementData ElementPerson-main language other than English spoken at home (ASCL 2016)QH 040848 Version 2Current
Implementation in Metadata Sets


No Metadata Items
Source and Reference Attributes
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
METeOR data element: Person-proficiency in spoken English, code N, Identifier 270203, Health standard 01/03/2005 https://meteor.aihw.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/270203/meteorItemView/long