[WWW - 2023.07.31]
Identifying and Definitional Attributes
QH 041586 v2
Data Element
Data Element
The language (including sign language) most preferred by the person for communication.
Health and welfare services
Preferred language (4-digit)
Representational Attributes
Numeric Character
Permissible Values


A valid code from the current Corporate Reference Data System (CRDS) Language (ASCL 4 digit) data set maintained by Statistical Standards and Strategies, Statistical Services Branch (SSB).
Supplementary Values


Collection and Usage Attributes
Preferred language for communication may be a language other than English even where the person can speak fluent English.

The Australian Standard Classification of Languages (ASCL) is an Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) classification that includes:
- Those which are universally recognised as distinct and separate languages,
- Separately identified dialects,
- Creoles and pidgins,
- A group of linguistically distinct languages (American languages),
- Australian indigenous languages, and
- Sign languages.

Supplementary codes for inadequate data:
These codes commence with 000 and facilitate the coding of data such as inadequately described languages, etc., which contain insufficient information in that a language code cannot be allocated.

0000 Inadequately Described
To be used when insufficient preferred language information is provided or the information is unknown (e.g. when a person is unconscious).

0001 Non Verbal, so described
To be used when communication is by other than verbal means (e.g. facial expression, body language, gesture). Does not include sign language.

0002 Not Stated
To be used when no preferred language information is provided (e.g. when a person refuses to provide the information).

Supplementary codes to preserve data that might otherwise be lost:
These codes commence with 000 and are used to preserve data relating to meaningful data that would otherwise be lost (that is, they would be allocated other incoherent or inadequately described codes).
0003 Swiss, so described
0004 Cypriot, so described
0005 Creole, nfd
0006 French Creole, nfd
0007 Spanish Creole, nfd
0008 Portuguese Creole, nfd
0009 Pidgin, nfd
Should not be blank.
The question that should be asked is 'What is your preferred language for communicating when receiving health care services?'

The reference to 'receiving heath care services' will assist in advising that the question relates to their preferred language for communicating in a health setting as opposed to at home or any other general social interaction.
This metadata item is an important indicator of ethnicity, especially for persons born in non-English-speaking countries. Assists in the planning and provision of multilingual services and facilitate program and service delivery for migrants and other non-English speakers.
Relational Attributes
Related Metadata References

Related Metadata References_IR

  • 1 - 4
ViewRelationshipMetadata Item TypeMetadata Item SubtypeNameIdentifier & VersionApproval Status
SupersedesData ElementData ElementPerson-preferred language (ASCL 2005)QH 041586 Version 1Superseded
Has been superseded byData ElementData ElementPerson-preferred language (ASCL 2016)QH 041586 Version 3Current
Is used in the derivation ofData ElementData ElementPerson-preferred language (ASCL 2011 Index)QH 040722 Version 2Superseded
Relates toData ElementData ElementPerson-country of birth (SACC 2011)QH 040161 Version 6Superseded
Implementation in Metadata Sets


No Metadata Items
Source and Reference Attributes
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
Australian Bureau of Statistics
METeOR data element: Person-preferred language, code (ASCL 2011) NN{NN}, identifier 460123, Health standard 13/10/2011 https://meteor.aihw.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/460123/meteorItemView/long
ABS cat. no. 1267.0. Australian Standard Classification of Languages (ASCL) 2011 (Second edition, Revision 1)