[WWW - 2023.07.31]
Identifying and Definitional Attributes
QH 041586 v1
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 Corporate Reference Data System (CRDS) general reference data set maintained by the Statistical Standards Unit (SSU), Health Statistics Centre.
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) has a three-level hierarchical structure. The most detailed level of the classification consists of base units (languages) which are represented by four-digit codes. The second level of the classification comprises narrow groups of languages (the Narrow Group level), identified by the first two digits. The most general level of the classification consists of broad groups of languages (the Broad Group level) and is identified by the first digit. The classification includes Australian Indigenous languages and sign languages.

For example, the Lithuanian language has a code of 3102. In this case 3 denotes that it is an Eastern European language, while 31 denotes that it is a Baltic language. The Pintupi Aboriginal language is coded as 8713. In this case 8 denotes that it is an Australian Indigenous language and 87 denotes that the language is Western Desert language.

Language data may be output at the Broad Group level, Narrow Group level or base level of the classification. If necessary significant languages within a Narrow Group can be presented separately while the remaining languages in the Narrow Group are aggregated. The same principle can be adopted to highlight significant Narrow Groups within a Broad Group.
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 - 3
ViewRelationshipMetadata Item TypeMetadata Item SubtypeNameIdentifier & VersionApproval Status
Has been superseded byData ElementData ElementPerson-preferred language (ASCL 2011)QH 041586 Version 2Superseded
Is used in the derivation ofData ElementData ElementPerson-preferred language (ASCL 2005 Index)QH 040722 Version 1Superseded
Relates toData ElementData ElementPerson-country of birthQH 040161 Version 5Superseded
Implementation in Metadata Sets


No Metadata Items
Source and Reference Attributes
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
Australian Bureau of Statistics
METeOR Person-preferred language, code (ASCL 2005) NN{NN}, identifier 304128, Health, Standard 08/02/2006 https://meteor.aihw.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/304128/meteorItemView/long
ABS cat. no. 1267.0. Australian Standard Classification of Languages (ASCL), Second edition, 2005-06