1200.0.55.005 - Language Standards, 2016  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 03/08/2016   
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This is the First Language Spoken standard.


Nominal definition

Nominally, First Language Spoken is defined as the first language a person masters during the language acquisition phase of intellectual development. This is generally the language spoken in the home by the people who have raised the person from infancy.

Operational definition

Operationally, First Language Spoken is defined as the language the respondent identifies as being the first language which they could understand to the extent of being able to conduct a conversation.

The definition of language is provided in the Australian Standard Classification of Languages (ASCL), 2016 (ABS catalogue number 1267.0).


In this standard, the term First language Spoken should be interpreted to include 'native language' and 'mother tongue'.

Non-verbal forms of communication, such as Auslan and similar sign languages, are recognised as separate languages and Signed English/finger spelling is considered to be part of the English language.

The intent of the standard is to collect first language spoken as a child. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) question testing indicates that asking people about language spoken poses few response problems for people who use sign language.

The question modules used for this variable are not designed to measure multiple first languages spoken.

First Language Spoken is one of five ABS language variables. The other language variables are Languages Spoken at Home, Main Language Spoken at Home, Main Language Other Than English Spoken at Home and Proficiency in Spoken English.