Proficiency in spoken English (ENGLP)
This variable classifies a person's self-assessed proficiency in spoken English where they have identified they use a main language other than English at home (LANP). While people who use English only at home are included in this variable as a distinct category, they are not included in categories 2 to 5 which is the self-assessed ability in spoken English.
Speaks English only
Uses other language and speaks English: Very well
Uses other language and speaks English: Well
Uses other language and speaks English: Not well
Uses other language and speaks English: Not at all
Not stated - both language (LANP) and proficiency in spoken English not stated
Not stated - language (LANP) stated, proficiency in spoken English not stated
Number of categories: 8
Question(s) from the Census form
Does the person use a language other than English at home?
How well does the person speak English?
How this variable is created
This variable is derived from the responses to two questions on the 2021 Census.
Speaks English only
Where respondents mark that they use English only at home, they are coded to category 1, 'Speaks English only'.
Uses other language
The remainder of respondents who do use a language other than English at home are asked, 'How well does the person speak English?'. Responses to this question are captured automatically from mark box responses on the form so the risk of processing error is minimal. Respondents are asked only to mark one response. These responses are output in categories 2 to 5. Where an incorrect number of responses is provided, responses are accepted in the order they appeared on the form and the extra responses are rejected.
Where a respondent marks that they do use a language other than English at home but does not answer the 'How well does the person speak English?' question, they are coded to category &, 'Not stated - language (LANP) stated, proficiency in spoken English not stated'.
Where a respondent does not answer the Language used at home question and the proficiency in spoken English question, they are coded to category 6, 'Not stated - both language (LANP) and proficiency in spoken English not stated'.
History and changes
A question relating to proficiency in spoken English/Language (ENGLP) was first asked in 1981. Prior to this, some censuses had also asked what languages were regularly used.
For 2021, the variable name changed from 'Proficiency in spoken English/language' to 'Proficiency in spoken English'.
For 2021, some category labels have been updated:
- Categories 2 to 5 changed from 'Speaks other languages and speaks English' to 'Uses other language and speaks English'
- Not stated categories 6 and & have had references to 'ENGP' removed.
Data use considerations
This variable is used to understand how well people can speak English, when they use a language at home that is not English. It is useful in planning and providing multilingual services.
In 2016 there were two output variables relating to proficiency in spoken English:
- Proficiency in spoken English (ENGP)
- Proficiency in spoken English/Language (ENGLP)
The ENGP variable was only applicable to those who used a language other than English or who did not state a language, whereas ENGLP was applicable to all persons. This difference caused confusion for users.
ENGP has been removed for the 2021 Census to avoid data misuse. ENGLP will be output for 2021, however the name of the variable has been changed to 'Proficiency in spoken English'.
Responses to the question on proficiency in English are subjective. For example, one respondent may consider that a response of 'Well' is appropriate if they can communicate well enough to do the shopping, while another respondent may consider such a response appropriate only for people who can hold a social conversation. Proficiency in spoken English should be regarded as an indicator of a person's ability to speak English rather than a definitive measure of their ability and should be interpreted with care.
Related variables and glossary terms
- Language Spoken at Home (LANP)