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Proficiency in spoken English (ENGLP)

Census of Population and Housing: Census dictionary
Reference period
2021

Definition

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.

Scope

All persons

Categories

CodeCategory

1

Speaks English only

2

Uses other language and speaks English: Very well

3

Uses other language and speaks English: Well

4

Uses other language and speaks English: Not well

5

Uses other language and speaks English: Not at all

6

Not stated - both language (LANP) and proficiency in spoken English not stated

&

Not stated - language (LANP) stated, proficiency in spoken English not stated

V

Overseas visitor

Number of categories: 8

Question(s) from the Census form

Does the person use a language other than English at home?

    Does the person use a language other than English at home?
    Does Person 1 use a language other than English at home?

    If more than one language other than English, select the one that is used most often.

    Include use of sign languages (for example, AUSLAN) in the 'please specify' box.

    Include use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages in the 'Yes, other (please specify)' box.

    More information

    Person's language at home

    No, English only

    Yes, Mandarin

    Yes, Arabic

    Yes, Cantonese

    Yes, Vietnamese

    Yes, Italian

    Yes, Greek

    Yes, other (please specify)

      More information

      Additional information relating to the question on: Does the person use a language other than English at home?

      More information

      Does Person 1 use a language other than English at home?

      If more than one language other than English, select the one that is used most often.

      Include use of sign languages (for example, AUSLAN) in the 'please specify' box.

      Include use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages in the 'Yes, other (please specify)' box.

      More information

      If the person uses only English at home, select 'No, English only', even if they can speak another language.

      If the person lives alone, answer with the language they most commonly use with visitors in their home.

      The languages listed were the most commonly reported languages spoken at home, other than English in the 2016 Census.

      For a language not listed, please select the 'Yes, other (please specify)' option and enter the name of the language in the box.

      For people who cannot speak, or if the person is too young to speak, record 'Not able to speak' in the 'Yes, other (please specify)' box for this question.

      How well does the person speak English?

        How well does the person speak English?
        How well does Person 1 speak English?

        Leave this question blank for people who cannot speak, or if the person is too young to speak.

        Person's English ability

        Very well

        Well

        Not well

        Not at all

        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.

        Not Stated

        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.

        2016 variables

        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'.

        Measurement issues

        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)