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Languages spoken

Definition

Languages spoken provides information on which languages, and how many, a person can speak or use.

This includes New Zealand Sign Language.

Related variables

  • Number of languages spoken
  • Official language indicator

Where the data comes from

Question 13 on the individual form.

How this data is classified

Language (total responses) – level 1

01 Germanic

02 Romance

03 Greek

04 Balto-Slavic

05 Albanian

06 American

07 Indo-Aryan

08 Celtic

09 Iranian

10 Turko-Altaic

11 Uralic

12 Dravidian

13 Sino-Tibetan-Burman

14 Austroasiatic

15Tai-Kadai

16 Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian

17 Western Malayo-Polynesian

18 Afro-Asiatic

19 Niger-Congo (Congo-Kordafanian)

20 Pidgins and creoles

21 Language isolates

22 Miscellaneous language groupings

23 Artificial languages

24 Sign language

66 None (eg too young to talk)

99 Not elsewhere included

Language is a hierarchical classification with three levels. Level 1 has 28 categories, level 2 has 47 categories, and level 3 has 194 categories. ‘Not elsewhere included’ includes ‘Response unidentifiable’, ‘Response outside scope’ and ‘Not stated’.

For further information about this classification, refer to the:

For background information on classifications and standards, refer to the Classifications and related statistical standards page.

Subject population

The subject population for this variable is the census usually resident population.

The subject population is the people, families, households, or dwellings to whom the variable applies.

Non-response and data that could not be classified

Non-response

'Non-response' is when an individual gives no response at all to a census question that was relevant to them. The non-response rate is the percentage of the subject population that was coded to ‘Not stated’.

  • Non-response rate for 2013: 6.3 percent, of which 4.8 percent were substitute records.
  • Non-response rate for 2006: 4.9 percent, of which 3.3 percent were substitute records.
  • Non-response rate for 2001: 4.6 percent, of which 2.9 percent were substitute records.

Not elsewhere included

Non-response and responses that could not be classified or did not provide the type of information asked for are usually grouped together and called 'Not elsewhere included'.

  • 6.5 percent of the subject population was coded to 'Not elsewhere included' in 2013, compared with 5.1 percent in 2006 and 4.9 percent in 2001.

For more information on non-response and substitute records, refer to the 2013 Census data user guide.

How this data is used

Data from this variable is used:

  • to formulate, target, and monitor policies and programmes that promote the use of Māori language
  • to evaluate and monitor existing language education programmes and services
  • as a socio-cultural variable in analyses of the New Zealand population
  • as an indicator of ethnic vitality.

Data quality processes

All census data was checked thoroughly during processing and evaluation, to ensure that it met quality standards and is suitable for use. These quality checks included edits.

All data must meet minimum quality standards to make it suitable for use.

Quality level

quality level is assigned to all census variables: foremost, defining, or supplementary.

Languages spoken is a supplementary variable. Supplementary variables do not fit in directly with the main purpose of a census, but are still important to certain groups. These variables are given third priority in terms of effort and resources.

Mode of collection impacts – online forms compared with paper form

The online forms had built-in editing functionality that directed respondents to the appropriate questions and ensured that their responses were valid. As a result of this, data from online forms may be of higher overall quality than data from paper forms. The significance of this will depend on the particular type of analysis being done. There will always be a mode effect but this cannot be measured. Statistics NZ design and test to minimise the effects of mode for all questions.

There were differences between how the forms were completed online and on paper for this variable:

  • On the online form, only people who gave a New Zealand address in question 5 were able to respond to the languages spoken question. When forms were completed on paper it was possible for overseas visitors to respond to these questions.
  • The online form did not allow inconsistent multiple responses of 'None' plus one or more languages. If the 'None' box was marked, any other responses to languages spoken disappeared. Inconsistent multiple responses to this question were possible when forms were completed on paper.
  • On the online form, it was only possible to give text responses if 'Other' was marked. The number of characters that could be entered was limited. When forms were completed on paper, it was possible to give a text response but not mark the 'Other' tick box.

Quality assessment of data and data quality issues for this variable

Overall quality assessment

High: fit for use – with minor data quality issues only. 2013 Census variable quality rating scale gives more detail.

Issues to note

  • Non-response rate for 2013: 6.3 percent, of which 4.8 percent were substitute records.
  • Overall the non-response rate is higher than previous years, mostly due to higher number of substitutes raised.

For more information on non-response and substitute records, refer to the 2013 Census data user guide.

Comparing this data with previous census data

This data is fully comparable with the 2006 Census data. Changes in the data over this time period can be interpreted as real changes because there have been no changes in the way the data has been collected, defined, and classified.

This data is highly comparable with data from the 2001 and 1996 Censuses. Changes in the data over this time period may be partly due to changes in the collection, definition, or classification of the data rather than to real change. New Zealand Sign Language became New Zealand's third official language in April 2006. In 2001 and 1996, it is therefore not included in the 'Official language indicator' variable.

In the 2013, 2006, and 2001 Censuses, there was a reminder to respondents to mark ‘English’ included on the English language form, and a reminder to mark ‘Māori’ on the Māori/English language form. These reminders were not included in 1996.

Comparing this data with data from other sources

Census is the only information source that provides comprehensive information for small areas and small populations. However, alternative sources of information about this subject are available:

Data from these alternative sources may show differences from census data for several reasons. These could be due to differences in scope, coverage, non-response rates, data being collected at different periods of time, alternative sources being sample surveys and as such subject to sampling errors, or differences in question wordings and method of delivery (self-administered versus interviewer-administered). Data users are advised to familiarise themselves with the strengths and limitations of individual data sources before comparing with census data.

Further information about this data

All percentages in census publications have been calculated using 'Total people stated' as the denominator.

When using this data, be aware of the following:

  • Languages spoken is a multiple response variable, meaning respondents can supply more than one response (language). In 2013, the subject population (census usually resident population) was 4,242,048, and 4,681,293 responses were collected.
  • Up to six responses are coded.
  • 'A conversation about a lot of everyday things' – as this is a self-complete survey, the meaning of this is open to interpretation.

Contact our Information Centre for further information about using this variable.

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