Welsh language skills harmonised standard

Policy details

Metadata item Details
Publication date:11 March 2022
Author:GSS Harmonisation Team
Who this is for:Users and producers of statistics
Type:Harmonisation standards and guidance
Contact:

harmonisation@statistics.gov.uk

What is harmonisation?

Harmonisation is the process of making statistics and data more comparable, consistent, and coherent. Harmonised standards set out how to collect and report statistics to make sure they can be compared effectively across different data collections in the Government Statistical Service (GSS). Harmonisation produces more useful statistics that give users a greater level of understanding about a topic.

What we mean by Welsh language skills

In most surveys, including censuses, skills in the Welsh language relate to the ability to:

  • understand spoken Welsh
  • speak Welsh
  • read Welsh
  • write Welsh

People choose their own answers to the questions about Welsh language skills. This means that the information collected about Welsh language skills is a self-assessment of ability. It could also be an assessment of another person’s ability if someone is answering on behalf of someone else.

Everyone will assess their own language skills differently. This means that two people with the same skills in the Welsh language may give different answers about their ability.

You can collect information about Welsh language skills by asking individuals about their proficiency levels. This will allow for more detailed analyses of Welsh language ability. This may include questions on how well someone can understand, speak, read, or write Welsh.

A question on Welsh language skills has been included in every census in Wales since 1891. Many other surveys ask questions on this topic, like the National Survey for Wales. Users may collect this data to monitor policies.

Some public bodies also come under Welsh Language Standards (No.1) Regulations (2015). This means they must not treat the Welsh language less favourably than English when providing services. They must also think about the effect new policies can have on the Welsh language and the way it is used.

Questions and response options: inputs

The harmonised questions on this topic are designed to collect basic information. They can be used in most surveys. They are not designed to replace questions used in specialist surveys where more detailed analysis is needed. You can find more detailed questions in the ‘Further information’ section of this webpage.

Online self-complete question

English

Can you understand, speak, read, or write Welsh?

Select all that apply

  • Understand spoken Welsh
  • Speak Welsh
  • Read Welsh
  • Write Welsh

Or

  • None of these apply

Welsh

Ydych chi’n gallu deall, siarad, darllen neu ysgrifennu Cymraeg?

Dewiswch bob un sy’n berthnasol

  • Deall Cymraeg llafar
  • Siarad Cymraeg
  • Darllen Cymraeg
  • Ysgrifennu Cymraeg

Neu

  • Dim un o’r rhain

Paper self-complete question

English

Can you understand, speak, read, or write Welsh?

Tick all that apply

  • Understand spoken Welsh
  • Speak Welsh
  • Read Welsh
  • Write Welsh
  • Or none of the above

Welsh

Ydych chi’n gallu deall, siarad, darllen neu ysgrifennu Cymraeg?

Ticiwch bob un sy’n berthnasol

  • Deall Cymraeg llafar
  • Siarad Cymraeg
  • Darllen Cymraeg
  • Ysgrifennu Cymraeg
  • Neu ddim un o’r uchod

Interviewer-led question

English

I’d like to ask you about your Welsh language skills. Can you…

Understand spoken Welsh?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don’t know (spontaneous only)

Speak Welsh?

  • Yes
  • No
  • No, but have some Welsh speaking ability (spontaneous only)
  • Don’t know (spontaneous only)

Read Welsh?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don’t know (spontaneous only)

Write Welsh?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don’t know (spontaneous only)

Welsh

Hoffwn i ofyn ichi am eich sgiliau yn y Gymraeg.

Ydych chi’n gallu…

Deall Cymraeg llafar?

  • Ydw
  • Nac Ydw
  • Ddim yn gwybod (digymell yn unig)

Siarad Cymraeg?

  • Ydw
  • Nac ydw
  • Nac ydw, ond mae gen i rywfaint o allu i siarad Cymraeg (digymell yn unig)
  • Ddim yn gwybod (digymell yn unig)

Darllen Cymraeg?

  • Ydw
  • Nac Ydw
  • Ddim yn gwybod (digymell yn unig)

Ysgrifennu Cymraeg?

  • Ydw
  • Nac ydw
  • Ddim yn gwybod (digymell yn unig)

Using this standard

Guidance for data collection

For online surveys, response options should be tick boxes. This means that respondents can select more than one answer.

The ‘none of these apply’ response option should be programmed so that if it is selected all other tick boxes will be automatically deselected.

Question placement

This question has been tested directly following a question on religion. If used, it can be added to the cultural identity suite of questions, which include national identity, ethnicity, and religion. This question can be followed by a more detailed block of questions if you would like to gather more detailed information about Welsh language skills.

Types of data collection this standard is suitable for

This standard is suitable for self-completion and interviewer-led modes. You should follow the guidance for the specific method of data collection.

Examples of when this standard has been used

The self-complete questions in this standard come from the 2021 Census. They were only used in the questionnaire for Wales. The interviewer-led questions are from the National Survey for Wales.

Presenting and reporting the data: outputs

Welsh language skills data are usually shown in two separate tables.

One table is usually about the ability to speak Welsh (sometimes referred to as ‘Welsh speakers’). The other table is usually about the ability to read, write and understand spoken Welsh.

These tables are separate because policy often concentrates on Welsh speaking ability, rather than on all aspects of Welsh language skills. You can find examples of these outputs on the StatsWales Welsh language webpages.

In these tables ‘[data]’ represents where data should be inserted.

Welsh language skills: Ability to speak WelshData
Can speak Welsh[data]
Cannot speak Welsh[data]

In interviewer-led modes people can say ‘no, but have some Welsh speaking ability’ in response to the question about ability to speak Welsh.

In the National Survey for Wales this is reported as a separate category. The category is ‘have some Welsh speaking ability’. But in the Welsh Language Use Survey the category ‘no, but have some Welsh speaking ability’ is included in ‘Welsh Language Speaker’.

In an interviewer-led survey, we recommend displaying the ‘no, but have some Welsh speaking ability’ category separately. This will give users more detailed data. But in a mixed-mode survey we recommend including ‘no, but have some Welsh speaking ability’ in ‘can speak Welsh’ unless a specific user need is established. This will help to make sure there is a harmonised approach across modes.

Welsh language skills: Ability to read, write, and understand spoken WelshData
Read Welsh[data]
Write Welsh[data]
Understand spoken Welsh[data]

Sometimes different outputs may better meet user needs. Because of this there is another way of presenting the data which aligns to Census 2011 outputs on Welsh language skills.

Welsh language skillsData
Can speak, read, and write Welsh[data]
Can speak and read but cannot write Welsh[data]
Can speak but cannot read or write Welsh[data]
Can understand spoken Welsh only[data]
Other combination of skills[data]
No skills[data]

In interviewer-led modes people can say ‘don’t know’ in response to questions about Welsh language skills. If you collect data in these modes, you should include a separate output for ‘don’t know’.

Comparability

Outputs that use this standard are comparable with other surveys that also use this standard. We would not recommend comparing statistics about Welsh language skills from outputs that use this standard with other outputs that use a different measure.

It is also important to remember any differences in survey mode when comparing outputs. This is important even when these standards have been used. For example, estimates in relation to Welsh language skills are typically higher in household surveys, like the National Survey for Wales and Annual Population Survey, than in a census.

The Welsh Government has published a statistical bulletin about why the results of the Annual Population Survey (APS) may be different to the Census 2011 results.  The bulletin includes analysis of the possible effect of survey mode on the estimates.

There are a few reasons why survey mode might affect estimates.

Giving more than one answer

The self-complete question asks respondents to ‘select all that apply’. Not everyone will read this instruction and they may tick only one box.

In an interviewer-led survey, the interviewer will ask about each skill separately. This will increase the possibility for people to say they have some ability in Welsh.

Giving more details about Welsh language skills

When respondents are only asked one question, they must make a decision about whether they have Welsh language skills or not.

Where an interviewer is present, the respondent may feel able to describe their ability levels in more detail. The interviewer may encourage respondents to say that they have Welsh language skills so that they can provide more details about their ability later in the survey.

Giving the most desirable answer

The presence of an interviewer could also introduce a ‘social desirability effect’. This is where the respondent wants to give the most attractive answer. This effect could be more noticeable in surveys that have a question about Welsh language skills immediately after a question on national identity. We recommend that the question on Welsh language skills comes after a question on religion.

Development of this standard

You can find information about how the self-complete questions used in this standard were developed in the 2021 Census question development topic report for national identity, ethnic group, language and religion.

The GSS Harmonisation Team discussed this harmonised standard with Welsh Government. The GSS Harmonisation Team then agreed the final version of this standard. It was published as part of the 2022 GSS Harmonisation Team Workplan.

Further information

The National Survey for Wales questionnaire includes a detailed question block which can be used together with this standard. This may be useful for those who want to collect more detailed information on Welsh language skills.

You can find statistics about Welsh language skills on the Welsh Government website.

Contact us

We are always interested in hearing from users so we can develop our work. If you use or produce statistics based on this topic please contact us at harmonisation@statistics.gov.uk.

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