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Native Language

Native Language: WISEdata

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Native Language is the language or dialect first learned by an individual or first used by the Parent/Guardian with a child. This term is often referred to as primary language.

This field is required for WISEdata records if either English Language Proficiency Code = 1 - 5 or Immigrant (Title III)= Y (regardless of Grade Level). 

School districts should identify first/native languages of English Learners using this list of 3-digit alpha codes for languages: ISO-639-2 spreadsheet.

This is a more comprehensive list than previously used that may contain languages not currently spoken; districts should identify the language that most accurately describes the language spoken by a student. For example, instead of using the former code for Latin American Languages, a student’s home language should be identified by the specific language group, such as Portuguese. For detailed information about languages, go to the Ethnologue website.

If you are experiencing difficulty with a code, please contact DPI Customer Service via the Help Desk application or phone number provided at the bottom of this page.


USES: Native language is used to meet the requirements of 115.96(1), Wis. Stats (Annual Count of Limited English Proficient Students). Other data elements required by law for this Count are already included in WISEdata and include English language proficiency, grade level placement, and age. Native language is also required in the Pre-ID roster file for the DPI-approved English language proficiency test (i.e., ACCESS for ELLs).


FAQs, Details, and Points to Note


  1. Definition: The definition of Native Language is the one provided in the NCES Student Data Handbook.
  2. American Sign Language: Note that American Sign Language is on the native language code list and may be the language first learned by a child or first used by the Parent/Guardian with a child. This fact has implications on the child's ability to demonstrate English language proficiency in the same ways that other native languages do. Students may be American Sign Language proficient but not fully English proficient.
  3. Multiple Languages: If multiple native languages are identified and two or more languages identified are not English, error 6644 will be triggered (Only one native language may be identified for this student). If this error is not corrected, the native language of the student will be set to ‘mul’ – Multiple Languages in the Data Warehouse.
  4. Macro Language: If a family uses 'individual language', WISEdata rolls up the value into the 639-2 macro language, which is what is loaded into Ed-Fi. For example, 26 individual languages for Hmong roll up to 'hmn' macro language. For more on macro languages, see the SIL page
  5. Federal Language Reporting Guidance: The following federal guidance includes a document that defines what an improbable language is and a list of all languages. The list of languages includes why the language is not likely to be in use by any native speakers today. If a language from the list of Improbable Languages is used, it will likely trigger a warning in WISEdata. Note: Where (B) and (T) codes are used in the federal list, WISEdata will always use the (B) code. See the following page for an overview of what an Improbable Language is as well as an accompanying Excel sheet that includes the specific languages: Language Reporting Documents


See Also:

 Historical: 2016-17 Native Language Codes Master Spreadsheet


Submit questions about language codes to

Submit questions about ACCESS Pre-ID files to

Submit questions, comments and suggestions about WISEdata to the DPI Online Helpdesk Application.


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