What is the difference between speech and language?

Posted on 30. Oct, 2012 by in Main Blog, Speech Therapy

There is a difference between the terms ‘speech’ and ‘language.’

 What is the difference between SPEECH and LANGUAGE?

This is a question that has been asked, but not often enough.  I have heard many times from parents, teachers, friends:  “Joey has difficulty with language, I can barely understand him,” or “Stacey has difficulty with speech, she has a lot of trouble following directions.”  Knowing the difference between the terms ‘speech’ and ‘language,’ you will also know that these two statements are fundamentally… well, wrong.

Speech is different from language.  Speech Therapy can address both areas, but they are very distinct objectives.  Speech is the actual act of speaking; how sounds are made and what it sounds like coming into the listeners’ ears.  Language, on the other hand, has to do with language content, how words and sentences are understood (comprehension of language) and how sentences and words are used and what they mean (language expression).

When a person has difficulty understanding others (receptive language), or sharing their wants, needs and ideas completely (expressive language), then this is called a language disorder.  When a person is unable to produce speech sounds correctly or fluently, or has issues with his or her voice, then he or she has a speech disorder.

A language disorder and a speech disorder can exist together or separately.  A problem in either, or both, is best addressed by consulting a Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP).  A Speech-Language Pathologist can be found in your community at local schools, private clinics or offices, and in local hospitals.  We are easier to find than you think, all it takes is a simple phone call or online search.


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