• Anna

Speech and Language - are they the same? do they go together?

Updated: Jul 22, 2019

Today, I'm taking it back to Speech Pathology 101, I feel like this idea gets confusing to a lot of people so I thought it would be helpful to discuss and differentiate the two words in my professional title, Speech and Language.


Speech and Language go together like... rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong. Or maybe its like peas and carrots? Either way - speech and language ARE connected but they ARE NOT THE SAME THING.


Speech is how we say sounds and words. It is the literal sounds coming out of our mouths. Our speech can consist of vowels or consonants and words usually have a combination of both. Our speech can be can be loud or quiet, hoarse, rough, clear or hard to understand. Our speech can be smooth or it can have lots of pauses and repetitions in it.


Speech problems can look like:

-not saying sounds correctly and/or clearly

-inability to say certain sounds

- voice problems like a hoarse or raspy voice and stuttering are also considered under the umbrella of 'speech' difficulties.


Language is the words we use to share ideas, communicate and get what we want. Language is also communicating through gestures (body language or sign language) pictures, writing or other devices such as a voice output device.


There are two distinct areas of language:

Receptive - what we hear and understand from others’ speech or gestures. Someone having receptive language difficulties would have problems understanding what others say.


Expressive - the words/signs/pictures we use to create messages others will understand. Someone having expressive language difficulties would have problems sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings.


It is possible to have both a receptive and an expressive language problem.


Both children and adults can have speech and language disorders. And some individuals will show a disorder or delay in both speech and language skills. As SLPs, we always do a thorough evaluation to tease out and determine exactly what kind of difficulties our clients are experiencing.


Speech and Language are connected.

From infancy, we begin developing the building blocks of speech that help us begin communicating with sounds. And then, our speech skills help us develop oral language to share ideas and get needs met. Babies often can understand much more language than they can express, meaning receptive language skills typically develop much faster than speech or expressive language skills.


When trying to understand the difference, its helpful to remember that speech is not the only way to use language. People use sign language, voice output devices, writing and gestures to communicate, without speaking, and that is their language.


Your toddler is using language when they use eye contact, gestures and facial expressions to get something they want or show you something they like. Even though they may not use oral (expressive) language or clear speech just yet, they are communicating and that is the first step on the road to talking.


If you, or someone you know, is showing difficulty with speech and/or language, reach out to us here at HRT or find another SLP in your community, it's what we do!


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