The Difference Between Speech and Language

by | Mar 7, 2024 | News

For the average person, speech and language seem interchangeable words. After all, the thesaurus lists them as synonyms. However, these two words have very different definitions in the field of child development.

Understanding each is essential to helping struggling children. Fortunately, there are resources to help parents get a firm grasp on these concepts. The following questions cover the basics of children’s development and when parents should seek professional support.

What Is the Difference Between Language and Speech?

Language comes in many forms:

  • Writing
  • Speaking
  • Signing

Individuals usually have proficiency in multiple forms of language; many have proficiency in multiple languages. There are thousands of languages today, each with multiple dialects. There are also countless “dead” languages that now only exist in historical texts. As people use language, it expands and changes to include new ideas.

While these languages are incredibly different, they all have two things in common: grammatical rules and words containing meaning. While these may change over time or by location, they remain stable enough that two individuals with a common language can communicate.

Speech plays a vital role in spoken language, as it impacts how a person forms words. There are three components to speaking:

  • Fluency
  • Voice
  • Articulation

Individuals can have difficulty with one or multiple components.

How Do Issues With One Affect the Other?

Children can have difficulty with speaking, language or both. For example, children struggling with language skills may have a limited vocabulary. Kids with speaking problems may stutter or have trouble producing certain sounds.

An initial issue with one can even affect the development of the other. For example, problems with language mean fewer opportunities to practice pronunciation. Problems with speech may make children self-conscious and unwilling to talk with others. The less children converse, the more limited their experience with communication.

How Can You Support Your Child’s Speech and Language Development?

Fortunately, there are many ways for parents to support their children’s development at home. In fact, you probably already do many of the recommended activities:

  • Ask open-ended questions.
  • Play music and sing songs together.
  • Play pretend.
  • Read together.
  • Narrate actions with self and parallel talk.

Children develop at their own pace, and you may see differences in siblings’ abilities at similar ages. However, you should still watch for signs your child needs professional assistance:

  • Lack of age-appropriate speaking and gestures
  • Inconsistent voice quality or stuttering
  • Lack of babbling
  • Inconsistent pronunciation
  • Sentence formation later than peers

Who Can Help If Your Child Has Speech and Language Development Difficulties?

Speech and language pathologists can identify language disorders and help individuals, including children, develop their communication skills. These experts provide individual therapy, ensuring patients receive specialized care. SLPs can also teach parents strategies to create a language-rich home environment.

If your child deals with speech or language issues, HEAR Center can help. This clinic provides a variety of services, including therapy with an SLP. Early intervention can help your children keep up with their peers, so don’t hesitate to make an appointment. To schedule, call 626-796-2016 or visit HEAR Center website.

What is the Difference Between Language and Speech Development?

FAQ: What’s the difference between speech and language?

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