Speech and Language: What is the Difference?
At a time when families are seeking treatment for their children, they may hear terms like “speech” or “language” and wonder, what’s the difference? Many children will struggle with both speech and language aspects of communication, and it is important that families understand the distinction.
“Speech” can be thought of as verbal communication. It is the set of sounds that we make (using our voice and our articulators) that comprise syllables, words, and sentences. Speech alone carries no meaning; it is merely sound.
There are three main components of speech:
- Articulation (how we make each sound)
- Voicing (using our “vocal cords”)
- Fluency (intonation and rhythm)
Speech sounds emerge at different ages, and most children have all sounds mastered by age 9. Common speech errors occur when a child omits sounds (ex. “ba” for “ball”) or substitutes one sound for another (ex. “wabbit” for “rabbit”). If you have questions about typical speech milestones, please see this blog
“Language” encompasses how we use speech to formulate sentences in order to communicate. Language also consists of three parts:
- Expressive (the words and sentences we produce)
- Receptive (what we understand)
- Pragmatics (social communication or rules of communication)
Children may have difficulty with one or more components of language, as indicated by children choosing the wrong word, having a difficult time understanding ideas and concepts, and struggling with appropriate grammar when speaking or writing. Many older children may have difficulty decoding social language such as irony, sarcasm, or hidden meanings, which can negatively affect their ability to make and maintain friendships.
Communication is comprised of speech and language. Children struggling in one or more areas of communication may have difficulty being understood by both familiar and unfamiliar communication partners, making it more difficult for their wants and needs to be met. These difficulties may also create problems in school, both academically and socially.
Intervention can help children with difficulties in these areas. Speech-language pathologists can conduct evaluations and create plans that help to reduce both short-term and long-term effects of speech and/or language disorders. At NSPT, we want to see your children blossom, so please contact us if you have any questions about your child’s speech and/or language development!