Speech vs Language vs Communication

What is the one thing that you would never ever missed it in a day? I would say, talking to my family. Everyday in the morning, I would greet them ‘Good morning.’; asking what should we eat for the lunch/ dinner; and even spending time together on a comfy couch watching a sad movie. Without coming to your conscious, we TALK every single day, and also INTERACT with each other from time to time.

So, SPEECH, LANGUAGE and COMMUNICATION are the essence of our social life. Do the terms look familiar? Oh, yes, definitely. But do you know there are differences within the true essences? Let’s look into few examples.


  1. Jamie, a 5 years old boy, who is talkative and outgoing personality. But, the family members claimed they can’t understand what he is trying to say.

  2. Cecelia, a 8 years old girl, who is often referred as the shy girl staying at the corner during events. In fact, she has low confidence to mix around with the others because she has not been used to attending to different occasions.

  3. Lia, a 15 years old teenager, who has difficulties with her studies, especially in reading comprehension. She needs her dictionary all the time to look out for the meaning of the word.

  4. Mr. Ben, a 55 years old retired man, often lost words to share his personal thoughts. He is frustrated about it.


Looking at the examples above, what do you think that has gone wrong? Hasn’t have a clue? Not to worry, it could be pretty confusing indeed. Let’s dive into the differences of speech, language and communication.


SPEECH is how we produce the sounds and pronounce the words. It includes:

  1. Articulation- how do we use our lips, tongue, and jaw to get the pronunciation correct. Example: lips closed and then rounded for the word ‘more’; tongue tip goes up and down for the word ‘lion’; jaw down and up for word ‘up’.

  2. Voice- how do we use our breath as the airflow into voiceless e.g. ‘ha’ and the vocal folds to vibrate into voiced e.g. ‘ha’.

  3. Fluency- how do we speak with an appropriate rate and volume e.g. murmur, whisper, stutter, shout etc.


LANGUAGE is how do we understand the words and to use them in sharing ideas and opinions, most importantly to get what we want. It includes:

  1. The combination of sounds into words (phonology)- We called them phonemes, the unit of sound that build up a word. For example, /b/ /a/ /t/ makes the word ‘bat’ while /b/ /a/ /g/ makes the word ‘bag’. See, the wonder of phonemes!

  2. The meaning of the word(semantic)- Every word comes with their unique definition; certain comes with more than one. For example, the word ‘star’ can a bright object in the sky, or referring to someone who is famous.

  3. The structure of the word (morphology)- Playing around with the grammatical elements of the words create different meaning of a word. For example, ‘friendly’ vs ‘unfriend’ vs ‘friend’.

  4. The structure of the sentence (syntax)- Different arrangement of words, and also the grammatical elements, may build up sentences with different meaning too. For example, ‘Daddy needs to hug Jane.’ vs ‘Jane needs to hug daddy.’, or, ‘Daddy is eating his burger.’ vs ‘Daddy was eating his burger.’

  5. The usage of words in different context (pragmatic)- We use different words and style of speaking in different context/ situations. For example, saying ‘I know what do you mean here.’ to a friend vs to a politician leader (it should be ‘I understand your intention, Sir).



COMMUNICATION is better known as, social skills or interaction- it is the interchanging of information between 2 speakers or more.

  1. Personal communication- Involves talking and listening (verbal communication), along with our body languages and facial expression (non-verbal communication) when delivering our messages.

  2. Mass communication- The use of platforms such as book, magazines, social media etc., with the intent to send the messages across bigger target groups.


Now, let’s get back to the examples and try to figure out what could be the root cause to it.


  1. Jamie, a 5 year-old boy, who is so talkative and outgoing personality. But, the family members claimed they can’t understand what he is trying to say. -Yes, he is struggling with the speech production ONLY; he has no issue with interacting or using his words to communicate, it is just the pronunciation.

  2. Cecelia, a 8 year-old girl, who is often referred as the shy girl staying at the corner during events. In fact, she has low confidence to mix around with the others because she has not been used to attending to different occasions. - Apparently Cecelia is struggling with social skills, as she has low confidence with personal communication; and this could be rooting from her poor language skills- limited understanding and use of variety of words for different situations.

  3. Lia, a 15 year-old teenager, who has difficulties with her studies, especially in reading comprehension. She needs her dictionary all the time to look out for the meaning of the word. - Definitely no issue with speech and communication; it is her language skills- the ability to understand the word and to use it to understand text, which affects her academic performances.

  4. Mr. Ben, a 55 year-old retired man, often lost words to share his personal thoughts. He is frustrated about it. - Again, the language skills having troubles, and it affects his communication skills.


Hopefully, things are a bit clearer now. Speech, language and communication are completely different areas, but they are inter-related to each other. It could be solely one of the area is having issues, or combination of a few. Regardless whichever it is, remember to seek for professionals’ help- the speech-language therapists who are trained and certified in dealing with speech, language and communication difficulties; most importantly, they provide services to people of all ages, from infants to elderly. Do not wait-and-see, take your action now!


Reference

https://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/language_speech/

https://www.talkplayandread.com/difference-speech-language-communication




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