May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, a month-long campaign sponsored by the American-Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) to increase awareness about communication disorders, speech-language pathology and audiology.
It seems appropriate to kick off the month with a question that speech-language pathologists are often asked: What’s the difference between speech and language?
First, let’s explain communication. This is the ability to convey ideas and messages to others with or without language.
- Have you ever seen your son’s face and know that he needs to go potty?
- Have you ever given your daughter a “thumbs up” from across the room?
- Have you ever been someplace where you don’t speak the language and resorted to pointing and gesturing to order a meal?
None of these involved talking, but two people were able to share information.
What is speech?
Speech is communicating through verbal means.
When assessing speech, therapists listen for:
- Age-appropriate speech sounds. This is articulation. Speech sounds have a developmental progression. Just as a baby learns to crawl, stand up, walk, then run, different sound patterns appear at different times.
- Vocal quality and breathing. Is it harsh? Is it raspy? This is voice.
- The pauses, rate and repetition of what is being said. This is fluency, also known as stuttering.
What is language?
ASHA defines language as being made up of socially shared rules that include the following:
- What words mean (e.g., “star” can refer to a bright object in the night sky or a celebrity)
- How to make new words (e.g., friend, friendly, unfriendly)
- How to put words together (e.g., “Peg walked to the new store” rather than “Peg walk store new”).
- What word combinations are best in what situations (“Would you mind moving your foot?” could quickly change to “Get off my foot, please!” if the first request did not produce results)
Different languages have different rules. English uses an Article + Adjective + Noun structure (the red book), while Spanish uses an Article + Noun + Adjective structure (el libro rojo).
Children can have delays or difficulties with speech, language or both. If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s speech-language development, contact SpeechWorks at 262-490-5653.
Jann Fujimoto, MS CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and owner of SpeechWorks LLC. As Lake Country’s mobile speech therapy practice, SpeechWorks helps children become confident communicators and empowers parents to be their child’s speech-language advocate.