Thursday, August 2, 2012

Speech Vs Language: What's the Difference?

Funny story first:  When my husband and I were engaged, his dad asked him what I was studying.  My husband told him "Speech Pathology", and his dad thought he said, "Beach Pathology."  I'm not sure what that would be but it sounds fun.  

Anyway.  In college we had a debate about whether or not we liked the title "Speech Therapist" or "Speech/Language Pathologist" with a dash or "Speech AND Language Pathologist".  Eventually we all agreed that we liked the AND version.  The reason is because the terms 'speech' and 'language' mean totally different things.  The dash indicates that they are interchangeable which they're not.  When we say 'Speech Therapist' it's less of a mouthful but it doesn't quite convey what we do.  I call myself a 'Speech Therapist' all the time but I still want people to understand the difference between the two terms.  I have been in a few meetings where I've said to the parent, "Your child's speech is age-appropriate but they have some weaknesses in their language," to which the parent stares blankly at me.  That's my cue to explain the difference.  So here it is:

Speech refers to the sounds that a child uses while speaking.  It's often also referred to as 'articulation'.  We're talking about the child's /r/ sound, or their lateral lisp, or the fact that they say, "ban" instead of "van."

Language is a much broader term.  We're talking about the child's ability to understand and use language in general.  Stuff like grammar, vocabulary, story-telling, pragmatics (social language), asking questions, etc. etc.  

NOW YOU KNOW. (Bill Nye, anyone??)

1 comment:

  1. Hi. Just found your blog. Do you by chance have any tricks up your sleeve for say a child that uses a communication device? My son is non verbal and does not make sounds much because of his cerebral palsy. He is very very smart, understands pretty much everything that a neuro typical 7 year old should. Looking forward to reading older posts :)