What Is Language? What Is Speech?
Kelly’s 4-year-old son, Tommy, has speech and language problems. Friends and family have a hard time understanding what he is saying. He speaks softly, and his sounds are not clear.
Jane had a stroke. She can only speak in one- to two-word sentences and cannot explain what she needs and wants. She also has trouble following simple directions.
Language is different from speech.
Language is 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)
Speech is the verbal means of communicating. Speech consists of the following:
- How speech sounds are made (e.g., children must learn how to produce the “r” sound in order to say “rabbit” instead of “wabbit”).
- Use of the vocal folds and breathing to produce sound (e.g., the voice can be abused from overuse or misuse and can lead to hoarseness or loss of voice).
- The rhythm of speech (e.g., hesitations or stuttering can affect fluency).
When a person has trouble understanding others (receptive language), or sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings completely (expressive language), then he or she has a language disorder.
When a person is unable to produce speech sounds correctly or fluently, or has problems with his or her voice, then he or she has a speech disorder.
In our example, Tommy has a speech disorder that makes him hard to understand. If his lips, tongue, and mouth are not moved at the right time, then what he says will not sound right. Children who stutter, and people whose voices sound hoarse or nasal have speech problems as well.
Jane has a receptive and expressive language disorder . She does not have a good understanding of the meaning of words and how and when to use them. Because of this, she has trouble following directions and speaking in long sentences. Many others, including adults with aphasia and children with learning disabilities, have language problems.
Language and speech disorders can exist together or by themselves. The problem can be mild or severe. In any case, a comprehensive evaluation by a speech-language pathologist (SLP) certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is the first step to improving language and speech problems.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Children may experience one or more of the following disorders:
- Speech sound disorders – (difficulty pronouncing sounds)
- Language disorders – (difficulty understanding what they hear as well as expressing themselves with words)
- Cognitive-communication disorders – (difficulty with thinking skills including perception, memory, awareness, reasoning, judgment, intellect and imagination)
- Stuttering (fluency) disorders – (interruption of the flow of speech that may include hesitations, repetitions, prolongations of sounds or words)
- Voice disorders – (quality of voice that may include hoarseness, nasality, volume (too loud or soft)
Speech and language skills are essential to academic success and learning. Language is the basis of communication. Reading, writing, gesturing, listening, and speaking are all forms of language. Learning takes place through the process of communication. The ability to communicate with peers and adults in the educational setting is essential for a student to succeed in school.
Children with communication disorders frequently do not perform at grade level. They may struggle with reading, have difficulty understanding and expressing language, misunderstand social cues, avoid attending school, show poor judgment, and have difficulty with tests.
Difficulty in learning to listen, speak, read, or write can result from problems in language development. Problems can occur in the production, comprehension, and awareness of language sounds, syllables, words, sentences, and conversation. Individuals with reading and writing problems also may have trouble using language to communicate, think, and learn.
Parents and teachers should refer any student who shows signs of a speech-language disorder or delay to the school-based child study team. Screening, assessment, and treatment of communication problems may involve cooperative efforts with:
- speech-language pathologists (SLPs),
- social workers,
- classroom teachers,
- special education teachers,
- guidance counselors,
- dentists, and
SLPs work with diagnostic and educational evaluation teams to provide comprehensive language and speech assessments for students. Services to students with speech-language disorders may be provided in individual or small group sessions, in classrooms when teaming with teachers or in a consultative model with teachers and parents. SLPs integrate students’ speech-language goals with academic outcomes and functional performance.
Speech-Language and Hearing Milestones: Birth to Age 5
Covering children from birth to age five, this one-of-a-kind DVD is full of examples of normal speech, language, and hearing development and tips on when to seek treatment from speech-language pathologists and audiologists.
[Note: The information above has been taken directly from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association website at asha.org]