Language Basics: What is Language?

What is Language: Part One of the Language Basics series at Twodaloo

Hi friends! It’s a very exciting day at Twodaloo- it’s the first day of our Language Basics series! So let’s start from the beginning- before we can begin working together to support your child’s language development, we need to talk about language actually is. Read on- you might be a bit surprised!

What is language?

Language is the system we use for communicating our thoughts, feelings, and ideas using a combination of sounds/words, gestures/expressions, and written words/symbols.  People who speak the same language share the same set of rules for that language, including what certain words mean , how to create new words (run, running, ran) and put words together (“I ran fast” vs. “Fast ran I”), and how to adapt your words for different situations (such as using casual speech with friends vs. formal speech with an employer).

Language and speech are not the same!

When I see a child for a communication evaluation, the first thing I have to determine is whether they are experiencing difficulty with speech, language, or both.


If a person has trouble understanding others, he/she may have a receptive language disorder. If a person has trouble sharing ideas, thoughts, and feelings with others, he/she may have an expressive language disorder. For example, a child with a receptive language disorder may have difficulty understanding words or sentences that are easy for other children her age. As a result, she may have trouble following directions given by her parents or teachers.  A child with an expressive language disorder may have difficulty putting the words she knows into longer sentences to fully express what she wants to say.  It’s not uncommon for a person to have problems with both receptive and expressive language.


Speech, on the other hand, is simply the physical part of communicating verbally.  If a person has a speech disorder, he/she may have difficulty making speech sounds correctly (articulation), producing speech that is smooth and easy to follow (fluency), or using their voice.  A person with a speech disorder may have sound substitutions like saying “wun” instead of “run,” experience stuttering, or have a hoarse voice that is hard to understand.

Understanding whether your child has difficulty with speech, language, or both is really important for determining what the best way to help is going to be. If you have concerns about your child’s speech and/or language skills, contact a speech-language pathologist for an evaluation!

Ok ya’ll. My goal for this series is to give it to you in small, digestible bites. I’ll be back soon with a post on a crucial part of language that is often missed or glossed over- pragmatic (social) language.  It’s such an important topic that it deserves its own post!

If you’ve missed any of the posts in this series, click here to view the entire collection!


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  1. Thank you for this! At my daughter’s two year check up our ped suggested speech therapy. I’ve tried calling the ECI and I’ve gotten no where. But at your suggestions my husband and I are following your advice. We have been working on animal sounds, identification of foods and noises by things that move. We have you bought all wooden toys. We now have a train set, kitchen, music instruments, and lots of animals to do play therapy. We have seen improvements in the last month to even the last week! Thank you for this resource to teach us parents how to use play therapy for our child’s best interest. But I have a question how do I know if she really needs speech therapy?

    • Stephanie says:

      Sounds like you are doing great! Your question is an important one and I will definitely be addressing it in this series. After we talk about language I’ll cover how it develops and when to get help. Thanks for reading!

  2. Really interesting series. The whole topic of language acquisition in children is so fascinating (and differs so much from child to child).

    I have three kids that have grown up using four languages on a daily basis. They are mother-tongue English, father-tongue Dutch and have French (daily at school) and everyday life in Italian (as we live in Italy). Add to that the fact my first two are twins and had a bizarre language of their own for a while when they were little!

    So as you can see language has played a huge role in our family life.

    Can’t wait to read more of the series!

    • Stephanie says:

      That is so fascinating, Jillian! I’m so thrilled for your family that your children have such an amazing multilingual environment. You are giving them the biggest gift! Thank you so much for reading along and taking the time to comment 😉

  3. Thank you for starting this series. Our daughter who is three is currently learning two languages and navigates both pretty well. This subject is interesting to me as a former teacher because I had to refer students to professionals such as yourself at the public schools. But I have not been in the classroom for over 13 years and it is good to re-learn these basics.

  4. This is so helpful, Stephanie. It never occurred to me that language and speech are different things! Thanks for the insight.

  5. Thank you for doing this! There are so many things I was not clear about – starting with the difference between speech and language. Looking forward to rest of the series.

  6. Clearly stated. Passing along to families as a resource. Looking forward to the series.

  7. Great read and so informative. I’m so glad I came across your site. I am currently doing my BOE (Early Childhood) and am wondering what you would suggest for some good resources/strategies for encouraging language acquisition in culturally diverse children?


  1. […] I’m so excited to be bringing you the second installment in the Language Basics series. Last time we talked about the difference between speech and language, and the difference between expressive […]

  2. […] on the look out for relevant and understandable information to pass along to families. This blog article from Twodaloo , a speech-language pathologist, clearly defines language, speech and […]