Speech Versus Language: What Is The Difference?

Enrichment Therapies

October 26, 2023

By: Ashley Conrad, M.A., CCC-SLP

When you hear the term “speech”, what do you think of? What about when you hear the term “language”? Do the two words mean the same thing? These terms get thrown around quite often in the world of pediatric speech-language therapy, but their meanings are often confused and misunderstood. 

Knowing the difference between “speech” and “language” can aid in more fully understanding your child’s speech-language assessment results, treatment goals, and treatment progress. Let’s dive into “speech” versus “language”! 

What Is Language?

In short, language is a form of connection and communication through the use of symbols, words, or gestures. As children grow and develop, there are two main types of language that one can start to recognize: receptive and expressive. 

Receptive Language

Receptive language refers to understanding language. This includes understanding auditory information, such as verbal instructions, as well as written information, such as written instructions. 

If your child’s speech-language therapy treatment plan includes receptive language components, their goals may include following instructions, following multi-step directions, answering questions, and/or identifying objects.

Expressive Language

Expressive language refers to the act of communicating our feelings and thoughts. This includes verbal communication, nonverbal communication, and Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). AAC includes the use of sign language, Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), writing, and using a speech-generating device. 

If your child’s speech-language therapy treatment plan includes expressive language components, their goals may include requesting, commenting, and/or protesting using a specified mode of communication, increasing their mean length of utterance (MLU), and/or using grammatically appropriate sentences. 

What Is Speech?

Speech refers to how we produce sounds in words. Speech includes articulation (e.g., how we produce individual speech sounds), voice (e.g., how we use our voice to speak), and fluency (e.g., the rhythm of our speech). 

If your child’s speech-language therapy treatment plan includes speech components, their goals may include accurately producing individual speech sounds, using fluency strategies to decrease moments of stuttering, and/or producing speech with a “healthy” voice. 

Speech and Language Support in Des Moines and Iowa City

Looking for a pediatric speech-language pathologist near you? Contact Enrichment Therapy and Learning Center, today! 

Our highly trained speech-language pathologists are prepared to provide individualized speech and language support in the Des Moines, IA, and Iowa City, IA areas. We strive to help support your child’s speech and language development. Contact us, today! 


740 Community Drive, Unit A

North Liberty, IA 52317



5530 West Pkwy, Suite 300

Johnston, IA 50131


Related Posts



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *