Most people think the terms speech and language are synonyms and use them interchangeably. However, they each have their own definition.
Speech is what we do to produce sounds, and includes factors such as articulation, vocal quality, and rate of speaking. It is the mechanics (the "how-to") of talking and is accomplished by coordinating muscles from the diaphragm to the lips with the flow of air through the larynx.
On the other hand, language is a system of symbols (i.e., words, visual images, gestures) which gives meaning to speech or an alternative means of communication (i.e., reading, sign language). It is the ability to understand what is heard and seen (receptive language) and to express oneself through speech, gestures or the written word (expressive language). It is what we know and are able to communicate.
A speech disorder occurs when a person substitutes, omits, or distorts sounds, stutters, or has a hoarse vocal quality. Some signs of a language disorder include difficulty asking and answering questions appropriately, an inability to remember and follow directions, use of poor sentence structure, and difficulty understanding what is read.
Each of these problems can exist individually or they can occur together. Whether the problem is with speech, or with language, or the two together, a comprehensive evaluation by a speech-language pathologist is the first step to identifying the problem and correcting it.
If you have questions or need more information you can contact me at:
Speech & Language Center, Inc.
Fort Worth, TX