There are three terms that people commonly use interchangeably when describing how people interact verbally with each other. The terms are speech, language, and communication. Although these terms are similar they are not synonyms for each other. This post will explain the difference between these three terms.
Speech is specifically a verbal means of communicating. This distinguishes it from non-verbal forms of communicating such as written communication or body language. Speech involves the vocalizing of specific sounds called phonemes. Every language has specific phonemes that make of sounds for that language. For example, Spanish involves the rolling of the “r” often.
Speech is not limited to phonemes. Other aspects of speech include the voice quality, intonation, and rate. Voice quality is the phonetic characteristics of a person’s voice. Our example of the r sound in Spanish relates to voice quality. Intonation is related to the pitch of the voice. Sometimes a language uses different pitches depending on the context. For example, if a question is asked in English the pitch rises at the end. Lastly, the rate is how fast the people talk in the language.
Language code for conveying concepts through the use of symbols. For example, almost all languages have some sort of word for “dog.” In English, the word for this animal is “dog.” In Spanish, the word is “perro.” In French, the word for dog is “chien.” Regardless of the language, when people hear one of these words for dog in their language they connect this word with the concept of a four-legged creature that often barks. The term “dog” is a symbol for an animal. This is thinking in a highly abstract way.
Languages can be expressed verbally through speech and also through writing. In order for each side to understand the other, they must know each other’s language in order to convey and share ideas. An obvious reason that people from different countries do not understand each other is because they speak different languages.
Communication is a process of exchanging ideas and needs. This process involves encoding, transmitting, and decoding. Encoding is the process of taking a concept identifying a word that is associated with it. If a person has in their mind a barking animal they may think of the word “dog.” Transmitting is sharing the concept through the use language. This is when the person says “dog” verbally.
Decoding is this process in reverse and is done by the receiver. The receiver hears the word “dog” and he translates this into a barking animal in his mind. All of this happens in a split second every day in many peoples lives.
Communication can happen in many was beyond verbal. As mention earlier, people can communicate ideas in writing or through the use of body language. Even art can communicate information through the use of music, painting, or more.
Speech, language, and communication are distinct aspects of understanding how people convey information. Understanding these differences can help people to know how they are trying to share information.