Private Speech Pathologists Association of WA

What is Language?

Language refers to the communication system that we use to express ourselves, communicate ideas, and to understand and make sense of what is going on around us. It is a system that can comprise both spoken and written words and gesture. Language skills are often divided into two main areas:

  • Receptive Language Skills
    This is the comprehension or understanding of what has been said or written. This can also include comprehension of gestures or signs.
  • Expressive Language Skills
    This is the use of language to communicate and can include speaking, writing, use of gesture or signing.

What are some kinds of language difficulties?

People may have difficulty with receptive language skills, such as learning concepts, following instructions, or understanding questions. Expressive language difficulties may result in limited vocabulary, short simple sentences, poor grammar or word-finding problems. Often these difficulties occur together, affecting the person’s ability to make the most of learning experiences and participate in conversations.

How can parents help children develop language skills?

When you talk to your child, use specific vocabulary to help them learn the names objects, actions and events. Keep your sentences short and simple, particularly when talking to very young children. Participate in conversations about everyday activities, as well as describing new experiences as they occur.

What causes language difficulties?

Many children experience language difficulties with no known cause. Early hearing difficulties may impact upon a child’s ability to develop language. Other causes may include specific diagnoses such as Global Developmental Delay (GDD) or Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Adolescent and adult language difficulties may carry over from childhood. However, difficulties acquired in adulthood usually have some type of neurological cause, such as head injury, dementia or stroke.

Terms that may be used in the topic of language difficulties

Expressive Language, Receptive Language, Semantics, Grammar, Syntax, learning difficulty, Specific Language Impairment (SLI), comprehension, narrative, vocabulary, word finding difficulties.