These two words are probably the shortest and most used definitions to explain expressive and receptive language. And while both are key components to language, there’s more to it than just that.
Language is the system someone uses to communicate with another person. This includes how words are created and put together, the meaning of those words, and how to apply language in different social situations. As people, we use language to understand the world around us and to convey our thoughts and feelings. This is the basis of receptive and expressive language.
Although listening is an important component of receptive language, it involves much more than just that. Receptive language is the understanding of information provided in a variety of ways such as sounds and words; movement and gestures; and signs and symbols. Children often acquire elements of receptive language faster than expressive language. Because of this, our receptive language vocabulary is generally larger than that of our expressive language. In speech and language therapy, receptive language goals might include:
Expressive language is our ability to communicate our thoughts and feelings through words, gestures, signs, and/or symbols. It can be as simple as pointing to a desired object or as complex as writing a book about an area of interest. Talking is the main form of communication people think about when discussing expressive language. And, although it is the most common, there are other types of communication that are just as effective. Some other examples include sign language, a picture exchange system, the use of a speech-generating device, or writing. But, keep in mind, these are just the systems we use to communicate.
Expressive language as a whole means using the unique areas of language correctly to effectively communicate what we’re thinking. These areas include:
Amanda is a Speech Language Pathology Assistant at NAPA Center. She loves to eat tacos and donuts and does not like cheese (despite the efforts of therapists she works with). She has a cat named Hendrix and they spend most of their time binge watching Netflix shows, trying out recipes on their Instant Pot, and “patiently” waiting for her husband to give her the green light to adopt a dog!