What is the Difference Between Language and Communication?

Many people use the terms language and communication interchangeably. However, there are certain differences between them that need to be understood. 

First, let’s talk about these terminologies separately.


Communication is basically described as the methodology of exchanging messages or data, between two or more people. 


Language is described as a system of communication that is utilized by a specific group of people living as a community. 

Differences vis-a-vis properties

  • A language is a tool used for communication. Whereas, communication is a process. 
  • Language focuses on signs, words, and symbols. On the contrary, communication pertains to the message that is being conveyed. 
  • Language occurs primarily in auditory channels, i.e, we generally make use of language by talking. But if we talk about communication, it uses all sensory channels.
  • Language is always dynamic, whereas communication is static. 

In-depth Comparison and Contrast between language and communication 

  • Language

A language is a form of expression that allows human beings, who are living in a community, to interact with each other. Many define language as a structure of written symbols that carry specific meanings to every word. 

Others may say that language is a form of communication, which is rudimentary and a correct statement. However, if you study its characteristics, language is a bit more complicated.

Characteristics of Language:

Elucidating Language 

Over time, many definitions have been given by linguists to explain the concept of language. For instance, one of the most renowned English scholars, Henry Sweet, claimed that if you amalgamate speech and sound into one entity, it can allow you to express your inner thoughts. These thoughts reach the listener in the form of a language.

Utilization of words, and then constructing these phrases in such a structure that it makes sense to the observer. However, one important thing to note here is that language occurs primarily in auditory channels. It has to be vocal. Communication can be non-vocal as well, but the language has to be vocal. 

The Initial Phase of Understanding Language

If you want to understand the concept of language, try to pay attention to a child’s way of communicating. Every person that grows up, acquires the fundamental part of language and communication during his toddler years. It usually pertains to the sounds he makes when asking for a portion of food from his mother. The gestures he develops over time due to constant stimulus.

How and when to use them in order to get what he wants. These constant stimuli get embedded in his subconscious and then consciousness. And eventually, with time, he develops a sense of the language he will have to ameliorate. 

Linguistic Knowledge

Once a person starts to improve his language skills, the hand gestures and sounds that he once learned as a kid, transform into proper words and phrases. He starts to speak the language in a proper way. Now, he has the option to choose different words for different settings.

He can change the tone of his words, and simply change the meaning of the sentence. These characteristics showcase that a person has attained the knowledge pertaining to that language.  

Sound system

Once a person learns a language, he indulges in the nitty-gritty of the language. He fully understands what signs and gestures he is supposed to use and how to use them. Another important aspect is the sound system of the language. There is a prevalent concept of the combination of the sounds of the language;

  • This majorly includes what sounds are supposed to be made, once a word is started. 
  • Then automatically, what sound would be utilized to end the particular word that you started 
  • Finally, there are certain words where the sound used is somewhat similar. Hence, the speaker of that language has to be aware of those sounds. And, should be able to distinguish between them.

McGurk Effect

Many people don’t know one important aspect in the diameter of the sound system in languages, i.e the tenet of facial expression. If you make a sound of a particular word, your lips move accordingly. But there are certain words, where lipsync tells a completely different story. This is known as the McGurk effect.   

If we further illustrate the McGurk effect it shows that if you make sounds of the words that go as, “ ba ba”, your lips will proclaim the words “ ga ga”. However, the Mcgurk effect will probably hear something like, “ da da”. 

The Creativity of Linguistic Knowledge

Language is not bound by a certain number of sentences. You can create hundreds of sentences every day and still will never run out of the possibility to create new ones. However, if you have a firm grip over a language it will allow you to establish sentences that have never been used before.

People often hear new sentences every single day. Sentences that they never heard before. But still, they are able to understand and comprehend the message behind those words. The reason for that is, that your brain has the creative ability to make sense of new words.

Since you are aware of all the linguistic preferences, nuances, and intricacies, your brain automatically interprets the newly constructed sentence with the old ideas that have been long stored in your brain.

Hence, the reason you cannot recall the complete sentences a person has told you but can immediately recall the general idea of that message vis-a-vis your own word bank. This is the creative aspect of linguistic knowledge. 


Elucidating Communication

When you transfer information or any sort of data from one person to another, this process is called communication. The important aspect in this process is that there have to be three elements for the process of communication to be completed; 

  • One sender
  • A message 
  • The recipient 

Process of Communication

Encoding Messages

The first step in the process of communication is when the message gets encoded by the sender or the speaker who initiates the conversation. 

So, what happens is that the sender takes the words and composes them in a structured way to make sense. Once this structure gets completed, he uses aids vis-a-vis nonverbal communication and encodes the message.  

Transmission of the Message 

After the step of encoding, the message is transmitted via a medium. This medium could take multiple forms. For instance, it could be in written form or in speech form. The possibility that there can be multiple recipients is also prevalent. If the message itself is complicated, different recipients can interpret and understand the same message in a different ways. 

The Recipient Dilemma 

The fact that you cannot control how the other person( recipient) perceives the message, makes the process of communication even more dynamic. There is no universal way of communicating. The fact that perceptions are influenced by cultural intricacies of the surrounding, and personality traits of the individual, puts the sender in quite a dilemma. Because there is always a chance that the original message of the sender never gets understood exactly in the way it was meant to be. 

Multipolarity of Sender And Receiver

One important aspect in the process of communication that needs to be discussed here is that face-to-face communication does not adhere to one particular sender and one recipient. As the conversation initiates and progresses,  the roles of the sender and the recipient bounce back and forth between the participants. Words and language are just the mediums that carry the intentions held by the sender.

Whereas, the library of nonverbal communication compels the participants to understand the intended meanings behind those messages. The slight use of touch, the intensity of expression, the forceful nature of vocal power, eye contact, posture, and sudden body twitches allow the communication process to enhance.    

Factors Affecting The Process of Communication

There are many influential factors that affect the process of communication. It’s just not a simple transfer of a message from one person to another.  Let’s list some of them:

  • Cultural environment
  • Traditional context
  • Emotional state
  • Perception of the receiver, as well as the speaker
  • Situational context
  • The location where the conversation takes place

Categories of Communication

Communication is not constrained to one type. There are different ways to communicate. Since the aim is to effectively convey the message, one cannot restrain himself to one particular methodology. 

Let’s discuss some of the various categories of communication;

Verbal Communication 

As the word suggests, verbal communication takes place as a result of a verbal chat or vocal conversation between two or more people. The medium can vary. For instance, you could conduct verbal communication via telephonic conversation, or via a television screen, where a person is talking and you are listening.

But there are certain constant factors pertaining to verbal communication. And they include; sender, medium, and receiver. Without these factors, the process of verbal communication is not complete. 

Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication does not involve any spoken conversation. It’s quite surprising to see that you can actually convey an entire message without uttering a single word. This is the power of nonverbal communication.

Nonverbal communication is actually the product of various body language gestures that an individual adapts over time. These gestures and movements are learned by the individual during his upbringing. The cultural intricacies and the linguistic nuances are different for different regions. Some gestures might mean something else in a given social setup. So, it’s all about the agreed and preconceived nonverbal tenets that society has accepted and reapplied over time and again. 

Written Communication 

Written communication is a subsection of non-verbal communication. However, it constitutes the use of language in the written form. The written form has evolved with time. There was a time when people used to write on walls and stones. With the gradual evolution of the human mind, the masses became more sophisticated and moved from hard stones to leaves and leather pieces.

Innovations led to the creation of paper which enabled humans to become more efficient in their writings and storage of documents. Globalization and the age of the internet led to the digital revolution, and humans started to use emails and social media platforms to communicate with each other. 


In this article, we tried to discuss the rudimentary changes between language and communication. At a later stage, we reviewed both the processes separately and what constitutes their identity. 

So basically, language and communication cannot be used interchangeably. But are also not very far from each other.  Language consists of the phrases and words that are used to describe an emotion or statement. They are not bound by any literature or science.

Every region has its own set of literature and grammatical structure, which gives its language a complete and unique identity. The language may change, but the message remains the same. It means you can use different languages to convey the same ideas. 

On the other hand, communication concentrates on the process. For it to successfully take place, the key elements of the process have to be there. This includes the encoder(speaker) who constructs the message, the medium via which the message will be transmitted, the decoder( recipient) the one who receives the message. 


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