In many cases, the words “language” and “communication” are used interchangeably. We use either or both of them to mean speaking person to person. However, there is a distinct dichotomy between the two terms— language vs. communication.

In a very real sense, every living thing communicates in some way. Fish jump, sometimes for sheer joy. Birds sing their cadences to communicate a variety of purposes, many of them doubtlessly unknown to us.

Dogs bark, cats meow, cows moo, and horses whinny. And yet, we do not say they are engaging in language communication.

These noises or other interactions communicate, or transfer information of some kind. And yet, that is not language communication.

Language is the highest form of intelligent interaction—and is reserved for higher order beings of our universe, namely humans. No other living thing communicates verbally and further, reduces that verbal communication to written form as well.

Language vs. communication:

They are not the same thing. And yet, they work together.

The Definition of Language

Language is a distinctly human activity that aids in the transmission of feelings and thoughts from one person to another. It is how we express what we think or feel—through sounds and/or symbols (spoken or written words), signs, posture, and gestures that convey a certain meaning.

Among people, language is the primary means of communication. It is through language communication, spoken or written, that we are able to share our ideas, opinions, views, and emotions with another person.

The purpose of language is making sense of complex and abstract thought. Various languages are used by people residing in different areas or belonging to different communities.

Over time, languages have been passed down verbally through generations and eventually reduced to some form of written record. Language, as a tool, primarily occurs in auditory channels and is open to dynamic change.

The written form is an unchanging set of material by which others can learn to communicate in a given language and has, therefore, become a vital aid to global human communication.

The Definition of Communication

Where language is a tool, communication is an experience.

Communication is described as, “an act of interchanging ideas, information, or messages from one person or place to another, via words or signs which are understood to both parties.” It’s a crucial activity for any group of beings, because it is the means by which members of the group cooperate together.

Communication is necessary for any group to function effectively. It is, at its core, a two-way activity, consisting of seven major elements: sender, message, encoding, channel, receiver, decoding, and feedback.

A message is encoded then sent from one individual (sender) to another (receiver), through a channel. That message is then decoded and given feedback, if communicated effectively.

Today, there are a variety of communication channels available: face-to-face, phone calls, emails, social media platforms, brochures, advertisements, television, signs, fliers, reports and more.

Feedback is essential, for it is then that the process of communication comes full circle.

The process of communication affects all sensory channels, as it can occur in a variety of ways.

Communication can be classified as:
  • Verbal
  • Non-verbal
  • Written
  • Visual (charts, graphs, etc.)

Language vs. Communication: Key Differences

Below are the primary differences between language and communication. Note the relationship between the two, regardless of differences.

  1. Language is a system of communication that relies on verbal or non-verbal codes to transfer information. Communication is a way of interchanging messages or information between two or more people, focusing on the message.
  2. Language is a tool of communication. Communication is a process of transferring messages.
  3. Language changes dynamically, as new words can be created. Communication is considered static, as its basic steps remain unchanged.
  4. The basics of communication do not change. However, new words are added to the dictionary of language almost daily.

Language vs. Communication: Working Together

Communicating with others is a basic human need. Healthy living involves interacting and engaging with others. And our primary means of doing so is through shared language.

As we obtain the capability of communicating across languages, we achieve interaction at the global level. It is not really language vs. communication; it is language and communication.

Shared language is critical to such vital functions as business and education. We are living today in an interconnected global community, where communicating through shared language is increasingly possible.

Overall, communication has a wider scope than language, as communication encompasses language. A good analogy of the relationship between language and communication is to look at communication as the car, and language as the road. The car of communication can go down another road (another language), or even go off-roading.

Language allows us to communicate in a variety of ways, but it is only one set of tools in the larger scheme. Besides language, the communication toolset is comprised of things like empathy, knowledge, body language, facial expressions, and intonation.

Relationships thrive through communication, regardless of the shared language. Therefore, it is up to businesses and organizations to communicate with their target audiences in the correct shared language.

International Language Services has been providing companies and organizations just like yours with top-quality, reliable translations for over 35 years. We employ native-speaking translators in a wide variety of languages with the goal of communicating effectively and efficiently. If you are ready to begin a new translation project, contact us today.