What is language?

“Language” is a system of communication that is common to a group of people. Language includes symbols (sounds, signs, gestures, letters, etc.) and the rules that state how to put those symbols together to share ideas. The brain has specific areas that store and process language information. These areas work with other parts of the brain to help us take in, think about, and then act on information.

Language has two main components: expression and understanding. Language expression is simply how we express our thoughts in a way that others can understand. One of the ways we express ourselves is through speech. Other ways include sign language, facial expressions, body language, gestures, writing, drawing, music, etc.

Language understanding is our ability to make sense of all the different ways that others try to communicate with us. It includes our understanding of spoken or written words, facial expressions, gestures, etc. This is the way we make sense of our world and are able to follow directions or instructions. Because most humans’ language is conveyed through speech, our ability to understand what others say is crucial to help us navigate our world.

Did you know? American Sign Language (ASL) is just as complex in the way it uses the hands and body to express ideas as speech is? In fact, it is so similar in how it develops that babies whose parents communicate with them only in ASL begin to “babble” using their hands and fingers at the same time as any other babies whose parents speak to them!

Check out the following link to find out more about ASL: http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/pages/asl.aspx

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