The following diagram is a summary of the different areas that make up human communication.

Click on a box to learn more.

What is communication? What is body language? What is language? What does 'transmission' mean? What is grammar? What does 'meaning' refer to? What is the social use of language? What do we mean by 'voice'? What is speech? What is fluency? What is a conversation?

Features of Communication in Plain English

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Communication

Communication is the sharing of thoughts, feelings, messages and information.

It usually takes at least two people to communicate. We might be the one doing the sharing or we might be the one on the receiving end. So, communication means understanding what others are saying and also being understood when we are talking.

Sometimes we communicate in larger groups – like when we have a conversation with a few people. READ MORE>>

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Body Language

Our spoken communication is helped by body language. This is a way of saying what is on our mind without using words. It is things like:

  • smiling or frowning
  • the way we look at someone
  • nodding or shaking our head when someone is talking
  • how we gesture with our hands

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Language

Language is used to communicate. It is different from speech.

It is the ability to understand words and to use them to make sentences. READ MORE>>

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Transmission

This is the method we use to communicate. There are two main ways we can use language:

  1. writing

  2. speaking

In writing, the transmission system is written words – on paper, in an email, texting on a mobile phone, and so on.

In speaking, the transmission system is spoken words, e.g. cat, dog, hello, how are you?, kick the ball.

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Grammar

Grammar is the rules of language.

There are rules about what order words have to go in to make sense. For example, I can say the boy fed the dog but not dog the fed boy the.

There are also rules about how to talk about more than one thing. For example, I can say two dogs, three cats, four pigs but not two doger, three cating, four piged.

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Meaning

This is about knowing what words mean. It’s also about being able to use the right words to say the things you want to say. For example, if I want to tell my mum that I’ve just seen a furry animal with four legs, whiskers on its face, a tail at its rear and sharp claws, I have to use the word cat. Knowing lots of words to describe things is our vocabulary.

It’s also about knowing that the same word can mean different things. For example the one word hood could mean:

  • a type of head covering or hat

  • the bonnet of a car

  • a gangster

We have to be able to use the right words in the right situations.

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Social Use of Language

This is about how we use speech and language differently in different situations.

It is about knowing what to say, how to say it and when to say it. It is also about following rules of talking together. READ MORE>>

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Voice

Voice is the ability to make sounds by vibrating the vocal cords.

The buzzing sound made by the vibrating vocal cords is called the voice.

Air from the lungs moves up through the windpipe (trachea) and between the vocal cords inside the voice box (larynx). If it is strong enough this causes them to vibrate. READ MORE>>

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Speech

Speech is different from language.

Speech is the sounds we make with our mouth when we are talking. We use speech sounds to make words. For example, the word cat is built up from three speech sounds ‘c’, ‘a’ and ‘t’. READ MORE>>

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Fluency

Fluency is the smooth, easy production of speech.

Fluent speech is made without any effort. It is relaxed and flowing. READ MORE>>

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Conversation

Conversation is about talking socially with other people. We have to be able to take turns. Sometimes I may be the speaker and another person is the listener. Sometimes I have to be the listener when another person is talking.

We also have to be able to stick to a topic (such as talking about football, or cooking, or music). We shouldn’t jump around too much, as this is confusing for the other people we are having a conversation with.

Also, we shouldn’t interrupt too much. And if we are interrupted, we should know what to do about it.

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