Difference Between Language and Literacy

Language vs Literacy

We all know the importance of language in allowing human beings to communicate with each other. We also know how important it is for an individual to be literate in today’s world to be able to contribute in a positive manner to the society in which he is living. However, knowing a language is not enough for a person to be literate though he is considered to be proficient in a language if he is literate. The two concepts are somewhat confusing for many because of their similarities. However, language skills are totally different from literacy skills and knowing these differences is important for all of us.


Language is the social tool that allows human beings to interact and cooperate with each other. Without a language, it becomes impossible to convey our feelings and emotions to another person. When we talk about a particular language, we are mostly concerned about the spoken part of the language. If you say you know English, the general assumption is that you are able to speak and understand the language well. Language is the gift of social interaction, and a child learns to speak words in a language only because he hears them from his parents and others in the family. By the time a child is old enough to go to a school, he is able to speak properly in his mother tongue. Language teaches how to talk and communicate orally with others.


A language is not limited to being spoken, but it is extremely important to be able to read and write in that language. This is what the concept of literacy is. Literacy covers not just the spoken language but also the written language and the ability to comprehend it. Thus, a person who is able to talk in a language but cannot read the alphabet and also cannot write in that language is called illiterate in that language. It is only after becoming literate that a child can hope to learn other subjects such as science and math.

What is the difference between Language and Literacy?

• If one knows a language and can fluently speak it, but cannot read the alphabet in that language and also cannot write it, he remains illiterate.

• Thus, language and language literacy are two exclusive aspects and literacy is a must for everyone.

• Literacy is all about understanding the symbols or alphabets of a language. It only after becoming literate that one can communicate in a recorded manner or through an electronic medium such as computer.

• Literacy is the first step towards fulfillment of one’s goals as it is literacy that allows one to reach his true potential.

• Language literacy is a part of language though most of us think of spoken language when asked whether we know a language or not.

• There are many developing nations where obviously people know the language, but the literacy levels are dismally low.