What is Receptive Language? How it is different from Expressive Language?

Understanding the text or any form of information is crucial in gaining the essence. The language by which an individual understands or interprets something is known as receptive language. While the ability to comprehend is often subjective, this can be improved in little ones by understanding the actual status. 

With that view, we here gave a detailed guide to Receptive language, and how it differs from Expressive language. Also, you can traverse through some strategies to enhance the receptive language of the individual.

What is Receptive Language?

There are multiple styles of communication that make it effective in multiple scenarios.  The ability to comprehend what is communicated in the appropriate way, is termed as Receptive language skills

One can easily make out if a student has an admirable receptive language. Here are some signs:

  • They make good eye contact with the orator- depicting they are indulged in the session
  • Children can easily interact with peers and teachers as they can clearly understand the spoken language
  • They have a good grip on vocabulary, which they build on regular comprehension of language. 
  • They have better balance and can redirect themselves in the right way by discerning the guidelines
  • They effortlessly communicate with mentors and parents about their needs. This way they overcome social issues.

 Receptive language helps us grasp information which then translates into words and sentences in our brain. These are the words that we have heard in our environment and from our own experiences. For example, when we hear the doorbell, the language has determined that one has to go and open the door which is just like a pet dog’s reception of understanding through their owner’s action of heading outside.

Receptive language also helps us figure out colors, shapes, and the formation of sentences. For example, when the child sits down to have breakfast, the child’s receptive nerves send information to the brain, which forms the shape of the cereal box, and only then is the child able to pick up the cereal box. It is part of the communication language that is integral to the development of our brain. Receptive language helps in reading braille for visually-challenged individuals too. 

Difference Between Receptive and Expressive language

While receptive language helps in making words or sentences in isolation, expressive language just like it sounds helps in expressing that word or the sentence and giving it meaning. One is able to identify languages, signal toward something/someone, and describe events. Children are also able to retell a story with the use of expressive language and answer post-reading comprehension-related answers using both the languages

Apart from this, here are some important grounds that mark the difference between Receptive and Expressive language:

  • Receptive language is focused on the ability to understand, this implies that it is all about how the learner takes in the information. Whereas Expressive language focuses on how the learner gives out their insights, this means that the abilities and style of giving out their ideas are observed.
  • Important sub-skills in receptive language include listening and reading. Whereas, speaking and writing act as subskills of expressive language. 
  • Receptive skills start the process of learning, thereby are often first developed in an individual. Once they handle information, they can put it into expressions. This means expressive language is developed after receptive language. 
  • Grasping (receptive language) may be easier for some, as the reader/listeners can align themselves with the language and flow of the speaker or writer. Whereas, while expressing views (expressive language) one needs to be aware of and rightly put in some regulations of language and also a proper setting, this implies Expressive language can be complicated.

Enhancing receptive language- Strategies to assist! 

Children sometimes face challenges in comprehending the information communicated to them in any way. Even if they can understand words, they may not be able to make out the essence of a piece of text or instructions. Fortunately, there are some working strategies that can effortlessly polish their comprehension abilities. Here are a few plans of action you can opt for:

  • Start with something easy. Reading a complex text to start may not be a good idea for early learners. To make them acquainted with the process, start with simple pieces of text or use multisensory sources like video lectures.  Starting with developing listening skills can be fitting for some learners. 
  • Ensure to have visual cues. Reading a text with visual cues like presentation, or images can add up to the engagement. As we discussed in previous lines, videos can be a good take in as they have a plethora of visual scopes. 
  • Engage with Books- Preferably along with audiobooks. It can be arduous for some people to go through long texts like in books.  They can add on read-along audiobooks to make the session easy and convenient.  This way, the individual can simultaneously use their eyes and ears to grasp the text.
  • Know the importance of verbal and non-verbal redirection. For little ones who are learning to grasp multiple abilities and strategies, mentors can assist them by verbally redirecting them toward the right path. Ensuring they listen to the commands can implicitly let them practice listening skills.  
  • Take time to learn new words. It is common that the reader can come across newer words every day in their learning journey. Coming across a new word, one should focus on learning its meaning. They may use mnemonics or any other technique to make things easy. 
  • Finally, learn from mistakes. During the initial sessions, it is fine to make some minor mistakes while comprehending. What’s important is to learn from these glitches. Ensuring to not repeat similar hitches can drastically polish up their receptive language. 


The impact of receptive language can range from the personal level to the classroom level too. Right from a young age, crucial receptive skills like listening and reading start developing. Also, learning does not just end up in a receptive language, Expressive language often is equally important which completes the learning process by sharing views. Check out the insights in the above lines to make sure to grasp what exactly Receptive language and Expressive language is. Also, check out the strategies to enhance receptive language to polish up the skills of your little one. 

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