How to Say "Language" in Spanish

Quick Answer

language = el idioma, la lengua, el lenguaje, el habla

Though el idioma, la lengua, el lenguaje, and el habla can all mean language, they're not always used interchangeably.

Idioma and Lengua

The words idioma and lengua are more commonly used to describe language in the sense of a system of communication, such as English or Spanish.

examples
Hablo cuatro idiomas: inglés, francés, español y aymara.
I speak four languages: English, French, Spanish, and Aymara.
¿Qué lenguas has estudiado?
What languages have you studied?

Lenguaje

Though it can be used in the same sense as idioma and lengua, the word lenguaje is also commonly used to describe language in the sense of a particular way of speaking used by a certain group or in the sense of non-verbal communication.

examples
Mi hermano dice que entiende el lenguaje de los árboles.
My brother says he understands the language of trees.
Solo uso lenguaje jurídico dentro de la sala del tribunal.
I only use legal language within the courtroom.

Habla

The word habla is often used to describe the physical capacity for speech and the way a certain person or group uses language. It's also used in combination with the name of a language in an adjectival sense, as shown in the first example below.

examples
Nora va a una escuela de habla francesa.
Nora goes to a French-language school.
El habla de los jóvenes de esta zona se caracteriza por el uso de palabras en inglés.
The language of young people in this area is characterized by the use of words in English.

Now that you know the difference between el idioma, la lengua, el lenguaje, and el habla, why not brush up on some fundamental Spanish phrases? Check out these articles to keep learning!

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