What is Colloquial Speech?

by Hans Shultz

The English language is one of the most awkward and confusing languages in the world. There is no rhyme or reason to the way that words are spelled or pronounced, and there are different names for every single part of speech.

Since there are so many definitions regarding the different parts of speech and the different items related to speech, it hard for the non-English major to keep track of it all.

Colloquial speech is one of the terms that most people don't know or understand.

What is colloquial speech?

Colloquial speech, otherwise known as colloquialism, is words and phrases that are used throughout informal conversation. These items cannot be used in formal speeches or writing.

What are examples of colloquial speech?

Since colloquialisms contain both words and phrases, there are a vast variety of examples. The most popular would include informal contractions, such as "wanna" or "y'all". As for phrases, most catch phrases fall into the genre of colloquialisms, including "dead as a doornail" and "raining cats and dogs". Some colloquial words can have both a formal and informal meaning. For example, the word "kid" is formal for baby goat, while as a colloquialism, it means young child.

Where are colloquialisms found?

Colloquialisms can be found everywhere, from written conversations to verbal conversations and through the Internet.

Some colloquialisms vary by region. For example, the word "y'all" tends to be used primarily in the south and is not as common in northern regions. Terms referring to soft drinks are one of the most popular examples of regional colloquialism. For example, most people in the midwest refer to soft drinks as "pop". Those in the northeast or western states tend to refer to it as "soda", and those in Kentucky and Tennessee refer to all soft drinks as "Coke".

Aren't colloquialisms the same thing as jargon or slang?

While they're similar, there is a major difference between slang and colloquialisms. Colloquialisms are informal words and phrases that can be used by anyone. On the other hand, slang is considered special words and phrases that are used by specific social groups, including military members, surfers and even teenagers.

Like slang, jargon refers to vocabulary used by certain people in the same job industry or activity. For example, doctors and lawyers use jargon as a way to communicate with other doctors and lawyers. These terms are not used by everyone and refer only to items and events found throughout their own respective industries. People who are not in those professions will not understand what is being said.

Is it okay to use colloquialisms?

When you are writing or speaking informally, such as to friends and family members, using colloquial speech is perfectly acceptable. Your audience will understand what you're saying, and there is no need to impress them with your formal language.

On the other hand, colloquial speech needs to be avoided when speaking at formal events or writing formally, such as on invitations, school papers and published articles. Using formal language makes it much easier for your audience to understand what it is you're trying to say, and it presents you as a more educated and well-versed individual than colloquial speech.

This post was written by Hans Shultz

Hans Shultz is originally from Germany and is a writer.  He likes to write articles on various topics including grammar and language.  Hans also writes for Accent Pros and recently started writing about Accent Pros language classes.

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