Shall We Talk or Shall We Speak?

Here’s an interesting one for you:

How would you explain to a non-English speaker the difference between “May I talk to you?” and “May I speak with you?” Or, for example, “Let’s talk to each other” versus “Let’s speak to each other”?

We got chatting about it in the transcription office this week and, in the end, we concluded that there is very little difference. Whether you’re talking or speaking to someone is largely interchangeable. With that said, however, ‘speak’ is usually slightly more formal, which is what allows both ‘talk’ and ‘speak’ to survive alongside one another.

To a five-year-old: “Go and talk to the other children.”

To an adult colleague: “Go and speak with the Manager.”

Talk and speak, too, are both transitive and intransitive verbs.

I speak. I talk.

I speak to the plants. I talk rubbish.

Still, each word has its place – Speaking and talking are not interchangeable in some instances, such as “I speak English”, which cannot become “I talk English”. Likewise, you can give a talk, but you can’t give a speak – it has to become a speech.

Whether you’re giving a talk, a speech or just having a chat, here at UK Transcript Solutions Ltd we’ll be happy to listen!

Best wishes,

Rachel and the UKTS Ltd Team

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