Differences between SPEAK and TALK - plus, the Notting Hill Carnival | DailyStep English

Differences between SPEAK and TALK - plus, the Notting Hill Carnival

This is Jane Lawson's Audio Blog #033 at DailyStep English

Hello, I’m Jane at DailyStep English and welcome to my Audio Blog!


It’s the end of summer, and over last weekend and bank holiday Monday, a part of West London rocked to the rhythm of Caribbean soca music, reggae and Brazilian samba! The air was filled with the delicious smell of jerk chicken and other roadside treats. Yes, it was London’s annual Notting Hill Carnival, and I’ll tell you more about it below.


Then, in the Audio Word Study, I’ll explain the difference between SPEAK and TALK. These two words are sometimes interchangeable – but sometimes not! 


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So, let’s start off with a visit to Notting Hill Carnival.

Notting Hill Carnival

by Jane Lawson at DailyStep.com


At the end of the summer, West London comes alive with Notting Hill Carnival, the biggest street festival in Europe. The carnival takes place over two days. On the last Sunday in August, there is Children’s Day, where the kids have their own parade, and on the last Monday in August, a national holiday in Britain, the main carnival parade with its colourful floats, amazing costumes and wonderful soca, reggae, samba and salsa music winds and dances its way through the streets of Notting Hill. You can see the parade in the top pictures..

The Carnival started out in the 1960s as a small festival run by Notting Hill’s large West Indian community. Such carnivals are a long-standing tradition in the islands they came from, in the Caribbean. In the early 19th Century (that is, the early 1800s), islanders in the Caribbean, and particularly in Trinidad, started holding carnivals to celebrate the abolition of slavery. These carnivals were the first time that the newly-freed slaves could hold their own festivals, as they were banned from doing so before. These days, Caribbean communities all over the world continue to honour this wonderful tradition..

The air at Carnival is full of the delicious-smelling smoke of hundreds barbecues. Jerk chicken, a spicy West Indian dish, is one of the main foods on offer. You can see a man cooking jerk chicken at his roadside stall in the bottom left hand picture..

This year, around 1 million people attended the Carnival. We were quite apprehensive about it this year, as the Carnival came so soon after the awful riots that I told you about in my last audio blog. We were worried that there might be more trouble, and indeed so were all the shopkeepers in Notting Hill, who boarded up their shop windows so they could not be broken. I did not go to the Carnival this year, but I watched the TV news anxiously the next day, hoping that the 2011 Carnival had been a peaceful one. Thank goodness, it was! People just danced in the streets, as you can see in the bottom right hand picture. It was a healing time for London..

So, let’s move on now from this spectacular event. Next, in the Audio Word Study, we will look at the words TALK and SPEAK.

Here is Audio Word Study #03
3 from Jane Lawson at DailyStep.com


In this word study, I’ll teach you the differences – and the similarities – between two very common verbs – SPEAK and TALK. Thank you for all your emails asking me to explain these words. Please take a look at Audio Blog #032 to learn the differences between SAY and TELL.





Meaning: to say words, to use the voice, or to have a conversation with someone




Meaning: to say words aloud or to speak to someone


Grammar: SPEAK and TALK can be transitive or intransitive verbs. In other words, they can be followed by a direct or indirect object, or no object at all.


In many cases it does not matter which one you use – but the nuance can be a bit different. Take a look at these examples:


1. I spoke to Mary yesterday. (note: here, it sounds as if I did not say very much to Mary, maybe just a few words.)

2. I talked to Mary yesterday. (note: here, it sounds as if I had a conversation with Mary.)

3. He spoke to me about the future of the company. (note: here, it sounds as if the conversation was quite formal, or as if the conversation was rather one-sided. In other words, I did not say much!)

4. He talked to me about the future of the company. (note: here, it sounds as if we had more of a conversation, and also perhaps it was not formal.)


In other cases, SPEAK and TALK are not interchangeable. In other words, only one of them is correct.


5. Do you speak English? (note: we always say ‘speak a language’ not ‘talk a language’.)

6. He was talking total nonsense! (note: we always say ‘talk nonsense’ not ‘speak nonsense’.)

7. “Can I speak to Mary please?” “Yes, this is Mary speaking.” (note: we always ‘speak’ at the beginning of a telephone call.)

8. I don’t understand! What are you talking about? (note: we never say ‘what are you speaking about’, unless we are asking about the topic of someone’s forthcoming speech at a conference or other event.)


There are some expressions where we always use SPEAK. Look at these examples:


9. He speaks very highly of Paul. Paul sounds like a very clever man. (note: this means ‘He says very good things about Paul.’)

10. Who is going to speak for the defendant? (note: this means ‘Who is going to represent the defendant in the court of law.)

11. “Neither of us wants to go to that exhibition.” “Speak for yourself! I certainly want to go!” (note: the expression ‘speak for yourself’ means ‘Do not speak on my behalf, because I do not agree with what you just said’.)



That is all for Audio Word Study #033 from DailyStep English. Please try to write your own examples using these verbs, as this will help you to remember how to use them correctly.

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Well, that is it for today! I’ll be in touch again soon. Thank you for your many requests about subjects you would like me to cover in my blogs. I will cover as many of them as I can!


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