I have come across the expression “speak the language of” a lot on news. But I am not sure about its exact meaning. I find one entry in OED which seems to be relevant.


b. The vocabulary or phraseology of a particular sphere, discipline, profession, social group, etc.; jargon.

But I feel “speak the language of” in the examples below seem to be figurative. Could you explain its meaning?

  1. The father of two is currently focused on his new venture called Dark Water, a trio made up of himself, his brother Brandon (formerly of Train) and their longtime collaborator Benji Shanks. “We speak the language of brothers, but also, we speak the language of musicians,” Kristian explained in an EXCLUSIVE interview with HollywoodLife.


  2. How to speak the language of love to get someone into bed, psychologist explains


  3. These are people who speak the language of entrepreneurialism and opportunity, people whose lives as administrators, lawyers, professionals are often made at the interstices of the very bureaucracies that Brexiters resented as opaque, impenetrable, and non-representative.


  • It means talk in a style appropriate for. The members of Dark Water talk to one another like brothers even though only two of them are. The successful seducer knows the right words to say. Professional bureaucrats speak in business jargon. Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 13:34
  • Practically all uses of to speak the language of X are effectively "metaphoric". We don't normally say things like He can speak the language of the Japanese when we're talking about a "real" distinct language. The highlighted element there is at best superfluous, and because it's not normally included, people would inevitably tend to be confused about the intended meaning (my first guess would be that it was even more "figurative* than usual, intended to imply that he understood Japanese culture and social conventions, not just the literal "language"). Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 15:50

1 Answer 1


In these specific cases, and more generally when one "speaks the language of" an abstract concept (e.g. fraternity, love, entrepreneurialism), the meaning is metaphoric and doesn't necessarily concerns the vocabulary specific to this field.

E.g.: This person speaks the language of love

This sentence does not necessarily mean that the person knows the technical vocabulary specific to love, but more certainly refers to their seductive capacity, should it be verbal or non-verbal.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .