1 system of communication
first, native

She grew up in Mexico, so her first language is Spanish.

foreign, second

How many foreign languages does she speak?

the teaching of English as a second language


Most local cinemas show films in the original language, with German subtitles.

source, target (both technical)
ancient, classical, dead

Latin is a dead language.

common, shared
indigenous, local

Belgium has two official languages.


Portuguese is the national language of Brazil.

international, universal

Some minority languages are dying out.


Computers will never be able to understand natural language.

strange, unknown

manuscripts written in an unknown language

computer, programming
know, understand
learn, study
acquisition, development, learning

new methods of language learning

course, lesson
command of (a) language, knowledge of (a) language, mastery of (a) language

Her command of language is very advanced for a six-year-old.

2 way of using language
spoken, written

She could speak some Chinese, but never studied the written language.

colloquial, everyday, informal
expressive, flowery, literary, poetic
figurative, symbolic
everyday, plain, simple

His strength is that he addresses his readers in plain language.

racist, sexist

Not all deaf people use sign language.


You could tell from his body language that he was very embarrassed.

legal, technical

She reserved her harshest language for those she believed had betrayed her.

bad, colourful/colorful, crude, foul, obscene, offensive, strong, vulgar

people using foul language

be couched in, be expressed in
mind, watch

The referee told the players to mind their language.

in … language

His letter was couched in very formal language.

use of language

The writer's use of language reflects the personality of each character.

NOTE: Languages
excellent … , fluent … , good … , perfect … 

He speaks fluent Japanese.

bad … , broken … , poor … 

I got by with broken Chinese and sign language.

colloquial … , idiomatic … , non-standard … , pidgin … , standard … 

The inhabitants speak a kind of pidgin Spanish.

spoken … , written … 

My spoken Polish is better than my written Polish.

business … 

She is doing a course in business English.

original … 

The fable is translated from the original French.

know … , read … , speak … , understand … , use … 

I am more comfortable using Spanish, if you don't mind.

be fluent in … 

She was fluent in German, Urdu and Swahili.

do …  (esp. BrE), learn … , study … 

I did German at school but I've forgotten most of it.

I've been learning Arabic for four years.

improve … , practise/practice … 

I spent a month in Rome to improve my Italian.

master … 

I never really mastered Latin.

translate sth into … 

He has translated her latest book into Korean.

 … class,  … course,  … lesson

I'm late for my Russian class.

 … interpreter

the need for Gujarati interpreters

 … speaker, a speaker of … 

the number of Portuguese speakers in the world

a command of … , a knowledge of … 

He has a poor command of English.

in … 

What is ‘apple’ in French?

He addressed me in his best Portuguese.

Collocations dictionary. 2013.

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