Speak, talk – differences

When do we use speak and when do we use talk? Here are the differences:

Speak / talk
Speak and talk have similar meanings. They suggest that a person is using his or her voice, or that two or more people are having a discussion.

We can say:
speak to somebody

talk to somebody

speak to somebody about something
talk to somebody about something
How old were you when you learned to speak?

What are you talking about?

Who were you speaking to on the phone?

Who were you talking to on the phone?

I was speaking to Mark about cricket.
But we say:
speak a language NOT talk a language
talk nonsense NOT speak nonsense.
Speak to and talk to are used more often than speak with and talk with.
He speaks four languages.
Stop talking nonsense!
I was talking to Tom yesterday.
Speak is a little more formal than talk, and is often used in polite requests.
Hello, could I speak to Mr Jones, please?

For more examples of speak/talk, see Stuart’s article Confusing words: speak, talk

Practise ‘speak’ vs. ‘talk’ in an exercise.