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From the dictionary, it is not entirely clear which should be used in which context. And the what is the difference in their meaning? Are there any other words meaning conversation?

Thank you very much!

1 Answer 1

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There is a pretty good description here.

【1】「話し合い」は、なんらかの問題、懸案について、解決したり、一定の合意に達することができるように意見を述べ合うこと。他の三語とは異なり、単に話すこと自体を楽しむような場合にはいわない。
【2】「会話」は、二人以上の人が集まって言葉を交わすこと。また、その内容をいう。また、「英文読解は強いが会話は苦手だ」のように、特に外国語で話すことをいうこともある。
【3】「談話」は、「会話」のように、特定の相手を意識して行うのではなく、大勢の人が自由にうちとけて語り合うことにいう。したがって、「友人との会話」とはいえるが、「友人との談話」は不自然。また、「首相の談話」のように、ある事柄について述べられた意見の意もある。
【4】「語らい」は、家族や友人などごく親密な間柄でうちとけて親しく言葉を交わすことをいう。

(1) 話し合い refers to when you exchange opinions back and forth in an attempt to solve a problem or come to an agreement about a concern.

(2) 会話 refers to when 2 or more people exchange words. Also, such as in 英文読解は強いが会話は苦手だ, it is often used to refer to someone speaking a foreign language.

(3) 談話 is different than 会話 in that you do not use it to refer to communicating with a specific person (or persons). You use it when you are freely communicating with a large group of people. Therefore, it is fine to say 友人との会話 but unnatural to say 友人との談話. Also, it can mean when you state your opinion about a specific matter, such as in 首相の談話.

(4) 語らい refers to when you open up and exchange words to someone extremely close to you, such as your family or friends.

Having said that, if you refer to other dictionaries they do have the following definition for 談話:

はなしをすること。くつろいで会話を交わすこと。 「友人と-する」

Which is very similar to 会話. I believe this definition is old and used only in limited situations, and nowadays 会話 would be what should be used.

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