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Foreign languages and dyslexia – Juliana Teixeira Dias

With this article I intend to give you an overview on what dyslexia is and how it affects foreign language learning processes.
The origin of the term dyslexia suggests that it is a difficulty associated with reading. In fact, it is a difficulty with accurate and fluent word recognition. Most recent research suggests there are neurobiological origins of dyslexia and it is often inherited. Dyslexic students process verbal information differently from those who do not have dyslexia.The diagnosis is complex and demands comprehensive evaluation (conducted by specialists), which typically includes intellectual and academic achievement testing, as well as an assessment of the critical underlying language skills that are closely linked to dyslexia.
You might be asking yourself: Can people with dyslexia learn foreign languages? Yes, they can. However it might be more difficult for them, regarding to time and spelling for instance. The impact that dyslexia has is different for each person and depends on the severity of the condition and the effectiveness of instruction or remediation. Hence, they will need adjustments in the teaching process and the environment, and assistance in developing efficient strategies. But as soon as they find their strategies to learn the new language, it flows. Sometimes these learning difficulties resemble the problems they encounter in their native language too. Here are some  problems related to language acquisition experienced by people with dyslexia:

  • Learning to speak
  • Learning letters and their sounds
  • Organizing written and spoken language
  • Memorizing number facts
  • Reading quickly enough to comprehend
  • Persisting with and comprehending longer reading assignments
  • Spelling
  • Learning a foreign language

It is easy to see that if dyslexia has such wide ranging effects on various areas of language, it is going to influence not only students’ academic progress and performance, but also other areas of life. Students may also need help with emotional issues that sometimes arise as a consequence of difficulties in school. Mental health specialists can help students cope with their struggles.
Early identification and treatment is the key to helping individuals with dyslexia achieve in school and in life. Teachers must know that it is important for these individuals to be taught by a systematic and explicit method that involves several senses (hearing, seeing, touching) at the same time.
Trying to accommodate all of these differences in your class may seem like a huge challenge. But thinking about new ways of making your classroom more inclusive will make your classroom an easier place for students with dyslexia to work in and other students will also benefit.
Reference: The International Dyslexia Association

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