Dyslexia & Language learning: can you be dyslexic in one language and not another?

Dyslexia is a well-known but often misunderstood learning difficulty that makes it difficult to process and comprehend verbal information. So what does this mean for dyslexics looking to learn a foreign language?

The word ‘dyslexia’ itself is made up of two parts: ‘dys’ meaning not or difficult, and 'lexia' which means ‘language’ or ‘reading’. Together, this literally translates as ‘difficulty with words’.

Dyslexia is believed to develop during the early stages of fetal development and is linked to certain genes. It’s important to remember that there is no correlation between dyslexia and the level of intelligence of a person. In fact, dyslexics tend to be very creatively-minded.

Around 15-20% of the population has a reading disability.

Studies have found that dyslexia primarily targets the left hemisphere of the brain. Those who are good readers have a higher activation in the left hemisphere while showing less activity in the right. Alternatively, when analysing the brain of a dyslexic, it becomes clear that there are disruptions in the left hemisphere which interrupts the ability to read fluently, phonological processing, as well as there being less memory storage capacity to hold such language.

On the other hand, there is more activation in the right hemisphere, which is less efficient in processing language. This is believed to be a compensation method for the lack of activation in the left hemisphere.

The left hemisphere is mainly used for reading alphabetic language.

While the left hemisphere of the brain is specialised in speech and language, the right hemisphere is activated during tasks that have to do with creativity and the arts. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that dyslexics are more creatively minded. But what does this mean when it comes to learning a foreign language? It is a case of using different methods, or is it a lost cause?

Read the rest of this article in our March issue...