When I originally began to work in SEN, we would often withdraw students with dyslexia/literacy difficulties from French or Spanish for small group or one-to-one interventions. Our stock answer was that they were struggling learning one language let alone asking them to learn another one. Yes, I know that statement is wrong on so many levels.
Why did I presume this? Is there any evidence to back this up?
As my career has progressed, my knowledge has increased I have become more and more aware of Dyslexia across the languages. I recently spoke at an EAL conference in Romania (cold but fabulous) and when conducting research for this I learned so much about Dyslexia and EAL it made me question why we presume dyslexic students can’t learn another language. Or why we presume it would be detrimental to them.
Dyslexia is most prevalent in the English language. This is because English is a nightmare language to learn, and I mean a nightmare. It has 41 phenomes (blends of letters) but 21,000 ways of pronouncing them! Other languages, such a German, Spanish and Hungarian are straight forward and simple to learn so doesn’t cause as many issues for people with dyslexia.
I believe Spelling Bee Competitions are only popular in English language countries because spelling in all other countries isstraight forward and everyone can do it. It’s just English that is completely nuts and spelled differently to how it sounds.
What do you think though? Let’s walk through the forest with the boughs of the branches hanging down and cough on the way. When I got home I wound the bandage around my wound.
Let’s address another part of my initial sentence that is way wrong. People with dyslexia don’t have trouble learning the English language. They can speak it just fine! They have trouble reading it, or processing what they’ve read, or writing it etc.
So, if other languages are easier then why shouldn’t people with dyslexia learn them? Why shouldn’t we give them the opportunity to learn a language that is actually easier for them to de-code. How good would that feel, being able to read/speak another language that their dyslexia doesn’t affect so much.
Also, do they need to pass an exam in it? Why do we only allow students to study subjects when we believe they can pass an exam in it? I feel another blog topic right there. Why can’t they do the subject and receive the same levels of support they receive (or should receive) in their other lessons?
There is assistive technology out there to help people with Dyslexia read foreign languages. And, learning something to improve self-esteem and cognitive skills seems a good enough reason to me.
Research suggests that bilingual speakers are more likely to think outside the box (something we know people without dyslexia excel at), be better problem solvers and have more social skills. There is also evidence that being bilingual can fight dementia. So why are we denying students with dyslexia this opportunity??
Maybe you aren’t limiting choices or making these assumptions. If that’s the case big well done for that and give yourself a massive pat on the back. My journey to learn this took a lot longer. I apologise to all those students I restricted. I was wrong. I should have spoken to each student and involved them in the process and allowed them choice. Educators and parents out there, don’t make the same mistake. Merci for listening (fluent French as you can see).