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Sara R

Dyslexia and learning a foreign language: What's been your experience?

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I've been reading Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz. She says that foreign language learning is incredibly difficult for dyslexics, and if possible and needed, dyslexics should be able to opt out of foreign language college admission requirements.

 

My oldest daughter has not been diagnosed with dyslexia, but she's shown signs since she was at least 6 years old, and I think I'll pursue the diagnosis this year. Right now we homeschool in the morning: spelling, memory, math, dictation, oral reading of a passage, and then narration of that passage, intensely in less than two hours. She's spelling on a 3rd grade level, doing math and reading on about a 4th grade level. She's made tremendous progress since we started working intensely on her level in January, but I can see that reading, spelling, and orderly thinking in general will always be more difficult for her than her siblings. Her passion is animals, and her goal is to become a wildlife biologist. So she works willingly on her basic skills with me so she can meet that goal. She'll be entering 6th grade.

 

I've always envisioned learning at least some foreign language as part of a good education. It's hard to scale back, but I do see that a foreign language would be difficult for her. I also see that it's most important to do the essentials, and the essentials with a dyslexic do take more time.

 

But is doing foreign language with a dyslexic unavoidably head-explodingly hard? Is there a way to pursue it that makes it doable? Are there dyslexics that can handle Latin? Or maybe starting slowly at junior high age, and incorporating lots of review, with a relatively simple language like Spanish? I'm wondering what your experience has been in this area.

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Great question. My 12 yo ds is dyslexic; he's a rising 7th grader reading on or nearly on grade level. We attempted Latin for two years. While he completely understood how to apply the grammar rules, he had a very difficult time retaining the vocabulary. He needed a tremendous amout of drill from week to week to keep the vocabulary he had previously learned. We dropped Latin at the end of 5th grade. Because my husband and sons practice Aikido, they've had the opportunity to travel to Japan. Previously my dh has gone, and next year my ds will go with him. For the past 18 months or so, they've both been using Rosetta Stone Japanese. This has gone relatively well and has been fun and gentle.

 

My intention is to continue this. A living language just feels more revelant and interesting. The prospect of traveling to and meeting folks who speak the language has sparked an interest in my son. The fact that he's sharing this with dh is more meaningful as well.

 

My goal for my ds is a college education and, right now, I don't anticipate trying to get a waiver for the language requirement. Our community college offers courses in Japanese, so when he's old enough, I'd like him to attempt that.

 

While I haven't BTDT, I do see it as a potential problem.

 

Just my thoughts, YMMV, Stacy

Edited by Stacy in NJ
sp

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I believe an Asian Language where you use characters is so much more visual and ASL might be another choice. We are doing Japanese - I speak and believe that Japanese, is backwards to an English speaker. Right to left and very visual- should be a perfect fit. I have one child who struggles with dyslexia and I believe I did as a child in many ways. I struggled through 2 languages that were easy to others spanish, german and then found Japanese. I ended up moving there as well. I speak well, and the visual helped me learn what I couldn't in other languages.

 

If you want to talk more in detail - email me

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Berlitz method could be very well received by a dyslexic child. They have courses online. Edited by iwka

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I've been reading Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz. She says that foreign language learning is incredibly difficult for dyslexics, and if possible and needed, dyslexics should be able to opt out of foreign language college admission requirements.

 

My oldest daughter has not been diagnosed with dyslexia, but she's shown signs since she was at least 6 years old, and I think I'll pursue the diagnosis this year. Right now we homeschool in the morning: spelling, memory, math, dictation, oral reading of a passage, and then narration of that passage, intensely in less than two hours. She's spelling on a 3rd grade level, doing math and reading on about a 4th grade level. She's made tremendous progress since we started working intensely on her level in January, but I can see that reading, spelling, and orderly thinking in general will always be more difficult for her than her siblings. Her passion is animals, and her goal is to become a wildlife biologist. So she works willingly on her basic skills with me so she can meet that goal. She'll be entering 6th grade.

 

I've always envisioned learning at least some foreign language as part of a good education. It's hard to scale back, but I do see that a foreign language would be difficult for her. I also see that it's most important to do the essentials, and the essentials with a dyslexic do take more time.

 

But is doing foreign language with a dyslexic unavoidably head-explodingly hard? Is there a way to pursue it that makes it doable? Are there dyslexics that can handle Latin? Or maybe starting slowly at junior high age, and incorporating lots of review, with a relatively simple language like Spanish? I'm wondering what your experience has been in this area.

 

I have not found that to be true. Neither of my kids with dyslexia had problems picking up another language. One is gifted at it, though we haven't gotten to the logic stage of conjugating verbs yet. We learned Spanish. It's very easy in terms of sound-symbol correlation and there is a lot of overlap with English.

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I am attempting to teach Latin to my 15dd who is dyslexic. We are going very slowly, and on her transcript I will put 0.5 credit for each year of high school. It helps that she wants to learn it and she enjoys it. I find there are many ways to reinforce English spelling, grammar, and vocabulary through the study of Latin. We are using BJU for this, which drives me nuts with its inductive approach, but it seems to work for my daughter. Memorization of paradigms and vocabulary is also painfully slow. Patience is key. It helps that I already know Latin from studying it in high school. My daughter wants to learn many languages; I chose to start with Latin because learning to speak and to understand spoken Latin are not hugely important. After a couple years of Latin we might try Spanish, which has many similarities with Latin, or I might just let her choose. But I have a feeling we will never get too far in another language, unless she does it on her own, because there are just too many of the basics that will need our attention.

 

Grace

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I did a presentation on this very topic for a graduate teaching class I took 2 years ago. There's no doubt that learning a foreign language can be very difficult for someone with dyslexia. I thought that I would require Latin of all my children (I made my oldest take 2 years in high school), but I can't see making my older dd do it.

 

However, she really wants to learn Spanish and since she is a very strong auditory learner, I think she will at least be able to speak and understand it. What I don't know is if she will ever be able to read and write it (she has dysgraphia too, so that's another issue). She was just telling me that when she sees the word in Spanish, it actually makes it harder to learn. She can hear a word and know what it is, but if she sees the same word written out, she doesn't know what it is. This is very consistent with the testing she had done last year. One subtest was repeating back nonsense words, which she did very well, even 4 and 5 syllable ones. (The tester actually said she had never had a child score so well on that test.) But on the subtest of reading nonsense words, she could not read words on a first or second grade level.

 

I have charts that I made for my Spanish class that we have been using. One has the numbers 1-31 with the Spanish written out. She says that having the number written out is not helpful for her at all. I am starting to wonder if I need to search out a Spanish phonics program in order to teach her to read Spanish. I always thought that if you could read one language, you could read any language with the same alphabet once you knew the pronunciation. I am starting to see that this is not the case.

 

If my dd were not a strong auditory learner with incredible pronunciation and a desire and motivation to learn a language, I would skip foreign language with her and pursue a waiver for college. OTOH, some universities with FL requirements are starting to offer special classes for people with disabilities. UNC-Greensboro is one and I interviewed the professor who teaches it. You can take what they do and use it to adapt curriculum. Components include: smaller amount of material they are responsible for, spiral curriculum, lower expectations for spelling, active class, constant repetition, shorter readings, consistent formats, no surprises on tests, concepts broken down, direct grammar instruction (no "They'll pick it up as they go along"), required tutoring outside of class, computer based activities, songs and games, and less use of text. A traditional language classroom may be the worst possible match for a student with dyslexia!

 

Spanish is great choice. French is very difficult for someone with dyslexia. German is a lot of grammar. As others mentioned, ASL or the Asian languages with characters may be really good options. But some colleges do not consider ASL a foreign language, so be careful.

 

HTH!

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I believe an Asian Language where you use characters is so much more visual and ASL might be another choice. We are doing Japanese - I speak and believe that Japanese, is backwards to an English speaker. Right to left and very visual- should be a perfect fit. I have one child who struggles with dyslexia and I believe I did as a child in many ways. I struggled through 2 languages that were easy to others spanish, german and then found Japanese. I ended up moving there as well. I speak well, and the visual helped me learn what I couldn't in other languages.

 

If you want to talk more in detail - email me

 

I would agree that a character-based language like Chinese or Japanese might be a good modern language option. Each dyslexic student has a somewhat different combination of difficulties with language, so I feel that making blanket recommendations regarding foreign language for dyslexic students is sometimes not so helpful.

 

Personally, our experience with Japanese and children who have language issues has been very positive. One of my children had receptive/expressive language challenges in her childhood years; she grew up bilingually in Japan. She had less trouble learning to read in Japanese than she did in English.

 

My son is clearly dyslexic. He struggles mightily with all aspects of writing in English- handwriting, spelling, and writing process. Yet, he is learning Japanese now as a foreign language (we have been in the States now since he was 5yo) and has had a much easier time with reading and writing in Japanese than he has had in English.

 

Just a quick clarification on Japanese language. The language is traditionally written in columns, top to bottom. The columns are indeed read from the right side of the page to the left. However, in recent decades, Japanese has also often been written horizontally from left to right.

 

Something I believe is helpful for dyslexic students learning foreign language is to concentrate on spoken language first, and to learn it in a very concrete visual way- using actions for verbs, photos and objects for nouns, etc. Learning a second language in much the way we learn our first language (listening, then speaking, then reading, then writing and moving from concrete to abstract in vocabulary development) is very effective for anyone, but I personally believe it is essential for students with language challenges.

Edited by Tokyomarie

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My ds is currently taking ASL as his world language requirement, and has earned community college credit for his first year. He is currently in his second year, and it has gone profoundly well for him. He learns the vocabulary rapidly, almost instantaneously. The other benefit is that he often uses fingerspelling to help himself with large, complicated words for spelling. The only times that I have seen challenges are working memory-related on the fingerspelling tests (the teacher fingerspells a word, and then he must write it correctly).

 

I have felt ASl to be very beneficial to him and his meta-linguistic development.

 

And, as the previous poster noted (thank you for your experiences), dyslexics can indeed learn languages using strategies that work for them. One of the dyslexic students who I tutor is currently learning French and doing brilliantly.

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I think exposure plays a role as well as timing of the exposure. My dh (dyslexic) finds it near impossible to learn a foreign language. He had zero exposure as a child and teen.

 

My oldest is dyslexic. I've spoken German to him from the get go. He understands German. His speaking and reading are not equal to his comprehension, however he does well. His reading is similar to his English reading as far as speed. As far as sounding out words he does better in German even if he doesn't know what the word means.

 

He does great in Latin so far.

 

He likes grammar so Latin and German fit right in.

 

I don't think a blanket statement saying that dyslexics will struggle incredibly with foreign language is fair. Some will and some won't. Brains are incredible organs. Even my dh learned the essentials of how to order a beer in Germany. Where there's a will there's a way. :D

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As a dyslexic myself when I had to learn Latin as a requirement in high school, I found the process difficult but quite rewarding! Many things i just couldn't understand in the English grammar all of a sudden made sense when I saw it in Latin. And it helped my vocabulary immensely, although i must admit learning the vocabulary was quite oppressive at times. My Latin spelling and vocabulary are still weak. I definitely think more auditory and visual route with a a living language, would be better. But i am thankful for the experience!

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My daughter has a phonetic processing issue. She has an A in Chinese. It is not a phonetic language. I highly recommend. Highschool is going to require her to take Spanish which will be a problem.

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My son did two years of Oak Meadow Latin. They use Cambridge. Not rigorous, but it enabled us to check off the foreign language box.

 

I should also say that my son did Latin for three years with me before OM. We did Getting Started with Latin which worked very well. Then we did Latin Prep (half of the book) and switched to So You Really Want to Learn Latin (maybe half of the book). Then we did Cambridge for a year, which was repeated when he did OM. So my point here is that he didn't go into OM cold; he had had some prior instruction, particularly in grammar.

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Trying Greek with DS, don't know yet how that will go. Here is a link to a revue of an ap that might be helpful http://dyslexiahelp....oreign-language .

 

I tried to upload an interesting paper about dyslexia and different languages for you to look at but it keeps failing:( It is interesting because Germans only have 3%-5% dyslexia rate vs English at a rate of 10%. Italian and Japanese also have pretty low rates. The scientist think it has something to do with the sounds that can change in the English Language-

 

The researchers tested dyslexics who spoke English, French and Italian. Unlike Italian, the first two languages have what is called irregular orthography: the same combinations of letters don't always sound the same. (Consider the pronunciation of mint and pint, cough and bough, or clove and love.) The researchers took positron emission tomography (PET) scans of the subjects' brain activity while they took both reading tests and word sound tests. They discovered that whereas the Italian subjects did better on reading tests, they did as poorly as the English and French dyslexics on the word sound tests. All three groups showed the same reduced activation of the left temporal lobe while reading.

 

Do a google search and see what you think. It might help you make a decision about what language to go with.

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The Snork Maiden has dysgraphia/verbal dyspraxia and she is learning Latin and Spanish. Latin she hates; Spanish she loves. I haven't yet worked out what the difference is... that's an ongoing issue for me to figure out... but whatever, I can tell you that she had no issue with the grammar side of either. Learning vocabulary is harder but she's very determined to do it. We're thinking of having both The Snork Maiden and Moominmamma take Latin and Spanish iGCSE soonish.

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Sally Shaywitz is correct. Both the school and us have decided that French is a waste of time for DD with dyslexia in grade 6, so it will be replaced with doing occupational therapy at school. The same thing will happen in high school when the mandatory French course will be replaced with a Learning Strategies course.

I've been reading Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz. She says that foreign language learning is incredibly difficult for dyslexics, and if possible and needed, dyslexics should be able to opt out of foreign language college admission requirements.

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DS16 is in ps; he started Spanish 3 over a month ago. He currently has a 69% and I'm worried that I made a mistake in allowing him to take it. Each week, they have a list of 30-40 vocabulary words to learn for a quiz. WAY too many new words for him to remember and spell correctly and use in paragraphs. He will likely end up with a C, but I will be helping him reach that goal. The teacher is also searching for a student tutor to meet with him weekly.

 

Many colleges prefer 3 years of a languages, so he felt obligated to take this course. I agreed. But colleges don't like to see Cs...

 

And ds signed up for Latin 1 next year - just to help with SATs. I'm hoping we see the benefit of a little bit of Latin, rather than the struggle.

 

Hugs to all of you trying to make the right decisions.

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My perfectly typical (well, gifted) 13 year old is struggling with foreign language learning. I struggled with it and still do. My husband - who is dyslexic - did fine. Go figure. Wil, my dyslexic kid, hasn't attempted foreign language study yet. I think he'd do best in an immersion type situation. At this point I'm not sure what we'll do for him. However, I met a young man recently who is from Hungary and is dyslexic. He struggled a LOT with learning English, but he did it. With desire and perserverance it can be done. That young man was really encouraging to my son. I'm glad we met him.

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My 6th grade ds is studying latin. He's enjoying it and making good progress. I do, however, have some concerns. For instance, in latin ae makes a long i sound and the i with a line over it makes a long e sound. I worry how that will confuse his phonics in English. And his sounding out words while reading.

 

Nicole

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Update: Ds scored a 3.57% on a Spanish quiz. I kid you not. We are giving him 2 more weeks with a tutor. If there is not much improvement, they will withdraw him from class. And it won't be on transcript. Yay!

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I tried to upload an interesting paper about dyslexia and different languages for you to look at but it keeps failing:( It is interesting because Germans only have 3%-5% dyslexia rate vs English at a rate of 10%. Italian and Japanese also have pretty low rates. The scientist think it has something to do with the sounds that can change in the English Language-

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I tried to upload an interesting paper about dyslexia and different languages for you to look at but it keeps failing:( It is interesting because Germans only have 3%-5% dyslexia rate vs English at a rate of 10%. Italian and Japanese also have pretty low rates. The scientist think it has something to do with the sounds that can change in the English Language-

 

 

I am an American living in Germany - with 2 bilingual boys. My oldest starting showing signs of dyslexia in 2nd grade - it took us 4 years of testing and re-testing to finally get him classified as dyslexic so that he may eligible for academic support. What we experienced is that the parameters for diagnosis are so specific and narrow that we had to wait until the norm group outpaced him by a fairly wide margin. For a long time he was catagorised as having LRS (a reading and spelling weakness) which is not officially Dyslexia - and was expected to "out-grow" it. I don't beileve Germany actually has a lower rate of dyslexia, I rather think there are a very large number of children that are going undiagnosed.

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My dyslexic son is doing fantastic with foreign languages. We have done Spanish orally since he was little, and now we are able to introduce some reading. I can ask him to do things in Spanish that i never could in English because it is completely phonetic. For instance we have a game where I give him words that are out of order and he has to put them in the correct order to make a sentence. He would hyperventilate if i did that in English because he 'can't read' (according to him) but in Spanish he knows he can sound out the words if he tries. Mind you we don't do a lot of reading/writing, but he is capable of it. And he excels at the verbal component of it.

 

He has also started Chinese at his request, and is doing very well. He is able to learn it orally and has learned some of the symbols as well. It really is nothing like reading/writing....more like drawing.

 

In both cases (chinese and Spanish) he is able to really effectively use the limited vocabulary he has to communicate with native speakers when he finds them. For instance when he only knew 10 words in Chinese, he was able to talk to a Chinese shopkeeper, using his vocabulary: I have a "little sister" she is "7 years old". I also have a "little brother" who is a "dog". He is a "baby dog". He is "2 years old", etc.

 

So personally I've found that his ability to communicate verbally is as strong in foreign languages as it is in English. However a program that focused heavily on writing and reading, such as Duolingo, would never in a million years work for him! For Spanish we use Visual Link (as well as speaking at home) and it is great.

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I have dyslexia and actually find learning a Forge in language really easy. Spanish was hard but wasn't EXTRMELY difficult (I never actually learned any of it tho so), however German is a snap (and I actually am starting to code switch I am learning it so well)

My theory is the classroom version is horrid but using rosetta stone or duolingo (*making sure sound is ON*) is what made it so easy

Edited by Xxfiyatheoneandonlyxx

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This year, DS took ABeka Spanish with a native Puerto Rican speaker and earned a 97%.  The program was primarly grammar and vocab.  I would have preferred him speaking more and believe that a program like Rosetta would have been better.  DS also did very well with Latin vocab.  I don't know what to make of the situation.

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How about asl (sign)? My son learned it at an early age to communicate. He was non verbal.

The colleges here count it as a foreign language . I know homeschool kids who got accepted with asl.

And it's fun :) with it using your hands ....I hear from some moms with dyslexic kiddos that works well with them.

Maybe check your local and /or state colleges to see if they accept it. I think most state colleges are accepting it more and more.

And,...did I mention? ..it's fun lol :)

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But, fwiw, my husband started my ds12 SN...very SN on dulio. That's not the correct spelling. But you get weekly updates sent to your email on their progress. They track it for you which, is very nice.

There's another one he uses. I need to ask him what it is.

It has pictures to go with the words. I'm shocked how much he can do.now, let me quality that. He doesn't know a ton. But, he knows some and can remember small amounts and very basic things. It's definitely something to build on. It's good your looking early for it. It takes out kids longer to grasp a foreign language for sure.

We have only been working on words. One day I sure hope to try the grammar portion of it, but that's a very weak are for him anyway. So, ...maybe no lol.

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Ask me again next year. ;)  DS is taking German I and II at CC this year.  He has exceptionally strong memory skills though so I suspect he'll do  well.

DD (14) is taking Spanish I and II this year but it will be a lot of memorization and verbal work.  Her devotion to putting in time memorizing should really help. We're having her take it as a high school class for four years rather than at CC like DS.  We think it's preferable as we are aware this could be a challenge, kwim?

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