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Dyslexia and learning modern foreign languages

In this video Dr. Margaret Crombie talks about what can make the learning of modern foreign languages challenging for dyslexic students.
Dr Margaret Crombie has been a teacher, education manager, lecturer, specialist, and researcher. She has authored a number of books and articles on dyslexia in more than four languages. She currently tutors with the Open University. She’s also a member of the Dyslexia Association Accreditation Board, and works for the Scottish Parliamentary Group on Dyslexia. Margaret is here to talk today about the particular challenges that students with specific learning difficulties might experience in learning foreign languages. OK. So Margaret, what are the specific difficulties that students with dyslexia might experience when they learn an additional language, such as Spanish, French or German? OK.
So if we start by thinking about the definition of dyslexia, which involves reading, writing, and spelling generally, so there’s also associated difficulties of phonology. Lots of people sort of think, well, if we teach them a transparent language, that will be much easier than learning an opaque language. But there are a number of other factors that we need to be considering. We need to think about things like gender. Are there two genders to learn, are their three? If they’re learning French, they will need to know whether it’s le, la, un, une. If it’s German, it will be der, die, or das. So they will have three genders to learn, along with just the vocabulary.
We have to think about things like word order in addition to that. And then with languages like German, we have cases also to think about. And considering dyslexia, we also need to think, well, there are liable to be associated memory difficulties. Is this going to be an additional load on memory? So we have to really think about that. Also we’re thinking about, in languages like French, German too, and to some extent, Spanish as well, we’ve got accents. Are we adding a complication by adding a language with an accent on different letters, or are we actually simplifying things for them, because languages with accents, the accents tend to be regular.
If you see a certain accent, then that is a certain pronunciation associated with that letter. So we may actually be simplifying things in that way. So generally, we have to think about all the different factors that are involved in a language. But the key thing we need to think about is motivation. What’s the motivation for learning a particular language? Does somebody have a work need for that language? Does somebody regularly visit a particular country in which case the language is going to be useful to them? So there are other factors to consider along with just is it a transparent language, or is it an opaque language?

Refer back to what you learned about the nature of dyslexia last week.

Can you answer the following questions:

  • Should students with specific learning differences learn foreign or additional languages? Explain your answer.

  • Will their foreign or additional language learning difficulties resemble the problems they encounter in their native language or will they be different?

  • What aspects of a second language can pose difficulties for dyslexic students?

Write your ideas down in a form of a short note.

Watch the video and reflect on your responses. You can find the mindmap shown in the video in the Downloads area below.

If you have time, you can also read Foreign Language Learning and Dyslexia by Margaret Crombie and tell us which strategies listed in the article you would recommend or use with the dyslexic students you teach.

You can also find the article in the Downloads area below, courtesy of Dr Margeret Crombie and Languages Without Limits.

If you are interested in learning more about the role of dyslexia in learning German you can check out the teacher training materials of the ENGaGE project in German.

This article is from the free online

Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching

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