Raising and educating kids with dyslexia

Dyslexia in Chinese

Does a person diagnosed with dyslexia in English experience dyslexia in another language, such as Mandarin?

Once my children had been diagnosed with dyslexia and placed on Individualized Education Plans by the school system, my experience has been that the schools remove foreign language from the schedule to free-up time for support services to be inserted. In addition, the presumption is that learning another language will be difficult as they already experience difficulties with the English language.

There does not seem to be much research into dyslexia and learning different languages. The most recent research I did find from 2010 contradicts previous research in 2008 that suggested if a person were dyslexic in one language they would not be dyslexic in another language such as Chinese. But, according to the 2010 research, reported by Dyslexia Research Today, that involved using fMRI to study the brain activity of dyslexic readers of both English and Chinese, there was common brain activity in both types of readers that indicates dyslexia would manifest itself if both languages were learned.

This is disappointing. With our trip to Hong Kong and China coming up this summer, my daughter is showing an interest in learning Mandarin. Perhaps her enthusiasm will overcome her dyslexia.

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Comments on: "Dyslexia in Chinese" (4)

  1. I’m sceptical of this research, and sceptical of branding Chinese linguists “dyslexic” in the first place. So little research has been done on dyslexia in Mandarin that classifying someone as dyslexic in the language is nothing more than an educated guess.

    Given that Chinese follows a completely different instruction set to English (tenses, sentence structure etc.) but has far fewer sonic components (you can learn all the spoken syllables in Chinese in about two hours), I think the inference of this study is dubious to say the least.

    On the bright side your daughter should find it pretty easy to pick up some Mandarin (and don’t let the tones worry you – from experience every province pronounces each tone differently anyway) in spoken form. But written Mandarin is hard work for anyone it means lots of learning by rote (which is how the Chinese themselves have to learn them) to get 10,000 pictograms into your head (I haven’t managed any so far – in 2 years in China).

    My brother was severely dyslexic as a child, and now he’s a communications manager (after having been a press officer for years). He’s managed to learn some bits of other languages OK too.

  2. I personally do. Might be a bit of a “special”/weird case, speaking 5 languages, but i find it affects me in all 5 of them. Although i seem to notice it more when i’m using English. Guess it depends on the proficiency of each language, as well. Although I’m finding Mandarin particularly challenging, because its like learning 2 languages, in that you have pinyin (spell-sound) and then the actual characters. I’ve been living and studying here in Beijing for just over 2 years.

    • That’s interesting to know – especially as you have first-hand experience and knowledge with other languages. Well done on speaking 5 languages! That’s impressive.

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