Dyslexia in the English as a foreign language classroom


Dyslexia is a reading disability caused by a defect in the brain’s processing of graphic symbols, but it is not an illness and it is not rare. A lot of people have dyslexia, and not only children.

Many kids with dyslexia worry that there is something wrong with them, they can even feel stupid sometimes. Of course, their brain is normal and healthy, but their teachers and family should encourage them and let them know that they are normal. In fact, having trouble reading does not mean that they will have trouble learning, as most kids with dyslexia are brilliant at other things. They just need more time to make some connections and eventually they will be able to read properly and enjoy it.


The most fundamental symptom of dyslexia is a pronounced and persistent difficulty in the acquisition of skilful word decoding (reading) and encoding (spelling), forcing the child to lag behind his or her peers with regard to literacy development. There can also be a late or deficient phonological development (poor phonological representations), poor discrimination of sounds and sound confusions. Reading difficulties are frequently accompanied by low-grade orthographic spelling. However, linguistic functioning with reference to syntactic, semantic or pragmatic levels may well be within average.


In the 1960s, Pimsleur observed that foreign language underachievers tend to demonstrate poor sound discrimination skills and hardness in sound-symbol learning, responsible for the foreign language learning differences that could not be explained by low motivation or intelligence. Dinklage was the first to suggest that the learning problems experienced by some students of foreign languages resembled dyslexic problems.

When a teacher has a dyslexic student, he or she might reinforce some aspects:

Listening, Memorizing, Observing: pictures or any kind of illustrations are very useful.

A very good activity for them is to listen on a tape or CD as they read along the same transcription. You can also help your students giving them extra time to do their work and letting them do some of their written work on a keyboard.

Activities for Developing Phonological Awareness and the Awareness of Sound-letter Relations

Orthographic Awareness Activities

Grammatical Awareness Activities

Learning to read and write with Jolly Phonics

Source: Dyslexia in the  Foreign Language Classroom, by Joanna Nijakowska


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