Dyslexia and Foreign Language Learning

By Liszka, Sarah Ann | Academic Exchange Quarterly, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Dyslexia and Foreign Language Learning

Liszka, Sarah Ann, Academic Exchange Quarterly


This case study considers inclusive practice in learning and teaching in the context of session design and delivery in the foreign language classroom, focusing on a dyslexic student. It suggests that in a subject whose core intended learning outcomes are based on oral, aural and written language skills, achievement by dyslexic students will be facilitated by a well-planned session that is multi-sensory and incorporates adjustments to the benefit of every student, whilst taking into account issues of sensitivity and discretion.


Learning a foreign language (FL) is a complex process, requiring the interaction and application of analytical skills in order to understand the formal linguistic structures of the FL, meta-cognitive skills to enable self-correction/error analysis, and memory. A fourth aspect, which is inextricably linked to these skills, is having the confidence to use the FL both productively (speaking and writing) and receptively (listening and reading). Successful learning can be hindered by difficulties arising in one or more of the areas highlighted above for any FL student. However, the potential for such problems arising in the FL learning context is greatly exacerbated for students with a specific learning difficulty (SpLD) compared to their non-SpLD peers (Barr, 1993). This case study focuses specifically on the SpLD of dyslexia and its implications for FL learning and teaching. It considers the challenges that both the learner and the teacher face in order to achieve effective learning outcomes, within the scope of session design, on the assumption that for dyslexics problems arise which are directly attributable to one or more deficiencies in the processing of native linguistic knowledge at the levels of syntax, semantics and especially phonology (Ganschow and Sparks, 1995).


Dyslexia is a condition that is neurological in origin, which is categorically non-attributable to factors such as socio-economic background, a lack of motivation to learn or IQ level (Ellis 1993, The Dyslexia Handbook 2002: 67). Research using brain-imaging techniques indicates that physiological differences in the brains of dyslexics underlie the differences in cognitive functioning and development (Paulesu et al., 1996; Stein et al., 2001). At the cognitive level, deficits may occur in visual processing, linguistic processes (such as phonological representation) and memory (Everatt, McCorquodale et al., 1999). Focusing on problems with phonological awareness, difficulties often appear at the pre-reading stage of development (Frith & Frith, 1996), particularly in discerning discrete differences in phonemes, characterised by the inability to produce or recognise rhymes (Paulesu et al., 1996). Other manifestations include problems with sound blending and segmentation, which is necessary for breaking words down into constituent phonemes (E.g. Everatt, McNamara et al., 1999; Snowling, 1995) and is crucial for the process of learning to read orthographically, i.e. by having the ability to associate phonemes with alphabetic letters. In terms of literacy, the symptoms of dyslexia given by The British Dyslexia Association (2004) include the reversal of single numbers or letters within a word, the omission or insertion of words, and losing track of the text when reading. However, the range of potential difficulties a dyslexic student faces goes beyond problems with literacy per se; they may also have difficulties with comprehension (listening, reading and note-taking), difficulties with organisation, classification and categorisation and show a lack of fluency, often resulting in a reluctance to talk in large groups (ibid).

Case Study: Informant's Details

DG, the informant in this case study, is a highly motivated mature student, who is a native speaker of Spanish, living and working in France and enrolled on an English course, testing at the upper-intermediate level at the point of entry.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Dyslexia and Foreign Language Learning


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?