The school system I went to for my primary education offered students the opportunity to take a second language in fifth grade. Since I’ve always had a fascination with different languages, I enrolled in Spanish, only to be pulled out again partway through the school year.
|A bilingual sign on which the German tells us to keep the
dog on a leash, but Italian tells us to keep Fido in suspense.
I have some books that would do a good job of that second
By Vermondo (Own work)
[GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0],
via Wikimedia Commons
I was told that because I was dyslexic, I couldn’t take a second language. By high school, I had been
mainstreamed enough to enroll in a second language, although I was exempt from the requirement due to my disability. Naturally, I went for Latin, because it’s the mother language of all romance languages, and I was hoping to get into a medical field.
I barely passed each of the three years. Latin is incredibly difficult, but it was rewarding. I learned how to spot word roots and I can identify meanings in foreign languages, even if I didn’t get fluent. I’ve also studied Japanese for a year and a half, and although I’m far from fluent in that, I can muddle through the basics.
So, does my failure at becoming fluent in a second language mean that dyslexics or people with other LDs can’t master more than one language?
Conventional wisdom might say ‘no’, but I highly doubt the truth behind that.
That Thought is Changing
There isn’t a whole lot of research done into the workings of LD and learning different languages, but that’s gradually changing. LD Online discusses some of the studies in this article.
Then, this article on the NCLD web page, Dr. Olson breaks down some of the unique difficulties LD students face with learning different languages. He also talks about some options that can help them pick up the language a little more easily.
The similarity that I picked up on is just how important a multi sensory approach to language education is, be it mastering a primary language or picking up a secondary language. If you stop to think about it, that concept makes sense, too.
The basic mechanisms behind each language is different, like Japanese being phonetically based in comparison to romance languages, like English, German and Spanish. Further, because each culture needs some sort of way to communicate, the overtones and customs each one developed over the centuries is reflected in words, phrases and lettering. However, when you cut through those details, languages all around the world were created to communicate concepts, both simple and complex.
When you get down to the basics, it makes sense that the multi sensory techniques that help a large group of students with LD learn one language will help that same group learn another.
The problem lies within how foreign languages are taught in many institutions, not in the brains of the students struggling to pick up the information. When teaching methods are tweaked properly, the stigma of being unable to become bilingual, or even trilingual, will lose some of its strength.