HomeeducationCan LD Students Benefit From a Second Language?
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My mom immigrated to the US when she was a child with her parents. They didn’t know English, but they learned over the years. I grew up listening to my grandparents speak German, hearing Polish music and eating sauerkraut, as well as various wursts.

Today, I can usually identify the German language when I hear it, and I know a smattering of words, but I’m not fluent. In middle school, I was taken out of Spanish class early on, because it was “too hard” for me, though I don’t recall having any input in the matter.

Strangely enough, although dyslexia is in every country, learning a second language embodies an entirely different mindset than learning a first language. It’s by no means easy for even neurotypical students, but it’s far from impossible for people with dyslexia or other LDs.

Yet, most of what I’ve read dismisses the possibility of picking up more than the native tongue and a lot of students experience the exclusion I did in middle school. It didn’t make sense that applying the multisensory teaching styles to second languages would work as well as when applied to first languages.

It turns out that I’m not the only one who thought of that. This article over on LD Online talks about how effective changing teaching styles is for foreign languages, too.

In my case, studying different languages has helped me understand English more thoroughly.

For instance, although I barely passed my three years of Latin, and I doubt I’d be able to translate much, the word roots help me with every day comprehension and the connections to other Romance Languages has helped me get the gist of conversations and web pages.

I wonder if students other language families, like Japanese, Chinese, etc, would experience similar benefits.

There’s more to learning more than one language than simply communicating with more people, and that seems to be ignored by popular culture. Providing LD friendly teaching styles for second languages might actually help some students with their primary language, especially if they naturally look for connections like I do.

That said, sometimes the process of learning another language can make things difficult. I also took a Japanese language course when I was still in school, and learning the hirigana characters made it harder for me to write English in print, due to some of the characters being so similar.

Again, even though I’m not fluent in Japanese, I’m still glad to have taken the course. One day, I might study it again.

English, French, Spanish, German and Italy all have similar word roots because their collective history was so strongly influenced by the Roman Empire and the Latin they left behind.

In many ways, language reflects the culture from which it grew. Our words carry our history, and how we use them reflects what that history has become.

So, can people with LD benefit from learning more than one language?

I think so. In fact, depending on how it’s taught, it might actually benefit them more than neurotypical students.

The issue at the root of the problem is in how those languages are taught. We already know that rote facts and memorization just doesn’t work when teaching many LD kids their first language, so why would it work when teaching older students a second language?

At the very least, LD kids should be given the option to study different languages at their own paces. Perhaps it shouldn’t be a requirement for graduation, especially when the basics of the first language must still be mastered, but it shouldn’t be put out of reach.

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