Great article in the Wall Street Journal today: Unlocking Dyslexia in Japanese. Quotes:
- “Experiences like that of the Lundays are providing scientists and educators with clues about how people with dyslexia learn and how best to teach them. Researchers have long observed that some dyslexics have an easier time with languages like Japanese and Chinese, in which characters represent complete words or ideas, than they do with languages like English, which use separate letters and sounds to form words.”
— “Learning experts don’t suggest that studying Chinese or Japanese will help dyslexics learn to read English; there’s no getting around the fact that reading English well requires being able to identify and blend sounds. But improved understanding of the way dyslexics absorb character-based languages may help educators fashion curricula.”
— “The Arrowsmith School, a Toronto-based school for children with learning disabilities, says it asks students as part of its reading program to memorize words and characters in a variety of languages, including Chinese.”
Full article: Unlocking Dyslexia in Japanese
PS: the image above is the kanji character for “read”.
David Brains says
Interesting, I have mild dyslexia myself but have overcome most difficulties by rigorous training and practice (not with chinese characters unfortunately). This might become an important future concept though.
Great progress with dyslexia
This is quite true with other neurological problems. I have a range of neurological problems with vision, APD, motor apraxia, and NLD. Despite these problems, I have learned to read Chinese and Japanese and have noticed that I have gained in spatial skills despite my neurology. I would not recommend just plunging into reading characters without first gaining some foundational skills in nonverbal areas. I have tried doing learning characters without foundational skills and it is very tough. I do believe that learning characters is a very useful exercise at an appropriate point in therapy.
There is also a reverse disorder that can be revealed by Oriental people trying to learn English. I taught English in Japan for a while and came across one poor soul who was having trouble learning to read English. He was staring at each word with the same focus as I had when I was trying to memorize characters. Looking back at this, I believe that he was trying to visualize the whole word and memorize each word as a symbolic entity just like you would do with character based languages. We had to start teaching him how to look at the English language differently.