Unlocking Dyslexia in Japanese

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”.


  1. David Brains on July 11, 2011 at 8:31

    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.

  2. Pit on July 16, 2011 at 3:26

    Great progress with dyslexia

  3. Carol on August 3, 2011 at 5:21

    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.

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