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How the Structure of the English Language Impacts Dyslexia

Before we dissect how the English language impacts dyslexia, it’s important to
understand how dyslexia impacts all languages. If someone has dyslexia, they have “an
unexpected difficulty in learning to read…and…retrieve spoken words easily, but it does
not dampen their creativity and ingenuity,” according to the Yale Institute for Dyslexia &

It’s been said that English is the second most difficult language to learn for non-English
speakers, only to Mandarin’s innate symbolism. Because dyslexia is a neurobiological
disorder, we know the individual’s native language does not determine the diagnosis,
but we can probably all agree the difference between “their, they’re and there” or
“where, wear, we’re” can be difficult for even the average learner to remember.

Karin Landerl, a professor of developmental psychology at Austria’s University of Graz
told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), “There is quite a lot of evidence that
learning to read in English just takes longer because it’s harder than other
orthographies.” Why is this?

Like the homophones listed above, words that sound the same but are spelled
differently and possess different meanings can cause chaos and confusion for young
learners; particularly young learners with dyslexia. Learning to read internally or aloud
can be extremely difficult if the phonological awareness to sounds is lower than
average. For a child struggling with dyslexia, understanding the difference between “f”
and “ph” can be nearly impossible, let alone deciphering the appropriate phonological
order in which they go.

It’s also important to note the findings from the International Dyslexia Association
stating, “When discussing English learners and dyslexia, keep in mind that although 400
different native languages are represented within the English learner (EL) population of
students, 75% of these students speak Spanish in the home. Therefore, much of what
we know about English learners comes from research involving Spanish-speaking
English learners.”

Regardless of your child’s first or second language, if they have dyslexia, the proper
tools will be necessary for them to speak, understand and read that language
successfully. Visit www.dyslexiahouston.org/for-parents/ to learn more about the
resources you can provide to support your child’s literacy and success.

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