Genetically influenced peculiarities in the brain anatomy, present in a minority of people, get in the way of a certain kind of information processing. This could be a problem, if a particular writing system strongly relied on this information processing; those born without it, could have a hard time. This explains why dyslexia can be of very little consequence in one country and a handicap in another. Read on to find out more about dyslexia in different languages…
For dyslexic children who are learning to read in English, the most noticeable problems of functional literacy are in accuracy and speed of reading and spelling. Evidence from brain imaging work done on adults, has been interpreted to support the ‘phonological deficit framework’ for understanding dyslexia. Adults with dyslexia show atypical neural activity in the left hemisphere system, during both phonological and reading tasks. Environmental factors play an important role in acquiring reading, making grapheme-phoneme acquisition primarily a cultural factor that is dependent on teaching.
In view of the nature of the Greek spelling system it is suggested that Greek children tend to find learning to read easier that learning to spell in Greek. This does not mean that all children acquire reading skills easily. On the contrary, some struggle in completing phonological decoding in word reading. This is reflected in the reading performance where the most important index of their reading performance seems to be the reading processing time rather than accuracy. This is in contrast to what happens in the English language.
There is little research on Arabic reading difficulties. Literary Arabic is taught in school almost as a second language. The nature of Arabic orthography demands high phonological decoding ability.
Relatively little is known about the prevalence of dyslexia in China. This is not surprising, when we consider that differences exist both within and between Chinese languages, such as Cantonese, Min and Mandarin and the more familiar Indo-European languages, which most of our knowledge about dyslexia has developed. Learning to read in Chinese may be easier for dyslexic children. Dyslexia is not common in Chinese speaking individuals and given that many dyslexic children may have unimpaired visual memory (through poor phonological awareness) the task of learning to read in Chinese may be easier for dyslexic children. A study showed that when they taught American dyslexic children to read words printed as Chinese characters they found that they were more successful at reading the words. This suggests to us that the unique properties of a script will determine the phenotype of dyslexia, in different language environments.
Dyslexia in more languages coming soon – stay tuned!
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Till next time…