Learning Disorders and Foreign Language Learning

The definition of learning difficulties states that as such we consider the special developmental disorders of school abilities, in which the normal types of learning abilities are disturbed in the early stages of psycho-emotional development. According to the American Psychiatric Association, learning disorders include:

1. Reading Disorder (Dyslexia)

2. Mathematics Disorder (Dyscalculia)

3. Disorder in Written Expression (Dysorthographia)

4. Learning Disorder not otherwise specified (disorders that do not meet the criteria for a specific category)

Anyone interested in examining the subject of these disorders theoretically can find available a rich literature, both printed and electronic, that includes theories intended to explain the nature of each difficulty.

Dyslexia in various language systems:

Students with learning disabilities in foreign languages ​​face problems mainly in learning the phonological code of the language when there is no complete correspondence between sounds/phonemes and letters. There are also difficulties in reading comprehension, comprehension, and syntax of writing, spelling, vocabulary learning and oral expression.

The English language is considered phonologically non-transparent because of its incomplete phonological correspondence. The lack of consistency of phonemic-graphical correspondence in English is more pronounced in terms of vowels. The result of the greater degree of opacity is to lead to more phonological processing errors and consequently to greater reading problems.

Although English is the second most widely used foreign language in Europe, it seems to be one of the most difficult languages ​​for people with language disorders to learn. This is because most of them have deficits in phonological processing and difficulties in correctly using graphical-phonetic matching. Consequently, the phonological opacity of English does not facilitate its learning. People with reading disorders would prefer to choose Italian, Spanish or Finnish that is characterized by phonological cohesion.

But for sure, people with language disorders can learn a foreign language. A prerequisite is that there is no rush or pressure for achieving that. Both parents and teachers need to be understanding and aware of the specificities and specific foreign language learning programs available.

In iED, we implement the  Erasmus+ project “IRENE: Increase the empoweRment of adults and migrants with spEcific learNing disordErswhich seeks to support and help adults in the process of learning and acquiring a foreign language by using virtual reality and interactive technology. If you want to learn more about the project, click here.


Do you want to write for us? Read our guest post guidelines here!