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By Valle Dwight
But, this is not to say that it can’t be done. The research has shown that people with dyslexia can learn a second language. Just like with their early learning to read, the best program is a “systematic multisensory structured language approach,” according to the International Dyslexia Association. The IDA has a fact sheet with a list of specific teaching strategies and suggested modifications for teachers teaching a second language to students with dyslexia.
Some languages may be easier to learn than others, says Horowitz. He says that it is often the case that people with learning disabilities are quite successful in learning a foreign language that is, for example, predictable and rule bound (vs. English, which has more exceptions than rules); there are also some alphabets that are easier to learn because the sounds of the letters are always the same (which is not always the case in English).
Caroline Gear, director of programs at the International Language Institute of Massachusetts, has found that it’s the student’s motivation along with the teaching method that makes the difference.
“I really think that it's not so much about what's taught, but how it's taught,” she said. “For so many years, folks with learning disabilities were exempt from taking language classes. I think that folks with learning disabilities can learn a language as long as the course is, as we call it, VAKTASTIC. This means, visual, audio kinesthetic, tactile, smell and taste...and the "ic" thrown in there for a wonderful word to remember.”
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