People suffering from dyslexia may find that their problems evaporate when they learn a new language, especially one that works with symbols very different from their native one. A study released yesterday reveals that brain abnormalities in English-speakers with dyslexia are quite different from those in people who speak Chinese. So it's very possible that a person who is dyslexic in Chinese wouldn't be in English, and vice versa. This also helps explain why so many dyslexics are able to excel at computer programming, which requires them to write very precisely in a computer language.

According to Discovery News:

Dyslexia affects different parts of children's brains depending on whether they are raised reading English or Chinese. . . "This finding was very surprising to us. We had not ever thought that dyslexics' brains are different for children who read in English and Chinese," said lead author Li-Hai Tan, a professor of linguistics and brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Hong Kong. "Our finding yields neurobiological clues to the cause of dyslexia."

Why would English and Chinese dyslexia be different? Continues the article:


Reading an alphabetic language like English requires different skills than reading Chinese, which relies less on sound representation, instead using symbols to represent words . . . For children, learning to read is culturally important but is not really natural, Eden said, so when the brain orients toward a different writing system it copes with it differently. For example, English-speaking children learn the sounds of letters and how to combine them into words, while Chinese youngsters memorize hundreds of symbols which represent words.

The researchers suggest language-specific therapies for dyslexia which account for these differences: English-speaking dyslexics would learn to read by focusing on sounds. Chinese-speakers would focus more on memory cues.

However, another possibility is that English-speakers with dyslexia might be better-suited to read and write in Chinese. And vice-versa. Teaching children both languages could be another way to foster writing ability and reading comprehension. Image via Discovery.

Dyslexia Differs by Language [Discovery News]