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How to Learn a Language as a Dyslexic Learner

Dyslexic Language Learning

Dyslexic foreign language learners are usually written off in schools and work as incapable of learning foreign languages. That is about 10% of the population! This assumption that dyslexic learners can't master a foreign language is completely false. Their success-rate of foreign-language fluency is directly tied to how they're taught.

Here are five tips for learning a foreign language that work effectively for dyslexic (and non-dyslexic) students to acquire a new language:

1. Vocabulary is King

When communicating in a foreign language, vocabulary should be your first priority. This is because if you know the correct words, you will almost always be understood. If I know the word for toilet, I will get pointed to a toilet when I ask toilet. If I say ''I want the…'' but don’t know the word toilet, I am in trouble.

2. Learn Grammar Through Vocabulary

Having a rapidly acquired vocabulary also helps with learning grammar, because we originally learn grammar by being given examples of its use in sentences. When the learner knows the vocabulary used in sentences, he or she can much more easily see the way the grammar is being used to frame concepts.

3. Review, Review, Review

Always go over material learned in a training session immediately after learning, then a week and a month later. Expanded retrieval has been shown to enhance long term retention.

4. Work at Your Own Pace

If you're learning or in a group, there are major advantages in each individual having their own computer screen to learn at their own pace, particularly if the group has a tutor present to encourage the progress of each learner. Learners in groups are often put off if they feel they are doing poorly in comparison to their peers. While some aspects of learning the language may come easily to dyslexic learners, others might require a bit more of your time and attention. Don't be discouraged and continue moving forward.

5. Use a Visual Language Learning Method

Dyslexic learners have been shown to be just as good at acquiring foreign language vocabulary using certain visual techniques as non-dyslexic learners. If you're a dyslexic language learner, put aside your past experiences and try the short exercise below.

Picture each of the images below in your mind's eye as vividly as you can for about 10 seconds. If you don’t spend the time picturing it, it may not stick.

The Japanese for SHORTS is HAN ZUBON

Imagine my HANDS UPON your SHORTS

The Russian for EYE is GLAZ

Imagine you have a GLASS EYE

The Polish for JUICE is SOK

Imagine drinking JUICE through a SOCK

The Hebrew for ELEPHANT is PEEL

Imagine an ELEPHANT eating AN orange PEEL

The Polish for HERRING is SLEDZ

Imagine a HERRING sitting on a SLEDGE

The German for BRIDE is BRAUT

Imagine a Belgian BRIDE, a Brussels BRAUT

The Italian for NIGHT is NOTTE

Imagine spending a NAUGHTY NIGHT out

The Portuguese for BUCKET is BALDE

Imagine a BALDY—headed man with his baldy head in a BUCKET

The Spanish for COW is VACA

Imagine a COW with a VACUUM cleaner, cleaning a field

The Turkish for DAUGHTER is KIZ

Imagine I’d love to KISS your beautiful DAUGHTER

What is the English for:


If you got five or more right, a visual learning method like the Linkword method shown above can help you learn a language. It has been shown in studies to help learners who are dyslexic at an equal rate to non-dyslexic learners.

Are you dyslexic and interested in learning a foreign language? Do you teach dyslexic students a foreign language? Contact Linkword Languages to learn more about the method and if it can help you.

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About the Author

Dr Gruneberg's Background is as a university academic psychologist with an interest in memory and memory improvement. He has published a large number of research papers and books on Memory and Memory improvement and two popular books on memory improvement with his colleague, Professor Doulas Herrmann of Indiana State University

He is a former President of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, an international learned society. He has been involved in a number of broadcasts for the BBC, including writing the original script for the BBC QED programme, THE MAGIC of MEMORY and was the scientific consultant for the BBC series on Unforgettable Memory.

Linkword Languages

Last updated: 18 Jun 2018

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