Reading as a Second Language

If speaking English is our first language, then reading English could be considered our "second" language. Just as many of us have difficulty learning a foreign language, children with reading challenges like dyslexia have difficulty learning to read. The causes may be different, but the frustrations and sense of failure are very similar.

Recently, I read a report about teaching English as a second language (ESL). The writer described the difficulties ESL students have in understanding the English alphabet, grasping cultural differences, locating the relevance of lessons to their everyday lives and even understanding the concept of reading for the first time. The ESL students who have the most difficulty are those who never learned to read in their own language, usually because there were no schools or reading was not a high priority. It struck me that children with reading challenges like dyslexia approach learning in very much the same way.

Here is a table from that report, comparing the learning styles of ESL students who are able to read with those who are not able to read:

ESL Readers

 ESL Nonreaders

a. Learn from print

a. Learn by doing and watching

b. Tend to be visually oriented

b. Tend to be aurally oriented

c. Make lists to remember

c. Repeat to remember

d. Spend years learning to read

d. Have limited time for learning to read

e. Know they can learn

e. Lack confidence in their learning ability

f. Have varying needs and goals

f. Have varying needs and goals

g. Learn best when content is relevant to their lives

g. Learn best when content is relevant to their lives

h. Can distinguish between important and less important points

h. May accept all content as being of equal value

Doing and watching, listening and repeating are some of the same skills that children with reading challenges often develop to compensate for not being able to read. They also lack confidence about reading, learn best when the content is relevant to their lives and may have difficulty in separating important from unimportant information.

Unlike learning a second language, total immersion does not work with dyslexia or other reading challenges. You can surround a struggling child with books and read to the child every day, but that child will still be unable to read. Specialized, one-on-one tutoring is needed. That's where Windy Row Learning Center excels.