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MFL and dyslexia

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by grasshopper2000, Feb 3, 2018.

  1. grasshopper2000

    grasshopper2000 Occasional commenter

    If a very bright, but dyslexic year 7 student is at KS1 level for reading and spelling in English, is it a good idea for them to be learning French? They haven't mastered English phonics, but are expected to learn French phonics and read and spell using it. Surely that is just setting them up to fail and could potentially lead to get confused even more with English phonics and spelling?
    What do you think?
  2. veverett

    veverett Occasional commenter

    Starting French would be one subject they would be on a level playing field with all the others.
    Starting French would be one subject where there is definitely a focus on phonics, oracy, literacy.
    Why would having trouble reading you in English mark you out as being someone who doesn't need the opportunity to learn a foreign language?
    What is it they would be doing instead of French which would have an impact on their dyslexia?
    Would the same question apply if it were Spanish rather than French?
    Does the same question apply to lots of other subjects - English literature etc?

    If there is something they want the time for that is really going to over come dyslexia, then great. Not sure it has to be done in French curriculum time though!

    I'd be worried about suggesting it.
    -myrtille- and Dodros like this.
  3. Dodros

    Dodros Star commenter

    There are literally hundreds of books and articles worldwide about teaching foreign languages to students with specific learning difficulties (dyslexia). Just look at the huge number of MFL/SpLD references listed in the bibliography of modern foreign languages and special educational needs at https://drive.google.com/open?id=0Bw7z_4bLjOOEUkVvYWF6d2M1d0E. One of the most readable and practical books on the topic is Dyslexia and Foreign Language Learning by Elke Schneider and Margaret Crombie, full of classroom-ready ideas including how to address special assessment needs. I recommend purchasing a copy because the strategies it recommends will be effective for all students, not just those with dyslexia.

    In a recent European Commission study of MFL and SEN, special school head Keith Bovair (who isn't a linguist!) experimented with the introduction of a foreign language into his school's curriculum. This was met with some resistance from parents and teachers, which swiftly faded away when the project turned out to be a resounding success. His conclusion: "The only 'disabling' conditions that our pupils have are low expectations and assumptions made by adults." One of those assumptions is that failure to grasp the complex orthography of the English language should be a permanent barrier to studying languages other than English. As Veverett suggests, however, Spanish (or German) might be a better language for students with SpLD to learn because their writing systems are relatively transparent compared to that of English or French. This student's problem lies with English phonics and the solution lies with intensive dyslexia-friendly English phonics interventions recommended by the educational psychologist and administered during school English lessons, not with disapplication of key subjects in the National Curriculum.

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