Q&A: Teaching a possibly dyslexic child to read and write in the minority language.

by | Jul 23, 2015 | Challenges, Coaches, Literacy, Q&A Being the parent in a multilingual family, Rita R, Teenagers | 1 comment

Question

I am a Swedish national living in the UK with my husband and 10-year-old daughter. The main language we speak at home is English, and Swedish is the minority language. My husband does not speak Swedish, whereas our daughter speaks it more or less fluently, although she does not write or read it. We spend approx. 4 weeks each summer in Sweden and we visit Sweden once or twice more per year on shorter trips. Our daughter also speaks Swedish with my parents over Skype or FaceTime. There is a possibility that she may be dyslexic and I am interested in understanding how to help her with her Swedish reading and writing in relation to this.

Thank you for your help!
Marianne



Answer

Based on your description, your daughter’s minority language, Swedish, is very well supported and you and your husband are doing a great job raising her to be bilingual.

You mention that your daughter may have dyslexia – has this been diagnosed by a specialist or is it something that you suspect may be the case?

I had the chance to bring this up with Professor Sharon Armon-Lotem, one of the editors of Assessing Multilingual Children, and her recommendation is that it is important to get a specialist’s opinion, as children with dyslexia often also suffer from a language impairment (especially issues with the creation of correct sentences), and it is vital to identify the underlying challenges.

Please be aware that your daughter’s bilingualism does not negatively affect her potential dyslexia. There is a chance that having Swedish as the minority language could actually help her a bit. This depends on which type of dyslexia (if any at all) she has – you can find a description of the different dyslexia types here. The therapies to treat the different types of differ, so without this knowledge it is difficult to give detailed advice.

If she were to be diagnosed with what is called surface dyslexia, then it might be easier for her to learn to read and write Swedish than English. This is due to written Swedish being more consistent when it comes to the correspondence between sounds and the orthography of words. If you want to read more about this, you can find an explanation about different languages and orthographies on page in this document. You can also find more information in this article.

I hope I have been able to help you to understand the situation a bit better, but as mentioned, your best option is to consult a specialist on dyslexia who can advise you further. Please do keep me updated on your progress.

Wishing you and your family all the best!
Rita

Rita Rosenback

Rita Rosenback

Rita is an author, Family Language Coach, blogger and speaker, who was born into a bilingual family on the Swedish-speaking west coast of Finland. After studying languages in Finland and Germany she worked as a university teacher, translator, interpreter and manager of multinational teams. Rita is now a full-time writer and coach and has been living in the U.K. since 1998. Rita is the mother of two grown-up multilingual daughters, who are the inspiration for her book: “Bringing up a Bilingual Child”, an easy-to-read guide for parents, where she navigates the reader across the “Seven Cs of Multilingual Parenting: Communication, Confidence, Commitment, Consistency, Creativity, Culture and Celebration”. Currently English and Swedish are Rita’s main languages, but she instantly switches to Finnish or German or to her Finland-Swedish dialect when the opportunity presents itself (and when push comes to shove, she can communicate in a very basic Punjabi). Rita is the creator and driving force of this website, and she gives talks and holds workshops for parents and teachers on the topic of bilingual children. She also coaches families on how to make the most of their languages and raise their children to become confident speakers of the chosen languages.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Great advice here! I’m glad to know her bilingualism isn’t negatively impacting her possible dyslexia. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

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