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This page is introduced and overseen by Dr Margaret Crombie, formerly Support for Learning Manager and Quality Improvement Officer for Highland Council, Scotland; now Educational Consultant specialising in Dyslexia, and Associate Lecturer for the Open University.

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Additional support needs - Introduction

Dyslexia in other languages

The importance of teaching phonics


Workshop 7 - Planning support for learners with dyslexia

My research into foreign language learning in schools took place mainly in the early nineties when modern foreign language learning was becoming compulsory for all children in the first four years of secondary school. At that time I was teaching learners with dyslexia full time, and parents were frequently asking me if their children should not be taken out of language learning. Statements such as, “Well, if they can't learn to read and write in their own language, how will they ever cope with learning French, German or whatever?” I did not know the answer to this question and sought to find it. All searches in the UK were negative and it appeared that very few of the recommendations that were being made in Scotland had any research foundation.

photo of Dr Margaret Crombie

Further investigation led me to two researchers in the United States - Le Ganschow and Richard Sparks, and Le was good enough to send me some details of the work which they had done on the other side of the Atlantic. This was a start, but as their research did not relate directly to school learning, I decided that this should be the topic for my Masters degree which I was about to embark upon. Findings were very revealing and contrary to advice which was being given that speaking and listening should pose no problems for dyslexic pupils, I found that those areas did pose considerable difficulties for most youngsters with dyslexia. Further information on my research is published in Dyslexia Journal 1996.

However, this did not convince me that pupils with dyslexia should not study another language. It did however make it all the more important that the right methods of teaching were in place, and since then I have spent considerable time and effort in identifying the approaches and strategies that are most likely to meet with success. I continue to maintain an interest in this area of learning.



Please see note on copyright

Dr Crombie's findings are summarised in this article
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Some tips to help support learners with dyslexia.
Download tips

Dr Crombie's contribution to the EU report: SEN in Europe: The teaching and learning of languages: Insights and innovation
Download extract

Multisensory approaches to foreign language learning
A handout from the British Dyslexia Association's International Conference held in in March 2004.
Download handout

Gaelic phonics Download worksheets


Supporting students with dyslexia in secondary schools
Every class teacher's guide to removing barriers and raising attainment by Moira Thomson. Published by Routledge.
Moira Thomson, an experienced teacher and manager with considerable knowledge of dyslexia, has taken a vast amount of current thinking and up-to-date research and put together this easy-to-follow guide. Whatever their current or previous level of knowledge, all will be able to find something that will enable them to help pupils cope with the various subjects in the best ways possible. Provides practical advice on classroom management generally, with specific guidance for different subjects, including modern languages.

Multilingualism, Literacy and Dyslexia
Ed. Peer and Reid. Several chapters on MFL, including Chapter 24:'Teaching Modern Foreign Languages to Dyslexic Learners: A Scottish Perspective'. by Margaret Crombie and Hilary McColl. Published in association with the British Dyslexia Association by David Fulton Publishers 2000.

Dyslexia - Successful Inclusion in the Secondary School
Ed. Peer and Reid. Chapter 7: 'Dyslexia and the teaching of modern foreign languages', by Margaret Crombie and Hilary McColl. Published with BDA by David Fulton Publishers 2001.

Dyslexia and Foreign Language Learning
By Elke Schneider and Margaret Crombie. Published with BDA by David Fulton Publishers 2003. "Offering strategies and techniques for teaching modern foreign languages – an often severely challengingnsubject for pupils with dyslexia – this book is specifically designed to meet the needs of the busy subject specialist teacher looking for guidance on supporting pupils."

The Routledge Companion to Dyslexia
Ed. Gavin Reid. See Chapter 23 by Schneider - 'Dyslexia and foreign language learning', Chapter 24 by Mahfoudhi, Elberheri & Everatt - 'Reading and dyslexia in Arabic', and Chapter 25 by Haynes, Ayre, Haynes & Mahfoudhi - 'Reading and reading disabilities in Spanish and Spanish-English contexts. Published by Routledge, 2009

Dyslexia in Different Languages
Ed. Nata Goulandris, published by Whurr 2003. The languages researched are German, Dutch, Greek, Polish, Russian, Swedish, French, Norwegian, Hebrew, Indian languages, Japanese languages and Chinese, as well as difficulties faced by bilingual children. (Source: Dyslexia On-line Journal)

Dyslexia in the foreign language classroom
Joanna Nijakowska, published by Multilingual Matters, Bristol (2013)
This volume brings together chapters addressig issues relating to inclusive language education and technology. Topics include language teaching to the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and students with dyslexia, benefits of multimodal approaches for language learning, examples of software use in the classroom, and copyright matters. The book demonstrates not only a commitment to inclusive practices but suggests practical ideas and strategies.

Inclusive Language Education and Digital Technology (New Perspectives on Language and Education)
Edited by Elina Vilar Beltrán, Chris Abbott, and Jane Jones, published by Multilingual Matters, Bristol (2013).

Teaching languages to students with specific learning difficulties
Judit Kormos and Anne Margaret Smith, published by Multilingual Matters, Bristol.
This book is intended to help those teaching language to work effectively and successfully with students who have specific learning differences (SpLD) such as dyslexia. The book takes an inclusive and practical approach to language teaching and encourages teachers to consider the effexts that a SpLD could have on a language learner. It suggsts strategies that can be implemented to enable learners to succeed both in the classroom and in formal assessment.

All the books listed above can be obtained from Amazon and most good bookshops.

See also:

Dyslexia and foreign language learning: What's the problem? Margaret Crombie (2010)
This item appears in Language Learning and Dyslexia: Symposium proceedings 15th February 2008 (pp 108-118), published by the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies (see General Links, below)

YOUTUBE: Dyslexic learners in the EFL Classroom

[6.10.14] Margaret has recently been involved in making a video on the use of technology for learners with dyslexia in the English as a foreign language classroom. The videos were made originally for use in the Polish EFL context, but much of the information can be applied to learning any language.

Margaret's video is Part 3 of a suite of 4 videos:

Part 3: The Role of Information Technology
In this talk Dr Margaret Crombie, an independent education consultant in Scotland, shows how the role of Information Rechmology (IT) supports students with dyslexia learning English as a foreign language. What does this involve? Not only does it cover the basics, such as computers, the Internet, various devices like Interactive whiteboards, tablets, phones and software, but, more importantly, how it all relates to communication – because that is what we learn another language for.

The other three Parts are:

Part 1: Effect of Dyslexia on Foreign Language Learning

Part 2:Accomodating Dyslexic Learners

Part 4: Developing Phonological and Orthographic Awareness


The French website Phonétique provides lots of practice in linking sounds and spelling. It may be of interest to dyslexic students of French and their teachers:

Patterns and Procedures: focus on phonics and grammar by Heather Rendall. Heather maintains that current practice often leaves learners with no option but to stuggle with the foreign language in ways similar to the difficulties that dyslexic students experience in learning and using English. She offers practical advice on how to present and practise new vocabulary and grammar in the early stages so that that learners become competent and self-sufficient and above all literate in their new language. May stil be available from Amazon.

See Lynn Erler's article on Near-beginner learners of French are reading at a disability level in the ALL Journal 'Francophonie' (No. 30, Autumn 2004, pp9-15). Reproduced here with permission.
Download article

Here is another extract from 'Francophonie', this time from Llewelin Siddon's article Practical reflections on the sound/spelling link. The complete article was published in 'Francophonie', Spring 2001, No 23, pages 10-14. Extracts reproduced here with permission.
Download article

SOFTWARE (and some hardware)

Acapela Group
Speech help with language learning

A visual approach to learning and memorisation

Reading and writing tool, including products to help with French, Spanish, Welsh as well as English for users of other languages

Resources for teaching and learning Spanish

Word prediction in many languages

Linkword Languages
Suggests strategies for remembering. Recommended by some Dyslexia associations

Overlearning and other strategies:

Inclusive technology

Google Translate
Excellent means of translating words and phrases as it will give you the correct pronunciation as well as spelling - for many languages.

A sophisticated word processing program with accompanying speech for young people, including languages.

The Gift of Dylexia
Information about resources that may be helpful for learners with dyslexia

Lots of visuals and games, most now available as ebooks.

Inclusive technology

Songs for teaching
Consider the benefits of using rhythm and melody to make lerning more multisensory. This site includes some links to songs in foreign languages.

Radio Lingua network
Learn a language anywhere, anytime.

Facilitates cooperative working.

CALL Scotland
Communication and assistive technology generally, inlcuding training opportunities.

Intuitive disctionary and text translation software, including pronunciation.

English, French and Spanish

Scans and translates

My Study Bar

Speaking Avatar
Including interaction in foreign languages

REMEMBER that social media and other popular websites can encourage communication and exploration, including use of a foreign language. For example: Facebook, Google Earth,Skype, slideshare, Epals.


[Links last checked 6.10.16, unless otherwise indicated.]

Davis Dyslexia Association International
Advice on hardware and software for dyslexia

International Dyslexia Association
Lots of useful information

Dyslexia Scotland
...and links to local branches

British Dyslexia Association

Dyslexia Action
A national charity that takes action to change the lives of people with dyslexia and literacy difficulties

Modern Foreign Languages and Dyslexia: A survivors' guide to Modern Foreign Languages
This information sheet is designed to help dyslexic students get the most out of learning a foreign language. It is aimed at parents and students but it also aims to help teachers understand the needs of their students.

Link to Hull University's website where potential students with dyslexia can find advice on studying Modern Languages:

Dyslexia and language learning
Notes from a training day run by John Bald. Includes strategies, and a PowerPoint presentation to download.

Technology and Dyslexia by Ian Smythe
Many of the entries are useful for multilingual dyslexics, those dyslexics outside the UK as well as those learning an additional language.

SOAS Symposium on Language Learning and Dyslexia
In February 2008 the London University School of Oriental and African Studies hosted a Symposium on Language Learning and Dyslexia with talks by acknowledged experts in the field. All the talks are now available to view online - the next best thing to attending the symposium yourself!

Dyslexia and foreign language learning
This case study concerns an adult learner. a native speaker of Spanish, living and working in France and enrolled on an English course.

Dyslexia Toolkit
A resource to help teachers in Scotland to respond appropriately to the needs of children with dyslexia. It takes account of the Curriculum for Excellence levels and stages of learning. The Toolkit was launched by Education Secretary, Michael Russell, on 1st June 2010 and has since been completely updated.

Curriculum for Excellence: supporting learners with dyslexia

Open University
The Open University's publication for dyslexic students and their tutors includes useful appendices on learning styles and strategies.

Dyslexia and Additional Academic Language Learning [Dyslang]
The Dyslang project, an EU project that produced material for those supporting multilingual pupils learning an additional language, is now complete. All modules are available on the website. To ensure you have the version that is suited to those in the UK, please click on the UK flag. Some content under the generic flag is inappropriate in some contexts.

A 10- Unit course funded with support from the European Commission. The award-winning DysTEFL materials comprise a whole course suitable not only for teachers of English as a foreign language, but also for anyone involved in language teaching. The materials can be used for self-study or to raise awareness of the learning needs of those with dyslexia when learning language. The materials are suitable for pre- and in-service teachers as well as training institutions. There is a wide repertoire of useful teaching methods, techniques and tools in this package.

Dyslexia Scotland publication in Gaelic

Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching
Gain practical tools and theoretical insights to help dyslexic students learn second languages, with this free online course from Lancaster University.



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