Bilingual dyslexic child: how to manage language disorders?

Bilingual dyslexic child: how to manage language disorders?

Dyslexia is a common learning disability that exists throughout the world in all languages. The bilingual dyslexic child has difficulty acquiring reading and writing skills in languages.  

In this article, we will look specifically at learning disabilities in the bilingual dyslexic child.

So how do we identify these learning disabilities? What are the effects of bilingualism on dyslexia? How to manage dyslexia in a bilingual child?

Learning disabilities: How to identify them?

First of all, we will start by identifying the different learning disabilities that a bilingual child can have. The learning disability prevents the normal acquisition of skills and knowledge.

 It is a permanent disorder and therefore requires adapted support.

It is important to know that only an educational psychologist can diagnose a learning disability with certainty. Nevertheless, here are some evocative signs that should encourage you to consult.


Dyslexia is a learning disability in reading. A dyslexic understands words, but has difficulty reading them because of letters that get mixed up. It is estimated that about 5% of 10-year-olds are affected.


This is a writing disorder that prevents the assimilation of grammatical and spelling rules. The child has trouble writing simple words, panics at the thought of taking dictation; and forgets letters when writing words, despite great effort.


The child has trouble with arithmetic, either counting or addition/subtraction. Usually, dyscalculia can be suspected if a 5 year old cannot count to 10 or cannot relate a quantity of objects on an illustration to the corresponding number (3 chairs, a table, etc.).


Dyspraxia is manifested by unusual clumsiness. Ideally, a neuropediatrician will diagnose dyspraxia. A consultation should be considered if your child of 7 years or older frequently bumps into objects, needs help to dress or eat, or has fine motor problems.

Dyslexic Bilingual Child: The distinction between early and late bilingualism

Before diving further into the subject of bilingual dyslexic children, it is important to distinguish between early and late bilingualism.

  • Early bilingualism: The child is exposed to 2 languages at a very early age, or from birth when he learns them simultaneously, bilingualism has no effect on dyslexia.
  • Late bilingualism: A late bilingual child started learning one language and was exposed to a second language later on. Dyslexia will then be complicated by the "unnatural" learning of the second language.

Do bilingual children have the same weaknesses in both languages?

Research suggests that the brain development and weaknesses of people with dyslexia are similar, regardless of the language they speak. 

However, the difficulties are not necessarily the same in each language. For example, children may make more reading errors in English than in their native language. But they may read more slowly in their first language.

woman teaches kid how to read

How to help a dyslexic child learn a new language?

Start by prioritizing listening and speaking

Starting with speaking and listening from the beginning will help a dyslexic learner gain fluency. Listening to dialogue, even without understanding it, helps the brain adapt to a foreign language and immerse children in the atmosphere of a foreign culture.

Here are some tips for making speaking and listening effective:

  • Let him volunteer. Never force a dyslexic child to speak. Encourage them to speak by giving positive feedback on their work and attendance.

  • Maximize listening sessions. Use a tape recorder or recording tool to capture new words, phrases, or stories.

  • Visualize. Using visual aids during listening helps stimulate the activity.

 Focus on phonology

Reading and spelling problems in dyslexic children are often due to their inability to match sounds to letters accurately. A great way to develop this skill is to have them watch a foreign movie with subtitles in the original language of the movie.

Spelling and writing: don't punish mistakes

If you understand what dyslexia is, you probably know that children with this learning disability often have trouble spelling words, whether spoken or written. Try to structure writing sessions with your child and don't punish him or her for spelling or writing errors. Be patient!

Use the keyword method

 This involves finding a word in your native language that sounds like the target foreign word. The most important factor is that both words begin with the same sound. Then, create an anecdote and visualize it to make the connection between the meaning of the similar sounding word and the meaning of the foreign word.

Use apps

In the age of technology, there are many online resources, tools and apps that can help learners with dyslexia learn a foreign language. 

You can also check our different ways to teach your dyslexic kid how to read. 

Bilingual child with dyslexia: when to diagnose dyslexia?

Dyslexia is difficult to diagnose before the age of 6, which is the age when written language is actually being learned. 

Your speech therapist should adapt his diagnostic grid if your child is bilingual. It must also take into account when the bilingual dyslexic child has been exposed to two languages (simultaneous, early consecutive or late bilingualism).



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