Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Dyslexia - Learning languages & Lesson 14

Dyslexia -Learning more than one language

We in Malaysia have always taken for granted about children speaking two, three, four or more languages. This is not the case in other countries as I came to realize recently. Some people in a group I belong to seem to make a big deal about their children speaking one foreign language.

Now, Malaysia is a multi cultural/ lingual country. Almost all of us here speak at least 2 languages. Most of us speak 3, 4 or 5 languages.

The main languages here are Malay (National language) which everyone who goes to school must learn. We also learn English in school as a single subject. The Tamils speak Tamil at home and the Chinese speak Chinese at home.

When I was in form 4 (Year 10) an American Pastor (Reverend Andrew Jackson Williamson) taught me Mandarin using the Yale translation. The Yale translation is different from the Han Yu Pin Yin used in China.

Reverend Williamson spoke only Mandarin to his daughter (Jean Marie Williamson) ever since she was born whilst his wife spoke English. Marie grew up and is able to speak fluently in both languages.

I have 5 children and at home we speak English. My mother who lives with us speaks only Tamil with my children. My children learn to read and write both Malay and English at school. I have also taught them Mandarin. As such they all speak 4 languages. My 4th son Hakim speaks French as well as he will be off to France to do computer engineering in May this year.

I believe that a young child does not know what a language is but knows which language is to be used with whom. Let me explain. One day when I was driving my first 2 sons to town - they were 6 and 4 years old then- my younger son said "Daddy the 'nutte' has fallen down". Immediately my elder son retorted, "Faisal you say 'nutte' to grandma but you must say 'nut' to daddy." This is very vivid in my mind. Both of them do not know that 'nutte' is Tamil and 'nut' is English but they know to whom they should use the appropriate word.

The same thing is true with the Chinese here. They usually have servants from Indonesia. As such their children will speak Malay with the servant and, either Chinese or English with their parents.

So, dyslexic or not, teach your children or let them learn as many languages as possible. In Malaysia, if an Indian and a Malay learn Mandarin it will go a long way when it comes to job hunting.

For lesson 14 click here :


Leslie said...

I would like to learn more about learning and teaching a second language with dyslexic kids. Could you please share some resources? Thanks!

Luqman Michel said...

Hi Senorita,
I do not have any resources that will be of interest to you. What languages do you speak? If you speak Spanish or Italian than you should teach one of these languages to your dyslexic students for a start. You will find that they will pick up either one of the 2 languages easier than the English language.

For a start please read my articles from the first article onwards and get back to me if you have any queries.

Luqman Michel said...

I checked out your blog and did not see any way of contacting you. Please e-mail me at luqmanm2002@yahoo.co.uk

There are many questions I have that you may be able to help me with.