As reported by The Wall Street Journal in its July 5 issue, emergent research in neuroscience and fMRI imaging suggests that dyslexics have an easier time learning pictorial languages [1]—like Chinese and Japanese— than they do languages like English. According to Maryanne Wolf, director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University, this is because the brain circuitry utilized in reading a pictorial (character-based) language, as opposed to a language that combines letters and sounds to form words, is very different.

Recently conducted fMRI studies show that when people with dyslexia read in English, they rely on the same region of the brain as do readers of kanji, a character-based Japanese language. However, good readers of English display the same neural activation patterns as do children reading kana, a Japanese language much like English in which each character represents a sound. While experts don’t believe that learning Chinese or Japanese will actually help children with dyslexia learn English, they contend that the knowledge gained from such studies can help educators fashion more suitable curricula for students with dyslexia.