Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 12: 41–61, 2000.
© 2000 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Dyslexia and second language reading:
A second bite at the apple?
LOUISE MILLER-GURON & INGVAR LUNDBERG
Department of Psychology, Göteborg University, Göteborg, Sweden
Abstract. An unexpected and remarkable preference for second language reading among
some dyslexics has been noted, presenting a challenge to accepted theory on dyslexia and
the capacity for second language learning. The current study was designed to examine this
phenomenon by systematically looking at the differential reading scores in the ﬁrst and second
languages of reading-disabled young Swedish adults who claimed to prefer reading in their
second language (English). Three groups were selected for study: a group of 10 reading-
disabled young adults who prefer to read English; a second group of 10 reading-disabled with
no special preference for second language reading, matched on word recognition efﬁciency,
age group, gender and educational level and a group of 10 normal readers matched on age
group and educational level. The test battery was designed to compare overall reading efﬁ-
ciency in English and Swedish and therefore encompassed both speed and accuracy measures.
The battery covered seven phonological measures, four orthographic measures, three isolated
word reading measures, two continuous text reading measures, a comprehension task and
an author recognition task. All tasks were carried out in both English and Swedish. The
results showed that two dyslexic groups differed signiﬁcantly in the degree to which task
performance, including reading efﬁciency, was impeded by the English format. A tentative
hypothesis was forwarded as to how the exceptional and unexpected facility with English
might be explained.
Keywords: Dyslexia, English, Orthography, Phonological skill, Reading efﬁciency, Second
language, Swedish, Word recognition
Abbreviations: DEP – Swedish dyslexics with a preference for reading English; DSP –
Swedish dyslexics who prefer to read Swedish; DPER – dyslexic preference for English
reading; L1 – ﬁrst language; L2 – second language
There is a common assumption that our reading skills are most proﬁcient in
the language with which we are most familiar and this assumption is largely
born out by common experience. We naturally assume that the reading skills
of a normal reader will be more efﬁcient and more highly automaticised when
approaching a text in his/her native language (L1) than when faced with a text
written in a second language (L2). Studies to date provide evidence that adult