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Ask-A-Linguist Message Details
|Subject:||Learning to read|
|Question:||Hello, Can an individual, child or adult, learn to read before he/she can speak? Thank you.|
|Reply:||I appreciate that Madalena Cruz-Ferreira covered so much of the ground for this question: - The differences between (natural) acquisition and (instructor-led) learning - Toddler "reading" programs which draws attention to the differences between recognition of words/phrases in writing vs. ability to comprehend novel sequences of characters - Languages which have writing systems that do not represent sounds (primarily), but instead capture other aspects of the language and thus are intelligible across spoken boundaries (especially Chinese) - Ancient languages which are learned for scholarly or religious reasons but which have no commonly spoken form in contemporary society (e.g., Latin, Sanskrit, older forms of Greek...) The one area which may still be open is the ability to read among individuals who are unable to speak because of hearing deficits. (I hesitate to say "hearing loss" to refer to those born deaf, as they haven't "lost" anything.) So can deaf children or adults read while not being able to speak? It is possible for individuals who have limited ability to speak (intelligibly) to nonetheless learn to read the spoken language around them. There is some evidence that writing systems like Chinese, which are less tied to representing speech, may be easier to master. As the current methods of instruction for deaf children in the US and Europe most often conflate the mastery of speech, speechreading (aka lipreading), reading comprehension, and expressive writing, it's difficult to determine how well one could learn to read if there were no concern about speaking.|
|Reply From:||Nancy J. Frishberg click here to access email|