Annals of Dyslexia

, Volume 62, Issue 3, pp 172–185 | Cite as

Dyslexia in a second language?—a dynamic test of reading acquisition may provide a fair answer

  • Carsten ElbroEmail author
  • Hanne Trebbien Daugaard
  • Anna S. Gellert


Dyslexia is hard to diagnose in a second language. Poor performance on a test of reading may be caused by poor language proficiency in the second language or by limited schooling rather than by poor reading ability per se. This confound was supported in a study of 88 adult second language learners and 65 native language speakers. The incidence of dyslexia in the second language learners varied widely depending on the measure of reading. In order to reduce language and schooling confounds, a dynamic test of acquisition of basic decoding ability was developed. In the dynamic test, participants are taught three novel letters and to synthesise the letter sounds into new words. Results from the study indicated that the dynamic test provided results in accordance with the current IDA definition of dyslexia, while significantly reducing the influence second language vocabulary and amount of schooling. With the dynamic measure, the same cut-off point between dyslexic and non-dyslexic performance appeared valid in both native language speakers and second language learners.


Diagnosis Dynamic testing Dyslexia Learning to decode Second language learners Vocabulary 



This research was supported by the Danish Ministry of Education (contract #082.863.021) and 21 language, dyslexia and adult education centres from all over the country. The authors are also indebted to 12 students who contributed to the data collection.


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Copyright information

© The International Dyslexia Association 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carsten Elbro
    • 1
    Email author
  • Hanne Trebbien Daugaard
    • 1
  • Anna S. Gellert
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Reading ResearchUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen SDenmark

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