If You Don't Know Where You're Going, You'll Wind up Somewhere Else: The Case of “Foreign Language Learning Disability”
Article first published online: 31 MAR 2009
© 2009, American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, Inc.
Foreign Language Annals
Volume 42, Issue 1, pages 7–26, Spring 2009
How to Cite
Sparks, R. L. (2009), If You Don't Know Where You're Going, You'll Wind up Somewhere Else: The Case of “Foreign Language Learning Disability”. Foreign Language Annals, 42: 7–26. doi: 10.1111/j.1944-9720.2009.01005.x
- Issue published online: 31 MAR 2009
- Article first published online: 31 MAR 2009
- foreign language aptitude;
- IQ-achievement discrepancy;
- learning disabilities
- relevant to all languages
Abstract: Despite the lack of empirical evidence, the term foreign language learning disability (FLLD) has become popular in the learning disabilities (LD) and foreign language literature. I contend that there is not a unique “disability” for foreign language learning and suggest instead that foreign language skills run along a continuum of very strong to very weak foreign language learners. To support my positions, I review problems with the definition and diagnostic criteria for LD. Then, I cite problems with the development and use of a logically consistent, easily operationalized, and empirically valid definition and diagnostic criteria for the FLLD concept and explain how proponents of this “disability” misuse the foreign language aptitude concept. Last, I detail implications for identifying students who exhibit foreign language learning problems, address policies that permit students to obtain waivers from or course substitutions for foreign language requirements, and describe issues hidden from foreign language educators because of the LD and FLLD concepts.