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Education Research International
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 710785, 8 pages
Review Article

Can Adults Become Fluent Readers in Newly Learned Scripts?

Global Partnership for Education, World Bank, Washington, DC 20433, USA

Received 29 March 2012; Revised 12 July 2012; Accepted 12 July 2012

Academic Editor: Stephen P. Heyneman

Copyright © 2012 Helen Abadzi. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Adults learning new scripts have difficulty becoming automatic readers. They typically read haltingly, understand little of what they read, and may forget letter values. This article presents the hypothesis that halting reading among adult neoliterates is due to low-level perceptual functions in the brain that have a sensitive period. These may be related to feature integration; whether illiterate or educated, adults learning a new script may be perceiving letters as connected segments rather than unbreakable units. The time needed to resolve ambiguities and determine how the segments are combined may delay identification and result in letter-by-letter reading. This phenomenon could be called “adult neoliterate dyslexia.” It has received little research or attention, possibly because few adults need to learn new scripts. Also unschooled illiterates are rare in industrialized countries where most reading studies are carried out. Research is needed to probe into the neuropsychological origin of the adults’ fluency difficulty. Potential remedies may include action videogames and thousands of trials through computerized media.