Can adults become fluent in newly learned scripts?
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.