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Learning Ancient Greek Helps Dyslexia, Research Suggests

Learning Ancient Greek Helps Dyslexia, Research Suggests


Dyslexia is a disorder that can cause immense challenges for young people trying to learn how to read and write. In some instances, it can even affect the learning of mathematics or cause short-term memory problems.  If left unaddressed, dyslexia can continue to cause complications in later life.

Current consensus suggests that dyslexia can be successfully managed, but not completely cured. Fascinatingly, some studies have found that learning the written language and alphabet of the Ancient Greeks can spur changes in brain development that help stave off the onset of dyslexia. And if the symptoms of dyslexia are already being experienced, learning the Ancient Greek alphabet can actually reduce their intensity or eliminate them altogether.

How Scholars Linked Dyslexia Treatment With Ancient Greek

Much of the knowledge about this area of dyslexia research comes from the work of two University of Toronto professors: Charles Lumsden, a biologist and associate of the university’s Department of Medicine and Medical Science, and the now-retired Derrick De Kerckhove, who was a professor of French and the one-time director of the university’s Marshall McLuhan Center of Communication Theory.

These scholars first became interested in the relationship between written language and cognition in the 1980s, and in 1988 they edited a book of essays on the subject called “The Alphabet and the Brain.” 

In more recent research, they address the subject of dyslexia specifically, reporting on studies that have connected the learning of Ancient Greek to the diminution of dyslexic symptoms.

“The benefits that result from the formation and proper use of the human brain have long been recognized by teachers and scholars from all around the world, who have suggested the systematic teaching of the Ancient Greek language as a treatment for dyslexic children,” they wrote.

“Dyslexic people might have difficulties in oral speech, spatial and temporal orientation, or right-left distinction,” they continued. “Of course, these difficulties, qualitatively and quantitatively, vary from person to person, and the symptoms vary according to age. When people are able to activate more parts of their brain thanks to the use of a language, they are likely to fight back some of the symptoms of dyslexia.”

Needless to say, few schools in English-speaking countries are teaching young people to speak, read, and write in ancient Greek. But it seems that reviving the language of the great philosophers and playwrights of the ancient world could offer substantial benefits to children who might otherwise be at risk for learning difficulties.

Even when modern children who don’t have dyslexia study the Ancient Greek language their verbal intelligence and deductive thinking is accelerated. (Raphael / Public domain)

Even when modern children who don’t have dyslexia study the Ancient Greek language their verbal intelligence and deductive thinking is accelerated. (Raphael / Public domain)

Beyond Dyslexia: General Benefits Of Learning Ancient Greek

In Greece, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist named Ioannis Tsegos sponsored a study that tested the impact of the ancient Greek language and alphabet on 25 child learners between the ages of eight and 12. With as little as two hours of dedicated instruction in Ancient Greek per week, these children showed measurable, accelerated progress in the areas of verbal intelligence and deductive thinking. 

In contrast, children in a control group who were not given instruction in Ancient Greek, but were taught the same subject matter using the same methodologies, did not demonstrate any acceleration in their pace of learning. 

None of the students participating in this study were suffering from dyslexia. Nevertheless, the results of this research suggest that learning the written language of the Ancient Greeks can help prepare the mind for learning, in ways that give those who have such an exposure an advantage over those who don’t. This is believed to happen because learning the Ancient Greek alphabet activates areas of the brain that might otherwise lie dormant, which could increase learning efficiency in general even as it helps offset dyslexic tendencies.

Ancient Greek writing looks surprisingly foreign and yet it has proven to be of help with dyslexia. (Awe Inspiring Images / Adobe Stock)

Ancient Greek writing looks surprisingly foreign and yet it has proven to be of help with dyslexia. (Awe Inspiring Images / Adobe Stock)

How One Man Overcame Dyslexia With Ancient Greek

One study that directly established the capacity of Ancient Greek to combat the effects of dyslexia involved an adult subject. 

In a 2006 article published in the journal  Literacy, Australian researcher Kate Chanock from La Trobe University reported on her work with a male subject who had suffered from severe lifelong reading difficulties related to dyslexia. This individual was anxious to learn more about the philosophy and literature of the Ancient Greeks, and under Chanock’s guidance set about to learn the Ancient Greek alphabet and language.

After pursuing this endeavor for six months, he experienced noticeable improvement in his ability to read and comprehend English, which was an unexpected benefit of his pursuit of Ancient Greek knowledge. Even though he’d been suffering the effects of dyslexia for many years, this man still responded quite favorably to being introduced to a complex linguistic system that was in use more than 2,000 years ago!

There are surprising connections between writing and how we think. (simona / Adobe Stock)

There are surprising connections between writing and how we think. (simona / Adobe Stock)

The Surprising Connection Between Writing And Thought

Derrick De Kerckhove’s initial interest in the subject of the Ancient Greek language’s effect on cognition and learning was sparked by a conversation with Marshall McLuhan, the famous Canadian philosopher and media theorist whose work inspired the creation of the center that De Kerchhove once directed.

Echoing the theories of well-known British classical scholar Eric Havelock, McLuhan explained to his protégé that the transition from oral to written philosophy in ancient Greece, which occurred primarily in the sixth through fourth centuries BC, may have spurred dramatic developments in the Greek theater. 

The new emphasis on written language as opposed to oral transmission of complex ideas caused profound changes in Greek consciousness and psychology, the theory goes, making Greek tragedy a cultural response to an underlying psychological crisis among Greek thinkers and intellectuals.

In his work, Havelock focused on how the expanded use of the Ancient Greek alphabet and the written word impacted Greek philosophy, and most specifically the philosophy of Plato. He was convinced the impact was revolutionary, highlighting the immense power of the written word to affect perception of self and the world.

Havelock’s work remains controversial in academia. But the discovery that learning Ancient Greek can function as an antidote to dyslexia does land credence to the suggestion that the form of a written language can have a perceptible effect on conscious states. 

In a sense, learning the language of the Ancient Greeks can at least in part bring that culture back to life, in a way that can have an actual impact on how learners perceive and relate to the world. Helping to reduce the intensity of dyslexic symptoms could be one such effect, but it may not be the only one.

Top image: Ancient Greek written into stone in Ephesus, Turkey (Nikolai Sorokin / Adobe Stock)

By Nathan Falde



Hi All,

How exactly does learning the Language of Greek supposedly cure Dyslexia?

Reason why I ask I have dyscalculia, it's a Learning Disability in Math.

As I've learned Math is a Language I still have difficulty Speaking.

Just like Math is a Language so is Reading and Writing, to me this is how I rated Learning Disability through my experience as a child in the 80's, Mild-Moderate-Severe as my math challenges were even more difficult I changed it with myself Mild-Mild Moderate, Moderate-Severe, Severe-Severe.

I ranked myself at Severe-Severe with my Learning Disability in Math. Why would I do that because before knowing I even had a Learning Difficulty I got the sense something was wrong back in Kindergarten California's State Wide Test CTBS.

I got to the Math section an drew a blank, I couldn't answer the Math problem's none of them I wound up just circuling anything on that test otherwise I would have left the Math section blank.

First Grade was frustrating my mom got me transferred for another school that could test me and just like that I was diagnosed with having an Learning Disability.

The school psychologist feel bad can't remember her name today but, she tested me in Sense of Humor, apparently, I ranked High from that decision. The other problematic issue I'm African American Woman an in those days back in the 80s and 90s Society had enough going against us and the grown ups tried to keep labels under wrap when addressing African American children in the School System in California.

People tend to know more about Dyslexia than the other two Learning Disabilities such as Dyscalculia, like I said Math, & Dysgraphia which is a Learning Disability in Writing.

I know that the brain is still considered to be as mysterious as the Universe under Neuro-Sciences.

I can also remember whenever my mother went to seminars where visited with Kiddy Petty and The Learning Disability Seminars that she brought back pictures of the Brain arrows pointed to various spots on the brain where our Learning Disability was formed and A.D.D in those days in the 80s (I so hate they lumped A.D.D. together with A.D.H.D.)

In the 80s, I wasn't the child on Ritalin I was mild mannered.

Going back to the Brain graph that showed where my Learning Disabilty was the arrow specifically pointed at right side of my brain with the two big black words Learning Disability, an A.D.D. arrow pointing to my Front Lobe of the Brain.

If I as a child would have been aware of such a study like the Greek Language study in the 80s it would have stressed me out to know End.

Trying to do my Math homework I was up into 4:00 a.m. in the morning my mom helping me and that's when I was in First, Second, & Third grade because I could not give the answer to the Math Problem.

Not too long ago a relative of mine went back to school in their 60's taking classes pertaining too children and adults with a whole variety of Learning Challenges.

The professor assigned a group an one of the teachers brought the recording of their student in Second grade reading. They have an Reading Disability one could not mistake the sound of pain an anxiety as they attempted to read the Book from the recording it reminded me of attempting to answer Math Problems when I was that child's age.

I seriously doubt the exercise that Charles Lusdem the biologist and Derrick Dr Kerckhove I am merely basicing the Study on my Experiences. Living in Oakland, California I was placed in Special Education class known as RSP Resource Specialist Program.

I was in the class for the Math but, I was in the class with other's who had Reading Disabilities and others Writing Disabilities and even others that had All Three that made me feel bad because I knew how much Hell I was going through with The One Math.

For a cure to happen as these men Charles & Derrick for Cognitive problems experiments their conducting they would have to repair the right side of a person's brain where the Learning Disability is developed from within the Womb.

What I remember about those brain graphs with The Arrows pointing to the right side of the brain resembled a fist size blow to that area where the Learning Disability is first detected.

These Men maybe biologist but, it doesn't say which Science of biology are they under just that their biologist.

Also environmental issues could cause the development of the brain to formulate Learning Disabilities (check out the History of the Love Canal in the late 70s reason why the EPA was created).

So this is all I wish to share about this Subject of the Greek Language being a cure for Learning Disability. People with Learning Disabilities a re extremely self-conscious an often times our brains can be a sponge what we miss in understanding what we're to learn in school we instead focus on something else to make up for the missing of the school language.

In my case I fell in love with History through Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr and Natural Science by way of Whales swimming in the ocean which I consider a blessing from God. My optics was to share all the information that I had learned about Dr. King and what I had learned about Whales.

I'll end the conversation here until next time, Everyone, Goodbye!

Nathan Falde's picture


Nathan Falde graduated from American Public University in 2010 with a Bachelors Degree in History, and has a long-standing fascination with ancient history, historical mysteries, mythology, astronomy and esoteric topics of all types. He is a full-time freelance writer from... Read More

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