Learning to read a language with an alphabet requires learning to sound out words; the visual form maps on to the sound of the word. Chinese, by contrast, maps the graphic form, the character, on to the meaning. The phonetic sound of the character does not necessarily correspond to the form of it. Reading English requires sounding out words segment by segment. The letter-sound conversion does not apply in Chinese.
"The fact that Chinese and Western dyslexics show brain abnormalities in different brain regions suggests that dyslexia may even be two different brain disorders in the two streams of culture," Ms Siok writes. One lesson from her study, she adds, is that a dyslexic Chinese reader may not suffer the same problem with an alphabetic language. The reverse is also true: some non-Chinese dyslexics can also master Chinese script more easily than the alphabet.