Suggestopedia - Accelerated Language Learning

© Jasmine Vitarelli. All Rights Reserved.

"Memorization in learning by the suggestopedic method seems to be accelerated 25 times over that in learning by conventional methods."

Georgi Lozanov

Suggestopedia - Definition

Derived from Suggestology, Suggestopedia is a set of learning recommendations used to optimize learning. In theory of language and learning, Suggestopedia is a teaching and learning method by which a language is learned as "the material" based on suggestion.

The main objective of this foreign language teaching method is to deliver advanced conversational proficiency quickly.

In order to learn a language, students must work on increasing their memory power and master big lists of vocabulary pairs. Their roles are carefully prescribed; students must immerse themselves in the processes of the method. They should not try to figure out, manipulate, or study the material presented to them - instead, they must stay in a "pseudo-passive state, in which the material rolls over and through them," and encourage their own "infantilization." (Jack C. Richards & Theodore Stephen Rodgers, Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching)

Various researchers have sought to define accelerated learning. Georgi Lozanov is attributed to having founded accelerated learning in his model of accelerated language learning (suggestology). This model is based on the Soviet approach to language learning; social experience and the possibility of manipulating the social environment to accelerate language development is of primary importance.

Studying comfortably
Studying comfortably | Source

The Main Characteristics of Suggestopedia

  • arrangement of the classroom (e.g. furniture, decoration)

Classroom arrangement should make students feel comfortable and relaxed. Suggestopedia is not designed for school lessons as its effectiveness depends also on the way language is dealt with in classroom context. The course involves a small number of students, comfortable seats, etc.

Why Orchestral Music and Why Baroque?

Baroque largo movements normally have the same number of beats in a minute as the heart of a person in a state of relaxation. By introducing this music, the student’s pulse can be reduced. Note that there are different tempos in Baroque works.

  • use of music in the classroom

The centrality of music and the use of musical rhythm to learning are important features of suggestopedia. The teacher strengthens the interactive influence upon the student on the unconscious level by reciting the material to classical and Baroque music which stimulates a change from an active state to a state of relaxed attentiveness. Presenting information auditively and graphically activates both brain hemispheres in the processing of linguistic information.

Teacher-Centered vs. Student-Centered Instruction

What do you think about teacher/student relationship?

  • It should be hierarchically structured. Students should be controlled.
  • It should be structured as a learner-centered group situation.
  • It should be a mixture of both teacher-centered and student-centered structures.
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  • teacher’s authority

The teacher in a Suggestopedia course is responsible for elimination and avoidance of all factors that might prevent learning and the inclusion of all factors which promote learning in the interactive teaching and learning environment both on the conscious and unconscious levels of communication. Suggestopedic teachers practice pedagogy based on the use of positive suggestions.

The strongly manipulative influence of the teacher in suggestopedia is fairly criticized, especially in German educational circles.

  • emphasis on memorization of vocabulary pairs

These vocabulary pairs are made of a target-language item and its native language translation; in these view of language, lexis is central and lexical translation is more stressed than contextualization. However, Lozanov (the developer of the method) does sometimes refer to the importance of contextualization because students are not supposed to just memorize vocabulary and acquire habits of speech, but learn the acts of communication as well.

Learning Activities Used in Suggestopedia

Besides imitation, question and answers, and role play, suggestopedia assumes a lot of listening activities. The listening activities are part of the so called "pre-session" phase. Music is used in order to support the suggestive effect.

Suggestopedia Lesson

Lessons using Suggestopedia as a foreign teaching method involves:

  • translating texts into the learner’s native language
  • explaining grammar structures explicitly
  • practicing in an imitative way through role plays

Active Concert and Passive Concert – these methods are used as an aid in powerful effect in accelerated language learning. the active concert creates an emotional association with a dramatic piece of music. The new language material is introduced while playing the music. The music rises and falls, and the voice goes with it.

The passive concert (often Baroque music) – the student listens to the same text but this time the voice lies under the music and the student is asked to listen to the music and not the voice. The voice should engage the unconscious mind while the music engages the conscious mind.

How Do You Structure a Suggestopedia Course?

The course lasts 30 days and consists of ten units of study. These are presented in classes held 4 hours a day, 6 days in a week.

Each unit is focused on a dialogue consisting of cca. 1,200 words. The dialogues are graded by lexis and grammar.

Unit study is organized around 3 days (see Table 1.)

Table 1: Unity Study

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Duration: half a day
Duration – full day
Duration: half a day
Introducing the new unit. The teacher discusses the general content (not structure) of the unit dialogue.
The dialogue is read the second time (primary elaboration of the text).
The dialogue is read the third time (secondary elaboration of the text).
Learners receive a printed version of the dialogue accompanied by a native language translation (in a parallel column).
Learning activities and teaching techniques consist of imitation, questions and answers, reading, etc.
Students are encouraged to make new combinations and productions based on dialogues. An additional story or essay paralleling the dialogue is also read.

During the course, students practice the target language based on role play in a setting where it might be used, such as hotels or restaurants. The play is built on the material of the course according to previously planned rules and parts.

Suggestopedic Text Presentation

The text for elaboration is written in two languages (the native language translation printed in the parallel column). Here's an example from Accelerated German Course, by Colin Rose.

Sample of suggestopedic text presentation, p. 160.
Sample of suggestopedic text presentation, p. 160. | Source
Power of Diversity (Visions of Education)
Power of Diversity (Visions of Education)

One of the world's foremost experts on style diversity, Barbara Prashnig, describes various learning styles in her book The Power of Diversity. She describes some of the best techniques to achieve creative, accelerated learning such as Suggestopedia and Mind Mapping.


Who developed Suggestopedia?

Georgi Lozanov is the Bulgarian psychiatrist-educator who developed the method known as suggestopedia (or desuggestopedia). Georgi Lozanov was primarily concerned with the actualization of Suggestopedia in all areas of learning, and not just in the theory of language or foreign language instruction. Also, he was the first scientist to systematically research the phenomenon of rapid learning.

Lozanov doesn’t really articulate the theory of language nor is he interested in language elements and their organization. His theory of Suggestology is influenced by Adler, Freud, Jung and Pavlov discussing the unconscious in psychoanalysis.

Emphasizing the unconsciousness, non-verbal, and the emotional domains in the interaction process, Lozanov identifies and explains three basic suggestopedic principles:

  • Joy – psychollogocally relaxed attentiveness, absence of negative feelings such as fear, stress, irritation, etc.
  • Unity of the conscious and unconscious – verbal and non-verbal communication, cortical and sub-cortical processes, physiological and psychological reactions, rationality and emotions.
  • Suggestive interaction – between teacher and student based on desuggestion of language barriers and the suggestion of learning potential.

In theory of language and learning, the third principle – suggestive interaction – is the most important.

Example of a Suggestopedia lesson

Research on Suggestopedia

Suggestopedia in the Western World

The challenges of foreign language research about natural second language acquisition in North America seem to meet by Suggestopedia in a large measure and hence, they serve as the basis for introducing this method into foreign language instruction.

Stephen Krashen, a linguist, educational researcher, and professor emeritus at the University of California, says that Suggestopedia meets his criterion for "optimal and comprehensible input" – a student in a relaxed, non-anxious and trusting state is ready for learning.

In the West, the most research into Suggestopedia has been conducted in the US and Canada. In contrast to Eastern Europe, western Suggestopedia has been almost exclusively applied to foreign language instruction.

Gabriel Racle, the head of the Canadian government’s Suggestopedia program, always questioned all the basic principles of the suggestopedic method. He commented that Suggestopedia provides a superficial knowledge of a language. However, his experiment on the subject didn’t support this attitude.

In the US, Lozanov’s student Elizabeth Phillipov conducted one of the first investigations of Suggestopedia but her experiment is in many respects a replica of Lozanov’s experiments and therefore, bears the same weaknesses.

Of corse, there are many other investigations that have been conducted since the introduction of the method, but most of them show similar results with both positive and negative points.

Suggestopedia in Eastern Europe

In recent years, Suggestopedia has been increasingly used in German "universities for adults" (Volkshochschulen), but few reports of the experiences have been published. One teacher in France has been using Suggestopedia in high school for more than 10 years. Tests showed that his students cannot be differentiated from those who learned based on audiovisual method.

In their book Superlearning 2000 (1995), Sheila Ostrander et al. remind us that the Danish government, too, recently funded accelerated language learning projects in schools, while the Swedes are using it to cope, quickly, with an enormous influx of refugees from the Middle East and the Horn of Africa.

Foreign Language Teachers...

Do you use suggestopedia as a foreign language teaching method?

  • No. I forgot all about it since university.
  • Yes. I have a very positive experience with it.
  • No, but I'd like to try it.
  • Yes, but I'm not very happy with it.
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Thank you for your feedback! Your answers in the two poll capsules on this page may help researchers in the field of foreign language teaching methods, especially on Suggestopedia and Accelerated Language Learning. If there is anything you would like to add or ask about this topic, please let us know in the comments section below. Also, if you found the information presented here useful, don't forget to vote up and share this hub with your social networks!

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Comments About Suggestopedia 8 comments

Silwen profile image

Silwen 4 years ago from Europe

Interesting method. It seems worth trying. Thank you for sharing.

vox vocis profile image

vox vocis 4 years ago Author

I normally use a mixture of various foreign language teaching methods. Suggestopedia is interesting, I agree, but it's worth noting that suggestopedic teachers have to be well prepared for this form of teaching both psychologically and technically. The only thing I don't like about it is that it's pretty teacher-centered and in my opinion, teachers should talk less and students should talk more.

suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM

vox: This is quite interesting. I was a Spanish teacher - high school level - and we mostly used the audiovisual method for teaching Spanish in the classroom. But, this method - Suggestopedia - sounds very interesting and I, for one, would try it in the classroom. I think I was taugh this way, especially with the role play, when I took German lessons in Germany years ago, but without the baroque music. I used a lot of roll play in my classroom lessons and the kids enjoyed it. This sounds intriguing to me and I will look further into it. In my opinion, the Europeans are always way far ahead of us in educational pedagogy than we are here in the U.S. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us. This is a well written and presented article and I enjoyed reading it.

vox vocis profile image

vox vocis 4 years ago Author

I'm glad you liked it, Suzannah :) I use almost all methods in classroom; it depends on the level and the age of the students. Educational pedagogy and glottodidactics are two fields that receive great attention lately. Communicative language teaching is the most popular form of teaching in the last few years. Thanks for sharing your experience with us :)

whowas 4 years ago

Hmmm, I'd never heard of this and so - despite the fact that this is clearly an excellent summary and introduction to this approach to language learning - it would be premature of me to make any certain pronouncements.

I suppose that different people have different learning preferences but I am all but convinced that real situational immersion is the single most effective way to learn conversational language skills.

Any system that starts out with a teacher at the front and a group of students sitting down 'to learn from the teacher' is off to a bad start it seems to me, as language structures are probably innate and instinctive.

I don't wish to be contentious and I will repeat my original proviso that I don't, perhaps, really know what on earth I am talking about but that is certainly my first response.

But I am not a pedagog, nor a glottodidact, so there you go. :)

vox vocis profile image

vox vocis 4 years ago Author

Thanks for the comment, whowas. Of course, modern teaching methods tend to be student-centered, but the teacher still plays the key role. A teacher's role is to guide the students, explain the subject being taught and provide students with enough activities and exercises to encourage their full involvement. A healthy mixture of different methods is always a good choice (or of certain elements taken from certain methods). Thanks again for sharing your opinion - it's very appreciated :)

whowas 4 years ago

Hi vox vocis,

Thank you for your calm and patient response to my rather garbled ramblings. I think I must be a little tired!

I have reread this and reflected on it further and whilst it remains true for me personally that the formality of the classroom is not an ideal learning environment, I see perfectly well that for many it can be - if the teacher and the methods are good. And this may well be a good method for good teachers to use.

All the best. :)

vox vocis profile image

vox vocis 4 years ago Author

Hi whowas!

Of course I gave you a calm and patient response lol I haven't used this method, to be honest, but I had to learn and write seminar papers on all of the teaching methods that have ever been used and since I found this one to be rather interesting, specifically because it hasn't been used much, I decided to write about it on HP hoping to encourage comments and opinions of other teachers. It doesn't matter whether you personally are against or in favor of this method. Each opinion counts, including yours; however; I'm interested in the opinion of the majority, but most people who have commented on the article haven't really used this method.

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