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."
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.
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
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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.
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
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.
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...
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