How would you like to learn a language under hypnosis?
Who has never dreamt of learning to speak another language by magic? Given that hypnosis works well for people who want to stop smoking or avoid anaesthetic, why couldn’t it work for learning languages under hypnosis or in our sleep?
In the 1960s, Georgi Lozanov, Bulgarian psychotherapist and scientist, studied hypnosis which promotes hypermnesia. He discovered that our brains absorb information and trigger memories far more effectively in a state of relaxation. This conclusion became the principle underlying suggestopedia: his educational theory that aims to stimulate underused human brain capacity, a theory which he subsequently applied to teach foreign languages. With astounding results, and even if he achieved the highest scores in his own Sofia Institute, his approach has given existing theories a shot in the arm.
Lozanov observed that it is the suggestion, rather than hypnosis, that underpins our learning experience and determines access to our real intellectual potential. The teacher’s attitude is crucial in this: are they positive, encouraging, entertaining, friendly? Is their main goal to deliver a successful pupil?
With a captivating teacher in front of the class, our mind is totally focused on them. We forget about our day-to-day worries and, indeed, the world around us. We are in a state of hyper susceptibility and a high level of accessibility. We do not feel tired at all at the end of the lesson. The trust that goes hand in hand with this short-circuits any form of fear (for criticism, failure). This is when an overall learning process becomes possible.
The state of light relaxation is quite different from the mysterious and supernatural dimension of ‘hypnosis’. It is nothing more than the normal and familiar workings of our brains which we all subconsciously stimulate at certain times of the day. Certain teaching methods take advantage of a light trance-like state to stimulate memorising and to remove irritating blockages. In our view, suggestions brought by the teacher are even more powerful, provided, of course, that they correspond to the pupil’s values and way of thinking. The smallest inconsistency with our way of being could well cancel out any attempt to learn. This is nothing to do, therefore, with the public manipulator who can win over an entire audience...
Incidentally, the pupil’s active attitude remains crucial to learn a language. Just as well, surely?