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Language Teacher

The Language Teacher

Suggestopedia as NLP

Charles Adamson
Miyagi University

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Dr. Georgi Lozanov, the creator of Suggestopedia, says that as we get older we accept social norms and adjust our personalities to conform to them (Lozanov, 1978). One result is that we inhibit our learning to conform to these outside limits. The capabilities that we used as children are set aside and no longer used. They are preserved, however, as functional reserves. According to Lozanov these functional reserves can be re-integrated into the active personality by the use of suggestion. The result of the appropriate use of suggestion is an enormous increase in the individual's ability to learn -- the ability to remember the material and to integrate it into the personality.

Lozanov trains suggestopedic teachers through an apprentice system. After passing a battery of psychological tests, the would-be teacher learns by working with master teachers at Lozanov's Suggestopedia Institute. The trained teacher becomes an expert at working in the classroom, but has not gained the tools or the desire to use anything but the entire system as it is laid out by Lozanov (1988). Very few working teachers are in a position where they can use this system. Even with the active support of the administration, I found that I could not use the system. Problems such as the length (one month) and size (12 students) of system classes, the cost-effectiveness of recruiting students, scheduling and other administrative factors forced major alterations as I began to use the method.

Later, after reading Trance-formations (Grinder & Bandler, 1981) and Reframing (Bandler & Grinder, 1982), I began to realize that in one very real sense Suggestopedia is nothing more than applied NLP. In fact it could just as easily be called NLPedia. To discover this for yourself, you might begin by reading the books listed in the Annotated Bibliography in this issue.

In the remainder of this paper I analyze Suggestopedia in terms of a single NLP concept, the Educational Hypothesis. This analysis develops a simple description of Suggestopedia that allows individual portions of the method to be applied as parts of other classes, increasing the effectiveness of those classes. From this point on I will assume that you have read Murphey and Bolstad's article on Educational Hypnosis in this issue and that you understand the Learning Hypothesis (hereafter LH).

What is language learning?

Lozanov (1978) assumes that the only major linguistic problems in the language classroom are memorization and integration. If the students remember the words and patterns of the language and integrate them into their personalities, the students have acquired the language and the teacher has done all that needs to be done. Suggestopedia was designed primarily to make these two processes more effective.

How Suggestopedia uses the Learning Hypothesis

Suggestopedia uses mostly non-verbal forms of the Learning Hypothesis. From a student's first contact with the Suggestopedia Institute to the follow-ups after graduation, everything is designed to promote the effect of the LH. A few examples:

The students are screened before being accepted. The LH/suggestion is that the institute accepts only those students who will learn, so I will learn because I was accepted.

In class the students take on the names, professions and personalities of native speakers. The LH/suggestion is that since I am now a native speaker, I can speak and understand the language.

The text is individually and ceremoniously presented to each student with the suggestion that the text contains everything the student needs to know. The LH/suggestion is that since I learned the text during the concert session, I know the language.

The text becomes easier and introduces less new material as the course progresses. The LH/suggestion is that since the material is getting easier, I must be learning.

A special graduation ceremony is given at the end of the course. The LH/suggestion is that since I have successfully graduated from a language course, I can use the language.

Memorizing the text

Memorizing the text is one of the two key factors in suggestopedic teaching and it is accomplished through ritualistic concert sessions: an active session and a passive session. The text itself is a continuing dialog about people from the students' country visiting a country that uses the target language.

During the active session the teacher reads the text to the accompaniment of emotional classical music. The teacher's voice harmonizes with the nuances of the musical phrases, while at the same time being slow and rhythmical. The students follow along in their text, underlining, highlighting, or making notes as they wish. At this point the students have a translation of the text. This translation is collected after the concert session and the students work without it for the remainder of the course. Here we have the LH/suggestion that since I can do the class work without the translation, I must have learned the text.

During the passive concert, which immediately follows the active session, the students close their eyes and listen to the teacher who reads more or less normally to the accompaniment of philosophic classical music.

In the case of the concert sessions, the effect of the LH is increased by a number of other factors (rhythm, intonation, etc.) and then the total effect is further increased by suggestion, especially using the concert session as a placebo. Research by Lozanov (1978) has shown that there is a positive effect when classical music is used during efforts to memorize, even without suggestion. The placebo effect is similar to the effect obtained when a doctor gives a patient a sugar pill and says that the patient will feel better after taking it. The surge of energy the patient feels from the sugar in the pill is amplified many times because of the suggestion. Before the concert session the student is told by an authoritative figure that the session will result in the memorization of the material. The students notice that their memorization has improved, so they accept the statement of the authority, setting off a chain that results in a huge increase in memorization power. Lozanov (1978) has given classes where the students achieved a memorization rate of 1000 words an hour. It should also be noted that, rather than forgetting the words as happens with cramming, recall increases with time.

Speaking from personal experience, I can say that this works. I took a three hour demonstration class with Dr. Donald Schuster. See Schuster and Gritton(1986) for a description of the methodology used. In the three hours we learned the Russian alphabet, the basic sentence structures, and 156 words. On the test at the end of the class I got 98%. During the following week I did not use Russian and did not even think much about the class; I was busy with other things. However, a week later someone reminded me to take a follow up test, actually a repeat of the same test. This time I got 99.5%. Other students from the class reported similar results.

Integrating the textual materials

The teacher uses both verbal and non-verbal ways to communicate the learning hypothesis: (X) I am doing this, so (Y) I am learning the language; (X) I did, so (Y) I can use the language. This is a necessary and continuous part of suggestopedic teaching.

Now that the student has learned the text, all that remains to be done is to integrate this language into the student's personality. To do this the students read the text aloud stopping here and there for activities. The activities consist of acting out portions of the text, singing specially prepared songs and playing games (activities that replace exercises for automating some of the more basic linguistic points), telling stories, carrying on short conversations, and psycho-dramas. A psycho-drama is a role play that is set up so the students become emotionally and psychologically involved in the action. Throughout this portion, Lozanov calls it the elaboration, the teacher carefully structures the class so that the language used by the students comes mainly from the present text. After the text has been read, the teacher introduces additional activities that allow the student to integrate the present language with that from previous lessons.

Final suggestion Suggestopedia is a powerful method for accelerating language learning which can be more easily understood by a teacher with knowledge of NLP. In this article I have described certain aspects of suggestopedia in terms of an NLP model of hypnosis. Once you have begun to acquire a basic understanding of NLP by reading the books in the Annotated Bibliography in this issue or, preferably, by attending one of the listed NLP training sessions, you can then use your new knowledge to work through Lozanov and Gateva's (1988) teacher's manual in a similar manner. NLP concepts such as presuppositions, beliefs, anchoring, and strategies would be useful tools for this analysis. As you do this, you will develop a new understanding of Suggestopedia that will allow you to improve your own classes by using portions of the method.

Not everyone can reach the levels of Lozanov's classes. You can, however, greatly accelerate your students' progress.

Thanks to Tim Murphey and William Acton for comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

Bandler, R., & Grinder, J. (1982). Reframing. Moab, Utah: Real People Press.

Grinder, J., & Bandler, R. (1981). Trance-formations. Moab, Utah: Real People Press.

Lozanov, G. (1978). Suggestology and outlines of suggestodedy. London: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers, Inc.

Lozanov, G., & Gateva. (1988). The foreign language teacher's suggestopedic manual. London: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers, Inc.

Schuster, D., & Gritton, C. (1986). Suggestive accelerative learning techniques. London: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers, Inc.

Charles Adamson may be contacted at: 12-5-1 Yodomibashidori, Kawauchi, Aoba-ku, Sendai-shi, Miyagi-ken. 980. e-mail: <>

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