Suggestopedia is a method developed in the 1970s by a Bulgarian psychiatrist-educator called Georgi Lozanov. He believed that students set up psychological barriers to learning that are fundamentally based on their fears.  Lozanov believed that learners only use between 5 to 10% of their mental capacity, and that the brain could process and retain much  more material if provided with optimal conditions for learning.  Based on psychological research on extra-sensory perception, Lozanov began to develop a language learning method that focused on ‘de-suggesting’ the limitations that learners think they have, therefore providing the sort of relaxed state of mind that would facilitate the retention of input to its maximum potential. To many of its critics Suggestopedia conjures up visions of hypnosis like techniques. However, Lozanov claimed that these forms of ‘mind control’ lack ‘a de suggestive-sensive sense’ and ‘fail to create a constant set up to reserves through concentrative psycho-relaxation’ (Lozanov, 1978).  Reserves can be interpreted as being something like memory banks.  De-suggestion seems to involve unloading the memory banks of unwanted or blocking memories

Other characteristics of Suggestopedia were the giving over of complete control and authority to the teacher (who can sometimes appear to be like an instructional hypnotist!) and the encouragement of learners to act as ‘childlike’ as possible, often even assuming false names and persona’s as part of the language learning process.

The key features of this method are listed below:

  • Environment that is as comfortable as possible, featuring soft cushioned seating and dim lighting. 
  • Peripheral learning – encouraged through the presence in the learning environment (posters, decorations featuring the target language and various grammatical information.
  • The teacher assumes a role complete authority and control in the classroom.
  • Self-perceived and psychological barriers to learners’ potential to learn are ‘de-suggested’
  • Students encouraged to adopt a ‘child-like’ mental state during learning activities and tasks.
  • Baroque music is played softly in the background to increase mental relaxation.
  • Errors are tolerated, the emphasis being on content not structure.  Grammar and vocabulary are presented by the teacher but not dwelt on excessively.
  • Music and drama are integrated into the learning process as much as possible.

Weird or what?

Thanks Aoife for the notes!