Suggestopedia, developed in the 1970s by Georgi Lozanov, is a method for learning languages. Lozanov, a Bulgarian psychotherapist and educator, developed the method based on suggestology principles of desuggestion and suggestion, claiming that the method could accelerate language learning to unparalleled levels for adults. Suggestopedia has been connected to other language teaching methods such as superlearning and accelerated learning. Suggestopedia has met criticism because results have not been replicated in other studies.
Keywords Accelerated Learning; Approach; Critical Period Hypothesis; Desuggestion; Language Ego; Learning Hypothesis; Lozanov, Georgi; Method; Second Language Learning; Suggestion; Superlearning
Suggestopedia, developed in the1970s, is a method of learning languages. Developed by Georgi Lozanov, a Bulgarian psychotherapist and educator, suggestopedia was cultivated as a learning tool to augment an individual's ability to learn foreign languages, specifically in adulthood (Brown, 1994). Suggestopedia makes use of suggestion and desuggestion techniques, removing barriers to learning, and using these techniques to convey to the learner that learning is easy and natural.
Georgi Lozanov was born in 1926 in Sofia, Bulgaria. He attended the University of Sofia, where he studied medicine and worked as a psychotherapist and psychiatrist. In 1966, he published his doctoral thesis, "Suggestology," which many designate as the founding of the suggestopedia methodology. In his research, Lozanov claimed to have developed a method for learning languages in which extensive brain capacity was used, leading to greater learning in a shorter period of time. In 1981 the suggestopedic manual was published and translated into English by 1998 (Baur, 2000).
The profession of teaching a language has only emerged in the last century, in the early 1900s (Rodgers, 2001). Until recently, languages were taught using the 'Classical Method,' which consisted of learning to translate texts, vocabulary memorization, and exercises in writing (Brown, 1994). During the 1960s, the motivation for learning a new language changed; teaching began to emphasize being able to communicate with others effectively (Rodgers, 2001). Furthermore, since the 1970s, language teaching methodologies have emphasized the importance of cooperative learning and the importance of self esteem. Since the emergence of language teaching specialization, there have surfaced a multitude of perspectives on the best way to teach a language, and many teaching methods have risen and died out in popularity. About every twenty-five years, a new method emerges which combines new aspects of teaching with some prior ones (Brown, 1994).
Language Teaching Methods
Language teachers recognize two types of teaching: the "method" and the "approach." Methods are defined as predetermined teaching structures that stipulate particular techniques. Approaches are more philosophical - they are schools of thought that can be interpreted in various ways, and applied through different activities in a classroom. The 1950s to the 1980s saw an increase in the search for methods, and this perspective prevailed throughout much of the 20th century (Rodgers, 2001). The 1970s especially saw an era in which research and exploration in second language acquisition led to a large number of original and research-based methods for learning languages. This era labeled the cognitive process as increasingly important in learning a second language (Brown, 1994). Suggestopedia came out of this time period as a popular method, based upon the idea that language learning should be largely interactive (Rodgers, 2001). Other popular methods included community language learning, the natural approach, and the silent way (Brown, 1994).
The Learning Hypothesis
Suggestopedia is largely based on the Acquisition or Learning hypothesis. The learning hypothesis states that adults can progress their language proficiency for two reasons: using the language to communicate with others and understanding and integrating the language (Krashen & Terrel, 1983). This is a departure from other schools of thought in which the analysis of language is key. Suggestopedia also draws heavily from ideas regarding how consciousness and the subconscious affect individuals and their ability to process information.
While suggestopedia is often used to refer to other teaching methods such as accelerated learning approaches, Lozanov's method is specific and requires several unique elements throughout the approach. The teaching environment, the range of methods used, and the behavior and personality of the instructor and students are critical to the success of the students.
The Critical Period Hypothesis
Central to any second language learning method is the idea of the critical period. Psychologists and other researchers have long puzzled over how children learn a first language so quickly, in the first few years of life, and why learning a second language becomes so much more difficult to learn as we grow older. The critical period hypothesis claims that there is a biological basis to why language acquisition occurs so naturally in these first few years - that there is a critical window where achieving language fluency is possible. Researchers who study second language acquisition have expanded this argument to include a window for acquiring proficiency in a second language, with the window closing around the time puberty hits. However, other researchers contest this argument (Brown, 1994).
Suggestopedia challenges this assumption, and uses principles of suggestology throughout the learning method. Central to understanding this method is research on the brain and its functions.
The Brain in Suggestopedia
Research on the brain and its functions has contributed heavily to the literature on language acquisition and second language learning. Many scientists have studied how the brain functions as an individual learns his or her first language. There is evidence that as the human brain matures, it organizes itself and "assigns" certain functions and capabilities to the left hemisphere or right hemisphere of the brain. Scientists call this procedure lateralization, and many researchers believe that understanding this process is key to understanding how languages are learned. The left hemisphere controls functions that are logical and analytical, while the right hemisphere is the emotional center of the brain. Researchers who study second language acquisition are concerned mostly about when lateralization occurs and how it affects the way that individuals learn a language. Many researchers believe that lateralization begins to occur around the age of two, and is completed by puberty. Some speculate that once the brain is organized in this way, it becomes difficult for individuals to acquire fluency in another language because the flexibility and plasticity of the brain is diminished (Brown, 1994).
Research on brain development and learning languages has also focused on right brain activity, and the role of the right hemisphere. For example, studies on post-pubescent students found heavier right brain activity in the earlier phases of learning a second language, which could suggest that adults and older children may benefit in right brain based activities in learning a second language (Brown, 1994).
The suggestopedia method asserts that the human brain is capable of enormous feats, and Lozanov (1982) claims that teaching methods often hinder the brain from reaching these capabilities. Specifically, the brain is responsible not only for learning and storing information, but also controls emotive responses and motivation. When learning occurs, activity in the brain is not only storing information, but having an emotional response to it. However, teaching methods often only address the facts and figures - ignoring the emotional and motivational aspects of learning, and failing to engage and address all parts of the brain. Too often, learning occurs through exercises that are disconnected, tiring for the individual, and mistakes that are rarely corrected through the learning process....
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