Suggestopedia in Language Teaching Methods

Suggestopedia (USA English) or Suggestopaedia (UK English) is a teaching method developed by the Bulgarian psychotherapist Georgi Lozanov. It is used in different fields, but mostly in the field of foreign language learning. Lozanov has claimed that by using this method a teacher's students can learn a language approximately three to five times as quickly as through conventional teaching methods.

Suggestopedia has been called a "pseudo-science". It strongly depends on the trust that students develop towards the method by simply believing that it works.

The theory applied positive suggestion in teaching when it was developed in the 1970s. However, as the method improved, it has focused more on “desuggestive learning” and now is often called “desuggestopedia.” Suggestopedia is a portmanteau of the words “suggestion” and “pedagogy". A common misconception is to link "suggestion" to "hypnosis". However, Lozanov intended it in the sense of offering or proposing, emphasising student choice.

Recent development
In 1978, just as UNESCO began investigating the use of Suggestopedia, Lozanov was placed under house arrest for 10 years by the Bulgarian Communist authorities. During this time, access to Lozanov ceased; researchers developed Suggestopedia along their own lines. After the fall of communism in 1989 Lozanov was released and moved to Austria.

As a result of this period of isolation, confusion developed as to the nature of Suggestopedia. It is commonly believed that Suggestopedia is a methodology that works with relaxation, music and baroque music. However this was not the intention. Nor is Suggestopedia intended to be a manipulative technique, such as hypnosis or guided imagery. It is also unconnected with Superlearning or Neuro-linguistic programming.

Purpose and theory
The intended purpose of Suggestopedia was to enhance learning by lowering the affective filter of learners. Lozanov claims in his website, Suggestology and Suggestopedy, that “suggestopedia is a system for liberation”; liberation from the “preliminary negative concept regarding the difficulties in the process of learning” that is established throughout their life in the society. Desuggestopedia focuses more on liberation as Lozanov describes “desuggestive learning” as “free, without a mildest pressure, liberation of previously suggested programs to restrict intelligence and spontaneous acquisition of knowledge, skills and habits.” The method implements this by working not only on the conscious level of human mind but also on the subconscious level, the mind’s reserves. Since it works on the reserves in human mind and brain, which are said to have unlimited capacities, one can teach more than other methods can teach in the same amount of time.

In practice
Physical surroundings and atmosphere in classroom are the vital factors to make sure that "the students feel comfortable and confident", and various techniques, including art and music, are used by the trained teachers. The lesson of Suggestopedia consisted of three phases at first: deciphering, concert session (memorization séance), and elaboration.

Concert session (active and passive): In the active session, the teacher reads the text at a normal speed, sometimes intoning some words, and the students follow. In the passive session, the students relax and listen to the teacher reading the text calmly. Music (“Pre-Classical”) is played in the background.

Elaboration: The students finish off what they have learned with dramas, songs, and games.

Then it has developed into four phases as lots of experiments were done: introduction, concert session, elaboration, and production.

Introduction: The teacher teaches the material in “a playful manner” instead of analyzing lexis and grammar of the text in a directive manner.

Concert session (active and passive): In the active session, the teacher reads with intoning as selected music is played. Occasionally, the students read the text together with the teacher, and listen only to the music as the teacher pauses in particular moments. The passive session is done more calmly.

Elaboration: The students sing classical songs and play games while “the teacher acts more like a consultant”.

Production: The students spontaneously speak and interact in the target language without interruption or correction.

Teachers should not act directive although this method is teacher-controlled but not students- controlled. For example, they should act as a real partner to the students, participating in the activities such as games and songs “naturally” and “genuinely.”  In the concert session, they should fully include classical art into their behaviors. Although there are many techniques that the teachers use, the factors such as “communication in the spirit of love, respect for man as a human being, the specific humanitarian way of applying there ‘techniques’” etc. are crucial. The teachers need not only to know the techniques and theoretical information but also to understand the theory and to acquire the practical methodology completely because if they implement those techniques without complete understandings and acquisition, they could not provide learners successful results, or even could give a negative impact on their learning. Therefore the teacher has to be trained in the course that is taught by the certified trainers.

Here are the most important factors for teachers to acquire, described by Lozanov.

1. Covering a huge bulk of learning material.

2. Structuring the material in the suggestopaedic way; global-partial – partial-global, and global in the part – part in the global, related to the golden proportion.

3. As a professional, on one hand, and a personality, on the other hand, the teacher should be highly prestigious, reliable and credible.

4. The teacher should have, not play, a hundred percent of expectancy in positive results (because the teacher is already experienced even from the time of teacher training course).

5. The teacher should love his/her students (of course, not sentimentally but as human beings) and teach them with personal participation through games, songs, a classical type of arts and pleasure.

Method for children (preventive Suggestopedia)

The method for Adults includes long sessions without movement, and materials that are appropriate for adults. Children, however, get impacts from “the social suggestive norms” differently and their brains are more delicate than those of adults. Therefore, another method with different materials should be applied to children, which better matches their characteristics. Lessons for children are more incidental and short, preventing the children from the negative pedagogical suggestions of Society. It is important to tell the parents about the method and their roles because they could influence children both negatively and positively, depending on how they support the kids.

Side effects
Lozanov claims that the effect of the method is not only in language learning, but also in producing favorable side effects on health, the social and psychological relations, and the subsequent success in other subjects.

A number of positive by-products have been confirmed by a great number of specialists in Bulgaria, Europe and the USA.

Unesco's final report on Suggestopedia
Recommendations (Extraction)

Made by the Experts from the Working Group on Suggestology as a Learning Methodology Meeting in Sofia, December 11–17, 1978

...1.There is consensus that Suggestopedia is a generally superior teaching method for many subjects and for many types of students, compared with traditional methods. We have arrived at this consensus following a study of the research literature, listening to the testimony of international experts, observing films portraying Suggestopedia instruction and visiting classes in which Suggestopedia is practiced. The films were prepared and the classroom visitations were impressive.

...2.Standards should be set up for the training, certification and maintaining of standards of suggestopedic training.

...3.Different categories of competency of teachers should be used to reflect increasing levels of teaching performance in certification.

...4.Suggestopedic teacher training should be started as soon as possible.

...5.An International Association for Suggestology and Suggestopedia should be set up that is affiliated with UNESCO and should have the assistance and guidance of Dr. Lozanov for training, research, coordination and publication of results.

...6.UNESCO is requested to give its support to all these proposed activities by all possible means and under the existing international regulations.”

How to teach using Suggestopedia
Traditional books cannot be used in a Suggestopedic class since they fail to present the content and grammar following the function of the human brain. The way they present information is not according to the real way the human brain processes information. The whole book has to be adapted to be used in a Suggestopedic class. It is hard work but the final results are worth it.

In Brazil, there is a teacher who developed a whole teacher training course to apply and use Suggestopedia using traditional books. He teaches how to adapt and create a new Suggestopedic book to be used in Suggestopedic classes. The training also teaches the teachers how to conduct an intensive course in English or in any other foreign language using the newest development of Suggestopedia - Desuggestopedia.

Suggestopedia has been called a "pseudo-science". It strongly depends on the trust that students develop towards the method by simply believing that it works. Lozanov himself admits that Suggestopedia can be compared to a placebo. He argues, however, that placebos are indeed effective. Another point of criticism is brought forward by Baur who claims that the students only receive input by listening, reading and musical-emotional backing, while other important factors of language acquisition are being neglected. Furthermore, several other features of the method, like the 'nonconscious' acquisition of language, or bringing the learner into a child-like state are questioned by critics.

Lukesch claims that Suggestopedia lacks in scientific backing and is criticized by psychologists as being based on pseudoscience.