The Secret to Learning a New Language – SLEEP!

We can only learn while we are awake, right?

Well, if you agree with that statement you better get ready for a major perspective shift! There are ways to use sleep, or better yet, our “sleeping mind” to learn faster and more about a new language.

First, let me tell you about a study on the correlation between sleep and learning conducted by a psychologist at the University of Notre Dame .

The psychologist separated some students who usually studied in the morning and some who usually studied at night shortly before going to sleep.

The researcher gave them the same materials and tested them on those materials at the same intervals. What she found was rather interesting…

The students who studied right before going to sleep learned more and did better when they were tested.

“Since we found that sleeping soon after learning benefited both types of memory, this means that it would be a good thing to rehearse any information you need to remember just prior to going to bed. In some sense, you may be ‘telling’ the sleeping brain what to consolidate,” the psychologist, Jessica Payne concluded about her study.

We can only learn while we are awake, right?

I’ve had a similar experience with studying from when I was in high school and college. Even though I was a straight A student, I didn’t do a whole lot of studying. Sure, I paid a lot of attention in class, but the key to my performance was how I studied rather than how much I studied. The day before a test, I would read my notes through three times. Once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once before I went to bed. As soon as I closed my notes, I would lay down and go to sleep. Surprisingly (or maybe not), I remembered everything when test time came around, so, perhaps that last read-through right before going to sleep was the key to my good performance the next day…

With that in mind, we could certainly use this information to help our children in learning a new language. If your child is as immersed in the new language as mine is, he or she is being bombarded with the target language during the day. Babysitters, daycares, lessons and tutors surely do their part of the job, but there is no harm in adding some kind of language material to their routine right before bed.

It can be something easy and fun like watching a YouTube video in the target language, a cartoon on Oznoz or simply have a book read in another language. If you’re like me, and feel limited in your ability to help your child practice the target language, then check out our video library. We will be rolling out a series of children’s books translated in various languages.

Here’s our first. Click the image to see The Very Hungry Caterpillar in Italian!
Stay tuned and join the newsletter at the bottom of this blog to be the first to receive a new video each week for your little one!
But, back to what you (and I can do)…

We can even go a bit further and do things while they are getting to sleep rather than right before they go to bed. For example, you can try playing nursery rhymes or some light music in the target language.

Who knows, if you make this a part of your routine and try learning along with your kid you might pick up some of the target language yourself.

To attest that the sleeping mind does have a say when it comes to learning new languages, there is a psychotherapist in France who has made a living teaching new languages through hypnosis.

Yes, hypnosis.

His name is Pascal Dilly, and he runs the “Langue sous Hypnose” (language under hypnosis ) school, a language center where he teaches 17 different languages and has been running for almost 30 years.

We can only learn while we are awake, right?

The process of learning is eerily similar to the immersion technique we’ve talked about in previous posts.

“There are two zones in the brain, which are important for learning languages: the Wernicke, which helps us to hear sounds, discriminate, understand and remember them, and the motor cortex, helping us to express ourselves. Kids learn their mother tongue by using these two zones in the brain,” is how Dilly explained his method. He uses listening, recognizing, understanding and repeating words while using hypnosis to remove any difficulties people might have in learning.

There are a few more studies you might be interested in checking out as well. One of them was conducted by the University of Washington. Researchers used the resting brain’s activity to predict how quickly people picked up a second language. This one is particularly interesting because the researchers said that the study would be useful even for the military in their selective process to choose who could learn languages quickly.

Remember to comment below with your thoughts and, if you decide to use one of these ideas, let me know about your experiences and how your child has been progressing!

As always, be sure to follow our Facebook page @our21stcenturykids for more news and tips on raising bilingual children.

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