Sleep Learning

Can you really learn a new language in your sleep?

When you are a kid, learning a new language is very easy. But as an adult, it can be a bit harder. As the world becomes more multicultural and travel becomes cheaper, knowing a few languages can be a great asset when you venture out to other countries.

 Are there any ways to speed up our ability to learn a new language?

Being an adult, you might be able to spend only a few hours every day to learn a new language. The best way to learn any new skill is by immersion, i.e. fully immersing yourself in that skill. But it may be impractical to drop everything and live in Italy for three months to learn Italian.

 There are alternate ways to immerse yourself in a new language and speed up the learning process. Kids up to the age of five are in Theta brainwave frequency which is associated with rapid learning. So they can absorb the new language a lot faster than adults. When we sleep, our brain enters the theta state for a couple of hours. When you are in Non-REM sleep, your brain enters the theta state. Two Swiss university researchers conducted a controlled experiment to figure out if this accelerated learning can be recreated in adults. Their research findings confirmed learning at a faster pace is possible under certain conditions.

According to the research, if you were exposed to a set of words in your wakeful state and then if the same words were played back while you are in NON-REM sleep, the brain picked them up a lot faster.

 Let us assume you are trying to learn Spanish. While you are awake, review a list of English to Spanish translation words. Next, arrange for an audio playback to happen 30 minutes after you fall asleep. Allow this to go on a loop for a couple of hours.

 The thirty-minute gap allows your brain to enter the theta state before the recording starts.

 But a word of caution, If you are constantly disturbed in your sleep, getting to the theta range can be a bit difficult. So you can adjust the 30-minute gap to whatever works best for you. Once you master this technique, you can learn a new language a lot faster than normal.

 It would also be helpful to immerse yourself in the new language in as many ways as possible, i.e. via music, watching movies, reading text, etc.

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