In Your Dreams: Can You Learn a Foreign Language in Your Sleep? Posted by meaghan on Aug 6, 2014 in Archived Posts
A “good night’s sleep” seems to be the solution to many things. What if I told you that “sleeping on it” could be a new strategy for language learning? Sounds like a dream, right?
Maybe not. Researchers in Switzerland dug a little deeper into the “learn while sleep” myth, and the results were quite surprising. In the study, native German speaking participants were introduced to a series of Dutch-German word pairs late at night. The participants were then divided into two groups: one group stayed awake and listened to a recording of the word pairs (along with some new word pairs not previously introduced), while the other group listened to the playback as they caught some zzz’s.
After four hours, once the latter group woke from their slumber, researchers administered a test of the Dutch vocabulary to all participants. Here’s where the surprise comes in: the participants who “slept on it” performed considerably better than their counterparts who stayed awake.
Brilliant, right? Just pop in some tapes while you sleep and you’ll be fluent in no time! Actually… it doesn’t quite work like that. The study highlights an important precursor for success—this act of “verbal cueing” only works when learners have actively studied the words beforehand:
“Re-exposure to Dutch words during sleep improved later memory for the German translation of the cued words when compared with uncued words.”
Essentially, new foreign words won’t magically appear in your vocabulary after hearing them in your sleep. You actually have to put in the effort in your conscious state first. But hey, if it helps with retention, that’s a win in my book. The only thing better than a good night’s sleep? Improving your language skills while you do it.
Have you tried listening to another language in your sleep? Have you found it helpful?