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High-Speed Language Learning
Accelerated language-teaching involves a considerable concentration of lesson time, with at least four hours of lessons every day. The purpose of this is to prevent students from forgetting - the chief danger when learning a foreign language.
Experiments have been made with teaching during natural sleep, "hypnopaedia", or in conditions of rhythm sleep induced by the use of a special apparatus, "rhythmopaedia", and with the imparting of information to persons in a state of relaxation, "relaxopaedia".
The method used most widely during the last few years has been "suggestopaedia" which exploits the functional reserves of the brain by the use of suggestion, i.e. by the use of composite suggestive action on the student's personality.
Research on these methods is based on observation of the fact that memorization is quicker and easier when active control is relaxed and when the role of the unconscious processes in higher nervous activity is enhanced.
This research has shown that teaching by hypnopaedic methods is two to two-and-a-half times more effective than ordinary methods. The process of memorization comprises ordinary classroom lessons with a teacher (forty-five minutes); listening to a reading of the study programme and repeating it out loud in bed, before going to sleep (fifteen minutes); hearing the programme, played more and more softly, for fifty-five minutes after falling asleep; hearing it again, starting softly and growing increasingly louder, for twenty to thirty minutes before waking up. The whole hypnopaedic teaching programme was composed of thirty-nine teaching units. As a result of this course, 2,500 words, combinations of words and basic models were assimilated.
A variant of hypnopaedia is rhythmopaedia. A state of sleep is induced in the student with the aid of an electro-hypnosis apparatus which produces a monotonous, rhythmic effect on the nervous system. The student is then fed with information. It is possible, by varying the frequency of the light and sound impulses, to maintain in the student the depth and intensity of hypnotic inhibition most suitable for the imparting of new information.
Teaching during sleep has numerous advocates, but even more numerous opponents. Doubts are expressed about the effects that teaching in these conditions may have. But since hypnopaedia is used in conjunction with other teaching methods, and the students always have a very strong motivation for learning, it is impossible to isolate the effect of the influence on the student while asleep. Application of hypnopaedic methods presupposes special conditions, especially equipped premises, and a special regime for those being taught.
But the most important objections come from doctors, who maintain that tampering with the sleep mechanism may disturb it and provoke nervous disorders. On this account, hypnopaedia has not been widely practised, although research in this field has given results that are certainly interesting from the point of view of the possible intensification of teaching.
Of greater popularity in the USSR is the notion of teaching in a state of relaxation - mental and physical relaxation induced by suggestion. Observations and experiments have established that memorization is easier in this state than in ordinary conditions.
Through muscular relaxation and autogenous training, students attain a state of physical and mental calm in which they are conscious of the weight and warmth of the right arm. In this state, sensory perception of factors extraneous to the information presented is reduced, the brain is freed of external inhibiting processes, attention becomes more selective and concentrates wholly on the information presented.
Relaxopaedia is not regarded as a separate method of teaching but rather as a useful part of the normal teaching process which speeds the assimilation of language material and leaves more time free for creative language-learning activities.
The average number of words students are able to assimilate in the course of one lesson is fifty to sixty. Data available show that the best ratio of relaxopaedic to ordinary teaching sessions is one to five.
The term "accelerated teaching methods' most frequently refers to the intensification of teaching through the use of different kinds and forms of suggestopaedia. Whatever differences there are in the approaches adopted, they are all based on the idea of influencing students by suggestion, evolved by a Bulgarian scientist, Georgi Lozanov, director of the Scientific Research Institute of Suggestology.
Suggestology is based on the principles of joy and relaxation, and of the unity of the "conscious and the unconscious". A special atmosphere is created in the lessons - a climate of trust and joy which produces a desire to learn and confidence in one's ability. This is achieved by constant praise and encouragement from the teacher, by the choice of psychologically compatible working pairs and by informal classroom arrangement.
The effect of suggestopaedic teaching methods is that the learning situation approximates to a very great extent to a non-academic situation, and psychological barriers hindering natural behaviour are eliminated. The formerly unused memory capacity of a student is brought into play and his mind and feelings are laid wide open to the influence of the teaching with a clarity, trust and interest characteristic of childhood. The adult stops feeling embarrassed and willingly assumes the role proposed, naturally and unselfconsciously performing a large number of linguistic and other exercises, and using new speech units as freely as though he had been familiar with them all his life.
However, the methodological assumptions of suggestopaedia do not by any means all find support. There is also criticism of the results obtained with this form of teaching. It is said that it leads to ungrammatical use of language, that students do not learn how to form new sentences independently, and that they cannot read anything that they have not encountered in oral practice.
To acquire these abilities, the very considerable emphasis on language mastery, i.e. knowing the rules for using various models in the language, is not enough. Soviet educationalists note that language skills are being formed with insufficient linguistic experience and with no out-of-class work at all, which means the pupil does no independent work on the language.
The changes and additions being made by Soviet educationalists to the suggestopaedic teaching system are designed to eliminate these defects. Teachers and theoreticians are trying to find a way of combining, in accelerated courses, the living language, games and music with the rudiments of linguistics, without which mastery of any language is inconceivable.
An accelerated language course may be complete in itself or it may constitute a particular stage in the process of learning a foreign language. As complete cycles there are, for instance, ten-month courses (full-time) and two-year courses (part-time), for qualified specialists.
These courses intensify the learning process by means of improved instruction by using the best modern methods for the teaching of foreign languages. Teaching methods are selected with an eye to the special characteristics of adult students, who want to know the reason for everything and are averse to purely mechanical work.
The part played by accelerated teaching methods should not, however, be thought of as confined only to the contribution they can make to the relatively small number of people attending courses. The development of these methods contributes to the improvement of foreign-language teaching as a whole.
There are some parts missing - particularly criticisms of the methods - can you add them to the diagram?