Imagine goofing off all day long, then lying down with your favorite English bilingual dictionary under your pillow, and when you wake up the next morning – SHAZAAM! — you know most, if not all, of the vocabulary in the entire dictionary.
You have to admit, it’s a fun thought, isn’t it? But does it work?
Well, no, not so much. Some people will try to get sneaky and re-define sleep as a very relaxed state [of consciousness] to sell sleep learning products, but serious researchers agree that learning new stuff while sleeping is still only a dream.
It’s clever, though, because just as most serious studies have discredited the idea of sleep learning, the consensus is that learning English or any other language when you’re relaxed does bring significant benefits.
And studying after you have slept well definitely improves your ability to retain new information.
So let’s talk about the difference between sleep and relaxation and then I’ll give you some techniques to help you stay awake, relax and learn anything from Spanish to Sanskrit faster. (Ok, English, French & German, too.)
What is sleep?
A common definition of sleep is “a natural and periodic state of rest during which consciousness of the world is suspended.”
Relaxation, on the other hand, is a state of CONSCIOUSNESS free from stress or anxiety. The important point here is that you are not necessarily cut off from your awareness of the outside world when you’re relaxed. In fact, when you’re relaxed but not asleep, you’re in a heightened state of awareness where communication with the outside world is clearer and more focused. Since the background noise and distraction caused by stress and anxiety aren’t there, your mind is eager for information to process.
This is a good state to be in when you want to learn something new.
Here’s my favorite method to get in that optimum relaxed state. You can use this anywhere, although being in a quiet place will be more effective.
Recall a time in your life, hopefully fairly recent, when you were feeling very calm and at ease. Imagine as vividly as possible the sights, sounds and smells you experienced at that time. How did the air feel against your skin? Was it hot or cold? What were you doing? Who was with you? (If you have medium level language skills, you can try to express these things in your target foreign language.)
If you are just starting your target language, then let the video that you are creating in your mind continue to run in the background while you listen to your language lessons or do your language exercises.
See if you don’t feel much more focused while you learn and find that you remember more than you otherwise would when a dozen worries and uncertainties are floating around in your brain.
Is it working?
If you would like to hear more techniques to improve your language learning speed, leave me a comment below about how this technique worked for you. Also, you can check out my report on learning languages faster called Lightning Languages.