Over the years Popeth Cymraeg has pioneered the field of Alternative Language Teaching Methodologies in Wales. We have studied numerous methods to see which ones are, in our opinion, the most effective and have come to the conclusion that the most fruitful method which we have encountered is Suggestopedia. We offer Sugggestopedic Welsh classes (termed Unlimited Learning Courses) to adults in North East Wales with the full support of the National Centre for Teaching Welsh. We are the only organisation in Wales qualified to do this
What are the origins of Suggestopedia?
In what way is Suggestopedia different from other methods of teaching languages?
How does it achieve this aim?
a) Desuggestion and Resuggestion
Bringing the language which has been subconsciously 'loaded’ up into the conscious domain through text manipulation, games, songs, activities, movement and all kinds of sensory stimulation.
This, of course, is very much like how small children are taught. It also fits in with what we know about language acquisition.
The Basics of language acquisition
- Comprehension normally precedes and greatly exceeds the ability to produce language
- Linguistic 'errors' are not signs of failure since they are a step forward in a normal developmental sequence.
- Grammar is best acquired unconsciously, as if by osmosis. It can, however, be consolidated consciously.
- Human beings are genetically predisposed to acquire languages as long as they get linguistic input which is sufficient in volume and complexity. (See also the paper entitled Ants in My Head in the section Articles About Suggestopedia which discusses Suggestopedia from the point of view of Complexity Theory - it’s not as complex as it sounds, honestly.)
Outline Of Suggestopedic Learning Cycle
1. Adoption of New Aliases.
Every member of an Unlimited Learning / Suggestopedic course takes on a new name and identity such as Lowri Bowen from Dowlais who is a Clown Proffesiynol or Brychan Ap Llywarch from Dinbych who is a Chwaraewr Snwcer. This is done in a light-hearted manner but the reasoning behind it is very serious. Every lesson, the tutor and the other students only use these names when they talk to you and the subtle suggestion, therefore, is that you are already a Welsh speaker. It’s a bit like Olympic athletes repeatedly imagining themselves crossing the finishing line to win a race. In our experience the students on Unlimited Learning courses who embrace their new identity the most tend also to be the most successful learners.
2. Pre-exposure to the Core Language Elements.
The first year Welsh Suggestopedic course is based around a play in 12 Acts. At the beginning of every act the tutor acts out the story which the class will be reading later on. This is a bit like putting on a primer before you paint a wooden surface. The first act is the longest and introduces a large amount of vocabulary and grammar.
3. Active Concert.
The students receive a copy of the act (together with an English translation) and the tutor reads the act to the background of Mozart, Beethoven or other Romantic composers. The combination of music and words is actually more memorable than words on their own (as every nursery school teacher knows). This could be considered the undercoat.
4. Passive Concert.
The text is read once again but this time to the background of Baroque music. The students do not read the text this time, they merely listen and follow. This is the first top coat.
This is the end of the first lesson in every act cycle. Students will have taken in a lot of language but this now needs to settle. Sleep is essential in enabling the brain to start organising all the linguistic input which it has received. All we ask the students to do is to read the act before going to sleep as if they were reading a short story (using the English translation where necessary).
5. Text Activisations.
During the following lessons the tutor will utilise a wide range of activities aimed at bringing the language which was initially presented and ingested by the students to the surface. This is done by playing around with the text itself and also by using parts of the text as a springboard to communicating in the language. The important thing is to allow the language to emerge naturally.
The initial aim is to help students develop their understanding of the language and then stimulate their ability to express themselves freely. This process is like adding on extra layers of top coat and going back once in a while to sand the coat down before adding on another layer. We zoom in on bits of grammar once in a while but only once the students have been exposed to the grammar many times previously. Constant refinement is what eventually leads to mastery of the language.
One other thing – the Suggestopedic classes should be fun and relaxing whilst being totally focused on helping students master the Welsh language. Dr. Lozanov used to describe the approach as one of “Serious Jocularity”. If you watch the videos of the Cariad@iaith lessons (see below) we think that you will see that both aspects, the fun and the seriousness, are intertwined in the planning and presentation of each lesson.
Suggestopedia on Television
Over a 5 year period S4C (Channel 4 Wales) broadcast a series entitled Cariad@iaith a reality television show following the journey taken by groups of learners (celebrities and ordinary members of the public) as they spend a week in a secluded location learning and using their Welsh. The course used on these programmes every year was a new Suggestopedic beginners Welsh course designed by Ioan Talfryn of Popeth Cymraeg and taught by Ioan and TV presenter and tutor Nia Parry. To watch the lessons upon which the last series was based and download the course materials in Welsh and English click on this link Cariad@iaith. The recordings of the lessons have not been doctored in any way and reflect the actual learning experiences of the students. They are an accurate depiction of the teaching approach and plethora of light hearted activities which form the core of a Suggestopedic Welsh course.
Note on Terminology. Suggestopedia is sometimes referred to as De-Suggestopedia since Dr. Lozanov, in his later years, felt that some people had misunderstood the purpose of the method. Its primary aim is to liberate learners from negative, culturally acquired preconceptions as to the limits of their learning abilities (what he termed social suggestive norms) hence his addition of the prefix De-. Since a great deal of literature had already been published concerning Suggestopedia, however, the change in name never really spread widely and most people still refer to the method as Suggestopedia.
For a collection of more in-depth articles on Suggestopedia click here Articles About Suggestopedia .