Can You Learn a Foreign Language in Your Sleep?

In the old days, some learners believed that listening to a foreign language while you slept would help you to wake up with the ability to speak it. Of course, that theory has long since been debunked, but proof that sleep is closely tied to learning still remains strong. You may not be able to become fluent by playing French songs on your iPod all night long, but there are other great ways to infuse your language learning with some good ol’ fashioned sleepy time!


HOW does sleep help?

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty of exactly how beneficial sleep is to learning. Research shows that sleeping boosts brain power, allowing you to retain new information with a lot more ease. Believe it or not, even a 90-minute nap can do wonders for your brain’s ability to cement new vocabulary and grammar knowledge. The more you sleep, the more your brain power recharges, allowing you to polish off your language skills while fast asleep.

WHERE is the proof?

Experts have been trying to unravel the mysteries of the brain for years and have succeeded in finding a connection between the kind of learning you are undertaking and getting your Zzzzzzs. Studies show that sleep won’t have a lot of effect on strong semantic learning. In other words, concepts you already have a good grasp of won’t be further solidified by sleep. However, catching some shut-eye can do wonders for brand new data. So next time you’ve got a massive vocabulary list to conquer, study, then sleep on it.


WHEN is it beneficial?

An in-depth study of sleep and language was done recently where scientists looked at the benefits of being exposed to knowledge right before you go to bed. In the experiment, a vocabulary list was given to two groups of individuals. After learning the list, one group was allowed to sleep while the other was kept awake. The vocab list was played back to both, and when quizzed later on researchers found that the group who listened to the list while deep in NonREM sleep was significantly better at retaining and remember the information than the one which simply stayed awake.


WHAT can you do?

Obviously, you’re not going to be able to have someone play you vocab lists every night while you’re sleeping, but there are activities you can still do which ensure you get the most out of the learning – sleeping combo. Reviewing  language infographics or studying vocabulary lists right before turning out the lights are fun pre-sleep activities which will help you to, literally, learn in your sleep. You can also take a free online language placement test  to really solidify your language skills before you start your snooze-fest.

For the times when you are awake, and need to round out your learning experience, be sure to sign up for language classes designed to fit your schedule and level. No longer do you have to feel guilty about getting in your daily nap; now you can brush it off as a necessary part of the optimal language learning experience!