How to learn French while you sleep
I think it’s safe to say that most of us at some point in our lives I wondered if it’s possible to learn French, for any language for that matter, all sleeping. I myself have wondered this and have even spent time trying to come up with answer. Is it actually possible or is it just wishful thinking for us language learners? Well, I’ve done some research and even tried it myself and if come up with the best answer I can put together.
So, is it possible to learn French while you sleep? My answer is… sort of
Let me explain… as much as we all would like to believe but it’s possible to fall asleep listening to a French tape and wake up knowing all the information that you listen to perfectly, it just isn’t possible. If it were possible then most of us would speak French perfectly.
The overall problem with the idea of sleep learning is that it gives you the idea that language learning is easy and doesn’t require much effort (or that if you are learning and having a hard time you must be doing it wrong). However that doesn’t mean that the language-learning process has to always be difficult or that there aren’t ways to make it easier (in fact, this entire site is dedicated to just that). As long as you have the correct expectations that come along with sleep learning you should be just fine.
Another big problem with the idea of sleep learning that there are numerous scams out there promising fluency if you just listen to their audio files while asleep. The vast majority of these methods simply don’t work and prey on your desire to learn quickly and easily. I recommend staying away from these methods. The type of sleep learning that we’re going to discuss in this articles doesn’t require any sort of fancy sleep-learning method that you need to purchase.
However, the good news for us French learners is that just because it isn’t really possible to learn French while asleep that doesn’t mean that the sleep cycle doesn’t serve a purpose at all. To better explain what I mean by this what’s look to study those conducted a few years ago.
A group of researchers two Swiss universities wanted to see if they could improve the memorization of vocabulary during the non-REM period of the sleep cycle.
How did it work?
The researchers gathered to groups of people who all spoke German as their mother tongue. They give each participant some German To Dutch vocabulary to memorize. One of the groups was then allowed to go to sleep, whereas the other was not. For the next few hours or so each of the groups was made to listen to the vocabulary just studied including some vocabulary that they hadn’t.
Hours later they got the group together and tested them on the previously learned vocabulary. Surprisingly, the group of participants that were allowed to go to sleep remembered the words better than the group that had to stay awake.
What to take away from this…
There are a few things that we can take away from this study. The first thing is that the group that performed better was not learning new vocabulary but rather reinforcing vocabulary they had already been exposed to. This is important because it means that you likely won’t be able to learn new vocabulary using this method. The second thing to take away from this study was that the audio sleeping participants listened to only played during the first few hours of sleep. This wasn’t something that they listened to throughout the entire night. The last thing to take away from the study is that the participants were only tested on vocabulary and do not other aspects of language learning such as grammar and pronunciation. We can also assume that this exercise applies to any sort of vocabulary at one may have to memorize, and isn’t it just restricted to learning French or any other foreign language.
So how can you use this to improve your French?
How can we take what we’ve learned from this study and apply it to our French learning? Here is what I recommend doing.
- Take some time before going to bed to study some new vocabulary. This can be any vocabulary that you encountered throughout the day. Perhaps it’s from a book that you were reading, or even some new words your friend taught you. You could even use short phrases for this method as long as they aren’t too long. By just following this one step and studying right before bed you should see an improvement in your French abilities.
- If possible set up an audio recording of your vocabulary on repeat to play while you go to sleep. Make sure that you only let it run for a few hours. Remember that in the study the audio only played while the participants were in non-REM sleep. We can assume that any benefit that you would experience from doing this would dwindle once you enter REM sleep. Once you enter REM sleep any sound would likely just be a nuisance. Because it can be difficult to find audio files of the exact vocabulary that you are trying to learn you can just record it all yourself. Since you’ll be the only one listening to it you shouldn’t feel embarrassed by it at all. Also, by taking the time to record the vocabulary you can work on your pronunciation as well as get some additional practice learning your vocabulary.
- When you first wake up in the morning review your vocabulary that you studied right before you went to sleep. In the study it mentioned that the participants woke up only a few hours after falling asleep to review their vocabulary, but for the sake of practicality we can just do it after waking up. If, for whatever reason, you’re dying to wake up just a few hours after going to bed to review your vocabulary then go ahead. Most of us will be fine reviewing our vocabulary the next morning.
So going back to our original question it is somewhat possible to improve your French while you sleep. At minimum we can say that, when done correctly, you can derive a benefit from working some of your French studies around your sleep schedule.
Do you have any experience with this method or any others? Let us know in the comments below. Want us to write about your French learning method? Send us a message explaining how it works and we’ll write about it.