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April 2022 - Year 24 - Issue 2

ISSN 1755-9715

The Effect of Suggestopedia Method in Teaching Vocabulary to First Grade Secondary School Students

Magdalena Dygała is a teacher trainer at the University of Technology and Humanities in Radom and also an EFL teacher at  Electronic Technical Secondary School. Magdalena was one of the TOP 50 finalists of the Global Teacher Prize as well as the winner of EF Excellence Award in Language Teaching 2019. She took part in Global Teacher Summit in New York. She is the founder and coordinator of International Video Competition 'A day in the life of students from different countries'. Her main interests include: boosting creativity in the language classroom through music and songs, game-like activities and using digital skills. Email:



Acquisition of vocabulary has gained a more crucial role in the 21st century, and as some would claim, the central role in learning a second language (Lewis 1993). Due to its complexities, many students find it very challenging, therefore teachers try to find appropriate methods to help students store and retrieve words in the target language. This article explores theoretical components and  key features of Suggestopedia, the method which can be applied in teaching vocabulary. More specifically, the study proves that Suggestopedic techniques definitely increase students’ motivation and improve the class atmosphere. The conclusion is that, despite the inconveniences, Suggestopedia has the elements that can be used successfully in teaching vocabulary.



It is generally believed that vocabulary learning plays a crucial role in the language study as ‘without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed’ (Thornbury 2002). It can be observed that when students are asked to make some dialogues in the language classroom, they tend to keep silent due to the lack of vocabulary. There are some other reasons why they are not willing to take part in lessons. One of them is the use of uninteresting methods of teaching by the teacher. As Ramelan (1991) points out ‘the failure of English instruction can be explained by many factors including little knowledge of principles of foreign language teaching and the ways of teaching’.

Language learning is one of the most important students’ activities in a language classroom. It can be observed that nice atmosphere and various teaching methods may guide learners to learn more effectively in a meaningful context.  There have been various teaching methods and approaches in the history of language learning that emphasized different educational needs. Hence, it is the role of foreign language teachers to apply them effectively to an English classroom, taking into account several factors such as: the age of the students, their level of proficiency as well as their interests.



One method that can be introduced to help students acquire new vocabulary items                      is Suggestopedia.

Suggestopedia, one of the humanistic approaches was developed by a Bulgarian educator and psychotherapist – Georgi Lozanov in the 1970’s. Its basic tenents are derived from several disciplines such as yoga, classical music, autogenic therapy and Suggestology (Chastain 1986).

Lozanov (1986 quoted by Chastain 1986:104) describes the term Suggestology as ‘the  science for liberating the personality’s reserve capacities’ while Suggestopedia as ‘ an educational and curative desuggestive-suggestive pedagogical system’. He claims that students’ memory capacity and learning speed are restricted by the restraints society. Thus, it is vital to free them from the confines of these restraints by desuggesting ingrained and subconscious social rules. Maleki (2005) states that learners are able to learn , much more than they can think, on condition that they use their brain power and inner capacities. Moreover, DePorter maintains that human brain is capable of processing great quantities                of material as long as he/she is provided with appropriate condition for learning in a state             of relaxation and adds that most learners use only about 10 percent of their mental capacity. According to Bowen (2009) using this method with students enhances the process                   of acquiring the language 25 times faster in comparison to other methods.

The most important characteristics of Suggestopedia advocated by Lozanov (1978) are the decoration, the arrangement of the classroom, the music and the teacher as the authority              in the classroom. He believes that ‘memorisation in learning by the suggestopedic method seems to be accelerated 25 times over that in learning by conventional methods’ (Lozanov 1978:27).

To go further, in order to understand the method one has to look at such issues as yoga traditions and Soviet psychology. Richard and Rogers (2001) state that Lozanov has adapted techniques for altering states of consciousness as well as the rhythmic breathing from yoga. As far as Soviet psychology is concerned, Lozanov believes that a given subject matter can be taught  at the same level of skill to all learners.

One of the most distinct features of Suggestopedia is the use of Baroque music and musical rhythm during the learning process. Ostrander and Shroeder (1988 quoted by Harmer 2002) state that Baroque music, with its specific rhythm, creates a sort of relaxed state of mind and helps in the retention of the material. It is thought that Baroque music, initiates a level               of relaxed concentration that promotes the intake and retention of huge quantities of material. What is more, Radle (2008) believes that Baroque music is helpful for students               to reach a certain state of relaxation, in which their receptivity is raised. Gaston (1968 quoted by Richard and Rogers 2001:100) enumerates three functions of music in therapy:

  • to facilitate the establishment and maintenance of personal relations;
  • to bring about increased selfesteem through increased self-satisfaction in musical performance;
  • to use the unique potential of rhythm to energize and bring order.

Lozanov (1978) believes that music not only relaxes students but it is also helpful                            to structure and pace the presentation theory of the teaching material.


Theory of language and learning

In approaching the issue of theory of learning, Lozanov does not seem to be involved in any assumptions concerning language elements. The focus on memorization of vocabulary items (target language item together with its L1 translation) evokes a view of language in which lexis is principal and in which translation of lexical items rather than contextualization                    is emphasized (Richard and Rodgers 2001). However, Lozanov occasionally makes reference to the significance of experiencing language material in ‘whole meaningful texts’ (Lozanov 1978:268). He points out that the suggestopedic course leads ‘the students not                                to vocabulary memorization and acquiring habits of speech, but to acts of communication’ (Lozanov 1978:109).

According to Lozanov (1982) the most traditional learning is focused on in the left hemispheres of the brain. He advocates that both hemispheres of the brain should                be activated to get the maximum learning efficiency. Additionally, learners should use both conscious and subconscious processes while studying and learning should include both analysis and synthesis at the same time. Lozanov (1982:146) adds that everyone has ‘unmanifested but genetically predetermined capacities operating mainly in the paraconscious and surpassing the normal ones several times over.’

The most important goal of Suggestoedia is suggestion which is used to motivate the learner’s potential to learn as it loads the memory banks facilitating memories. Thus, dessugestion is connected with unloading the memory banks of blocking memories. Lozanov’s theory of suggestion is derived from the ‘narrow clinical concept of hypnosis as               a kind of static, sleeplike, altered state of consciousness’ (Lozanov 1978:267). He further states that what differentiate his method from hypnosis is that it does not concern ‘suggestive-desuggestive sense’ and does not have a constant access to reserves through psycho-relaxation.

Lozanov (1978 cited in Lica 2008) advocates that learners’ difficulties in acquiring the language may be caused by the fear of making mistakes. He maintains that there is a mental block in the students’ brain – affective filter which blocks the input. Lozanov recommends the combination of dessugestion and suggestion as to motivate learners’ mental potential     to learn and to lower the affective filter, intending to facilitate the process by which they learn to understand the foreign language for communication to accomplish the superlearning.

In approaching the issue of the principles of Suggestopedia, one has to take into account Lozanov’s experiences with Suggestology and psychotherapy. There are three basic principles formulated by Lozanov (1978):

Joy and absence of tension

Suggestopedic classes take place in a pleasant cheerful classroom away from conventional school surrounding. Classroom are furnished with comfortable chairs, plants and posters which allow students to take advantage of their ‘peripheral learning’. The class size is limited to a maximum of sixteen students.

Learners can feel enjoyment and relaxation due to the creation of what Lozanov (1978) calls a ‘positive suggestive atmosphere’. The classes are absolutely non-threatening and tense free, with the teachers putting the emphasis on co-operation rather than competition. As far as the combination of suggestion and music are concerned, they allow the learner to create a state of relaxed alertness which is called concentrative psychorelaxation (Lozanov 1978), a state of mind that enhances learning.

Unity of conscious and unconscious processes

Lozanov (1977:3) maintains that the ‘inhabitation of unconscious functions during the consciously directed learning process does not correspond to the natural, dialectic, inseparable link between conscious and subconscious processes’. He advocates that it does not mean that unconscious functions are completely ‘unutilized in conventional teaching approaches’ (Lozanov 1978:259) but he pays attention to the significance of these functions and how they can effectively be consolidated into the instruction process. To understand this process better, one must look at the behavior of the teacher as well as the materials used in suggestopedic teaching.

According to Celce-Murcia (2000) teachers’ task is to use the target language for everyday communication by advancing their process of learning. It can be achieved by using learners’ mental powers. Teachers can desuggest the psychological barriers students have in the learning situation and make usage of techniques to stimulate the ‘paraconscious’ part                    of mind (Celce-Murcia 2000:81).

Lozanov (1978) draws special attention to dual plane behavior which means that the teachers’ verbal behavior must fit their unconscious non-verbal behavior. What is more, gestures, mimicry and eye contact are very significant in communication.  Lozanov (1978) believes that mastery of dual plane behaviour can only be achieved when teachers use sincere rather than artificial techniques.

It is believed that the largest part of learning in Suggestopedia occurs in the action mode during the introduction of materials and the active concert session. A significant part also takes place in the respective mode which is peculiarly shown in the passive concert session (Lozanov 1978). Learners in this mode are referred to as being in a reverie-like state, they feel relaxed and do not specifically attend  to the music and to the learning material which are demonstrated simultaneously. As Lozanov (1978:198) states ‘such passiveness facilitates hypermnesia and liberates the intellectual activity to operate without any disturbing strain’. Many researchers in this field provide empirical support for Lozanov’s claim, for example Budzyński (1976) advocates that that a reverie-like state can be conductive to memorization. To go further, advantages associated with the psychological and physiological state  of the subject evolved from experience of a reverie-like state have been shown in hypnosis (Ericson 1980).


Suggestive intervention

Lozanov (1978) maintains that it is vital to expand the learners’ potential, taking into account two levels: psychological and intellectual. The goal of the teacher is to improve students’ self-concept, the productiveness of their learning as well as their attitude towards learning. According to Celce-Murcia (2000) if learners feel relaxed and confident, they will do their best to learn the language and the process of their learning will be more natural and easier.

Lozanov (1978) advocates that it is suggestion that makes learners overcome their barriers to learning. He believes that learners often have negative views about their learning potential which may result in their bad oral performance. Thus, indirect positive suggestion can have a direct influence on the learners’ self-confidence (Celce-Murcia 2000).


The key elements of Suggestopedia technique

The key elements of Suggestopedia contain a rich sensory learning environment,                  for example pictures, music, colour: a positive expectation of success and the use of                         a diverse range of methods such as dramatized texts, music, active participation in song and games (Elmi and Marongiu 2008).

Celce-Murcia (2000:84-85) presents the following techniques used in Suggestopedia:

  1. peripheral learning

It is believed that by hanging posters with grammatical information about L2 language                  on the walls, learners will absorb the material without much effort. Celce-Murcia (2000) advocates that students notice much more in their environment than people consciously attend. The posters are changes every week to concentrate on grammatical information which is being dealt with in the class.

  1. positive suggestion

The teacher’s responsibility is to arrange the suggestive factors in students’ learning situations, giving them support in breaking their barriers to learning they bring with them.                It can be achieved through direct and indirect means.

     Lozanov (1976) mentions two kinds of suggestion: direct and indirect. Direct suggestions are connected with conscious process. The suggestions can be prepared inn printed announcement, orally by the teacher, or by text materials. Indirect suggestions, on the other hand, are perceived unconsciously and are definitely much bigger in scope than direct suggestion. Lozanov (1976) calls it the second plane of communication and believes                it includes all the communication factors outside learners’ conscious awareness, for example voice tone, body movement, facial expression, speech tempo, rhythm, etc. Other essential indirect suggestive effects evolve room management, classroom, décor, lighting and noise level.

  1. Choosing a new identity

The learners can choose their new identity, for example a new name, occupation etc. As the course endures, the students may create a whole biography about their own fictional characters. At the end of the course they may be asked to talk or write about their fictional family or friends.

  1. role play

Learners change their behavior to adopt a role in an interaction with another student                   or students. They act out a conversation in which they have a certain role, for example they can introduce themselves as a completely different person. Role playing is connected with pretending to be someone else in order to represent  experiences from students’ point                 of view.

  1. first concert

This implies the active presentation of the material to be learnt. After introducing the story and drawing students’ attention to some grammatical points that occur in it, the teacher reads a dialogue in the target language. The students have copies of the dialogue accompanied by vocabulary lists and observations on important grammatical points while the teacher is reading. After a few minutes, the teacher starts dramatic reading of the dialogue, accompanied by classical music.

  1. second concert (passive concert)

In the second phase, the students are guided to relax and listen as the teacher reads. According to Lozanov (1982)the best choice is pre-classical or Baroque music, with the text being read quietly in the background. The learners sit in comfortable chairs in a nice environment. After reading the dialogue to the accompaniment of music, the teacher makes use of the dialogue for more conventional language work. The music is chosen to bring the learners into the optimum mental state for the effortless acquisition of the material. At the end of the concert, the class finishes for the day.

  1. primary activation

This technique is connected with an active phase of the lesson. The learners ‘playfully’ reread the dialogue in the target language aloud, as individuals or in groups. They can read the dialogue in a particular manner, for example sadly, angrily or cheerfully (Celce-Murcia 2000).

  1. creative adaptation

The learners become involved in various activities designed to help them to learn the new material and then start using it spontaneously.  Lozanov (1978) recommends various activities for this phase, for example singing, dancing, dramatization, puzzles, games, etc. What is more, the activities are varied and students do not pay attention to the form of the linguistic message but their task is to communicate.


Suggestopedia in the language classroom   

Here is an example of teaching vocabulary lesson connected with the topic of  traveling                 by air:

The teacher asks students to choose for themselves a new name which is typical for English speaking countries, to go along with the new experience. They can look at one of the posters with printed names. First the teacher reads the names and has the students repeat the pronunciation.

The teacher asks students if they like travelling and what countries they would like to visit. Once students choose their holiday destination, the teacher asks them to look at the poster with printed purposes.

  1. The teacher provides the students with the dialogues in English together with their corresponding Polish translations. Next, the teacher presents the dialogues partly                in English and partly in Polish, using gestures and facial expressions.
  2. The teacher plays the background music (Yann Tiersen’s ‘Comptine d’Un Autre Ete’) and reads the dialogues in English. The students can take notes or check Polish translations.
  3. The teacher reads the dialogues once again but this time the students are only                  to listen (the dialogues are covered).
  4. The teacher wears a hat, chooses one character from the dialogue and asks four volunteers to come to the middle of the classroom. They are given hats, their task is to read one part of the dialogue in a different way (for example in a cheerful or a sad way).
  5. The teacher asks some questions connected with the dialogues. Next, she chooses some words from the dialogue and asks the students to provide Polish equivalents.
  6. The teacher chooses some volunteers who want to read the dialogues in front of the classroom.
  7. The students are divided into two groups: custom officers and travelers. The custom officers are given the handouts and their task is to interview each traveler before letting them into the country. As travelers are being interviewed, the custom agents write down the travelers’ information.
  8. The teacher plays some background music (Handel’s Water Music’) and asks the students to stand in a circle. She throws a soft ball to a different student and asks: ‘What is your English name?’ indicating that he or she is to throw the ball                            to a different student while posing a question, for example ‘How long are you planning to stay?’.


Advantages and disadvantages of Suggestopedia

A Advantages

Suggestopedia offers some benefits for its use in the language classroom for secondary school students. Using this method in the language classroom, students can lower their affective filter. Learners learn in a pleasant environment with comfortable chairs and background music, a practice which makes students relaxed during the learning process. As Larsen and Freeman (1985) state: ‘if students are relaxed and confident, they will not need to try hard to learn the language as learning the language will just come easily and naturally’. Moreover, Suggestopedia refers to a double-planedness theory - the learning from two aspects, conscious and subconscious one. Students can acquire the aim of teaching instruction from both the direct instruction as well as the environment in which the teaching takes place. Another advantage is peripheral learning, students are encouraged to apply language more independently, taking responsibility for their own learning. Peripheral information may also help encourage students to be more experimental, and look to sources other than the teacher for language input.


B Disadvantages

Suggestopedia has also some negative aspects since there is no single teaching method which can be categorised as the best one.

The main disadvantages are as follows:

  • environmental limitation

One of the problems, which many teachers around the world face, is the number of students     in the class. It is difficult to teach large classes of 30-40 students using this method                      of teaching. There should be 10-15 students in the class to make the learning more effective.

  • the use of hypnosis

Although Lozanov denied that, some people state that Suggestopedia uses a hypnosis, which can have bad deep effects for human beings.

  • infantilization learning

Suggestopedia uses some child-like situations and there are some students who do not like                to be treated like that in the language classroom.



Having conducted the lessons using Suggestopedia, the author has come to the conclusion that foreign language teachers should use various methods and approaches to help students acquire new words and expressions. To increase their vocabulary range, learners should               be given an opportunity to participate in real-life situations in a non-threatening environment. Although Suggestopedia offers some valuable insights into the power of cognition and initiate techniques that make the learners feel relaxed and comfortable, it can be claimed that there              is no single method which can guarantee success in language learning. Hence, it is the role              of foreign language teachers to choose the methods or approaches that may be the most appropriate for a particular group of students.



Bancroft, W.J. 1972. The psychology of Suggestopedia or learning without stree. The Educational Courier (February): 16-19.

Bancroft, W.J. 1978. The Lozanov method and its American adaptions. Modern Language Journal 62(4):167-175.

Bauer, L., & Nation, I.S.P. (1993), Word Families, International Journal of Lexicography, 6, 253-279.

Brewster, J, Ellis, G & Girard D (2002) The Primary English Teacher’s Guide. New Edition. England: Pearson Educational Limited.

Celce-Murcia, M. (ed.). 1991. Teaching English as a second or a Foreign Language. Second Edition. New York: Newbury House.

Chodkiewicz, H. (2000). Vocabulary Acquisition from the Written Context. Lublin: M.Curie-Skłodowska University Press.

Harmer, Jeremy: The Practice of English Language Teaching. Longman, 1983.

Larsen-Freeman, D. (2000). Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Larsen-Freeman, D (2001). Teaching vocabulary. In Marianne Celce-Murcia (Ed.), Teaching English as the second or foreign language. Third Edition. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

Lozanov, G. (1978), Suggestology and Outlines of Suggestopedy. New York: Gordon and Breach.

Lozanov, G. & Gateva, E. (1988). The Foreign Language Teacher’s Suggestopedic Manual. New York: Gordon and Breach.

Mehta, N. K. (2009). Vocabulary teaching: Effective methodologies. TESL Journal, 15(3).

Thornbury, S. (2002).  How to teach vocabulary. Essex: Longman.


Internet resources


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