Yes, you can learn a foreign language in your sleep, say Swiss psychologists

Study played newly-learned foreign vocabulary to students and compared their memory with those who were played the words while awake

Subliminal learning in your sleep is usually dismissed as pseudo-science at best and fraud at worst, but a team of Swiss psychologists say you can actually learn a foreign language in your sleep.

Well, not from scratch, but a research published in the journal Cerebral Cortex by the Swiss National Science Foundation claims that listening to newly-learned foreign vocabulary while sleeping can help solidify the memory of the words.

In the study led by biopsychologist Björn Rasch, sixty German-speaking students were asked to learn some Dutch words that they had never seen before at 10pm. Half of the group were then allowed to go to sleep, with the words played back to them, while the other half were kept awake to listen to the words.

The first group was then woken at 2am and all sixty students were tested on the new vocabulary. The scientists found that those who had listened to the Dutch while sleeping were much better at recalling the new words.

The study - first reported by Wired.co.uk – also considered the fact that the group that was kept awake were simply performing worse because they were sleep-deprived, using EEG measurements of the sleeping leaners to show increased activity in the parietal lobe – a part of the brain important in processing language.

This isn’t the same as going to bed with a ‘learn French’ CD and waking up with ‘comment ça va?’ and ‘omelette du fromage’ on your lips, but further testing could confirm that stimulus in our sleep helps consolidate memories.

In fact, in a study from 2012 by the Weizmann Institute of Science scientists were able to condition subjects to associate smells with certain sounds – even while they were asleep.

The researchers concluded: “This acquired behavior persisted throughout the night and into ensuing wake, without later awareness of the learning process. Thus, humans learned new information during sleep.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media