Can You Become Bilingual While You Sleep?

Can You Become Bilingual While You Sleep?

By Vitalere Content

Have you had a strong desire to learn a foreign language, but don't have the time? Then there's a new method you might want to start researching, if you don't mind wearing headphones while you sleep.

According to a recent Swiss study, researchers found that it is apparently possible to boost your vocabulary in a foreign language by listening to audio while in the early stages of sleep. Forbes has more on how the study was conducted:

"(The researchers) gathered two groups of study participants, all of whom were native German speakers, and gave them a series of Dutch-to-German word pairs to learn at 10 pm. One group was then instructed to get some sleep, while the other group was kept awake. For the next few hours both groups listened to an audio playback of the word pairs they’d already been exposed to and some they hadn’t yet heard.

"The researchers then re-gathered both groups at 2 am and gave them a test of the Dutch words to uncover any differences in learning.

"And indeed there was a difference: the group that listened to the words during NonREM sleep did significantly better at recalling the words they’d heard at 10pm."

While this method would require instruction on the side, and isn't learning a foreign language from scratch, it does lend credence to the practice of "sleep-hacking," where people either try to extract more rest out of fewer hours spent sleeping, or they try to undertake productive tasks while asleep.

Admittedly, the belief that one can control his or her brain enough to learn a language or solve problems while sleeping has been shot down by many experts. In fact, some see any attempts at learning a foreign language through this specific form of passive listening to be a waste of time. Still, there have been more than a few difficult-to-explain incidents where people have learned foreign languages while their minds have effectively been in a state of mental stasis. For instance, in 2014, Rory Curtis, a promising soccer player in England, woke up from a coma speaking fluent French. (And also believing he was Matthew McConaughey, but still).

Then in 2010, a 13-year-old Croatian teenager awoke from a 24-hour coma speaking fluent German. This also came with a cost, however, as she could no longer speak her native Croatian tongue, though she could understand it.

As for any participatory case studies, there was one journalist who tried her hand at learning French in her sleep. She gave it a month and came away mostly disappointed with the results.

But something tells us that those who are committed to sleep-hacking will remain undaunted and press on with their methods. Even if there's a chance you could wake up only to find yourself interacting with friends and colleagues like a low-rent Wooderson.