Beauty in suggestopedic language teaching and learning

Vanina Bodurova, e-mail: vaninabodurova@hotmail.com
The Prof. Dr. Georgi Lozanov and Prof. Dr. Evelina Gateva Foundation

Abstract: Suggestopedia is based on seven laws. One of them is Use of Classical Art and Aesthetics. The paper reflects on the importance of introducing students to the beauty of the target language and the culture of the people it represents.

Key words: suggestopedia, art, beauty, second language acquisition, catharsis, global-partial, seven laws of suggestopedia

Suggestopedia was originally created as an experimental branch of suggestology- the science of suggestion- in the field of pedagogy by the Bulgarian psychiatrist and brain scientist- Dr Georgi Lozanov. Forty five years have elapsed since the first appearance of the term in the Bulgarian specialized literature – The Narodna Prosveta Journal and 43 since its English equivalent was offered to the participants in the Settimana di Medicina Psico-Somatica in Rome in 1967. Since then, the original theory and practice of suggestopedia has had a dramatic life which led it through its recognition as a psychotherapeutic method by the most prestigious Bulgarian medical professors at the time [1]; the admiration and recommendation of the 20 member international expert group of scientists appointed by UNESCO [2]; the confirmation of the results received in Bulgaria by the State Academy of Pedagogy of Vienna, Austria [3] and the influence the humanitarian approach of suggestopedia has had on the contemporary teaching and learning process in general and language instruction, in particular.

For the purpose of this paper we will not elaborate in further detail on the historical background of the suggestive – desuggestive pedagogy/ suggestopedia/ desuggestopedia/ reservopedia [4]. Here we will briefly define it as a pedagogical trend that operates on the level of the reserves of mind of the human being by using the means of Suggestion [5] which liberates the personality of previous negative conditioning (desuggesting) and stimulates its development (suggesting) with positive effect on the health and education of the personality in its integrity. Suggestopedia takes into account both our emotional and logical human structure, the richness of conscious and paraconscious processes which characterize our individuality. It notices, organizes and teaches how to make use of the weak signals which our whole being exudes in communication. It stresses the importance of the peripheral stimuli and perceptions in our lives. As such Suggestopedia is based on Seven Laws which are observed in every moment of the suggestopedic interaction.

[1] Lozanov, G. “Suggestopedia/Reservopedia, Theory and Practice of the Liberating-Stimulating Pedagogy on the Level of the Hidden Reserves of the Human Mind”, Sofia University Press, 2009 (p.190-192)
[2] The Journal of the Society for Accelerative Learning and Teaching, Volume 3, Issue 3, Fall 1978 (p.211)
[3] The Journal of the Society for Accelerative Learning and Teaching, Volume 3, Issue 1, 1978 (p.21-37)
[4] These terms have been given by Dr Georgi Lozanov to reflect the process and objective of the suggestopedic interaction.
[5] The Anglo-Swiss Professor Sonia Dougal distinguishes between the suggestions such as the  manipulation, propaganda, etc. and “Lozanov’s Suggestion with capital S, which stands for liberation from conditioning followed by the activation of some of the human personality’s reputed millions of unused, because yet untapped, brain cells.” cited from “Front Line Story. The Language of Suggestion and Desuggestion on the Front Line in Italy (1943-1945)”, Gotthard Media (Gotthard AG) CH-6424 Lauretz, Switzerland, 2001

The careful reading of the Laws transmits the fine equilibrium between what (the tangible matter of the study material) and how (the intangible attitude of the humans partaking the process of instruction). Thus the Seven Laws are:

  1. Love
  2. Freedom
  3. Conviction of the Teacher that Something Unusual is Taking Place
  4. Manifold Increase of Input Volume
  5. Global-Partial, Partial-Global; Partial through Global.
  6. Golden Proportion
  7. Use of Classical Art and Aesthetics

Years of research and wisdom have led the founder of Suggestopedia, Dr Georgi Lozanov to stress that “the laws should be observed simultaneously at each moment by the prestigious teacher”.

Why should a scientist talk about Love and Freedom as a scientific must in suggestopedic teaching which aims at the tapping of the reserves of mind?

Let us turn to Dr Lozanov’s argumentation:

“Love creates serenity, trust and contributes to the prestige of the teacher in the eyes of the learners and thus opens the ways of tapping the reserves in the personality’s paraconsciousness.”

“Love together with the other laws creates the necessary cheerful, genuine and highly stimulating concentrative relaxation. It calls for calmness, steadiness, relaxation and non-strained concentration.”

“The metaphor (a parent helping the child how to ride a bicycle-italics V.B.) illustrates the quality of the psychological relaionship between teacher and learner which is much like the relationship of mother and child”

“When there is Love, there is Freedom”

“Freedom gives the opportunity to the student to listen to their inner voice and to choose their way to the reserves of mind at different moments of the process of instruction. freedom is not being dictated by the teacher, it is a spontaneous feeling in the student that they do not obey the methodology but are free to enjoy it and give personal expression in accordance with their personal traits, i.e. reservopedia is not an imposition; on the contrary, it is opening the door to personal expression.” [6]

We have paused at the first two Laws of suggestopedia because the scientific world has shown some tendency to exclude the philosophical notions of Love and Freedom from its thesaurus. Dr Lozanov, on the contrary, through his lifelong research, shows that the ancient unity of philosophy and science is still relevant today in order to achieve a most responsible aim – tapping the reserves of mind of the human being.

In this line of thought, the structure of the study material and the organisation of the suggestopedic interaction is done in accordance with the laws: Global-Partial, Partial-Global, Global through Partial and the Golden Proportion. All the abovementioned Laws support the Manifold Increased Input Volume which is a clear manifistation of the possibility of the human brain/mind.To them, the Use of Classical Art and Aesthetics Law adds beauty and “creates conditions for optimal psychorelaxation and harmonious states which help provoke a spontaneous increased acquisition state” [7]

[6] Lozanov,G. “Suggestopedia/Reservopedia, Theory and Practice of the Liberating-Stimulating Pedagogy on the Level of the Hidden Reserves of the Human Mind”p.57-58
[7] ibid. p.61

In the particular case of the adult foreign language teaching and learning, art is present at the very first moment of the intake level test ( see Appendix A). In the teacher’s attitude there is delicacy and attention and a relationship of distant proximity is established. The teacher should be close enough to inspire trust and at the same time at a certain distance which leaves space to the other party of the communication not to feel familiarity. ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ as the old saying warns. The distance allows for the feeling of freedom which enhances the easy perception of emotion in the suggestopedic teaching process.

The process of harmonising the teaching with the antisuggestive barriers (logical, affective-intuitive, ethical) of each of the participants is intricate and the suggestopedagogue aims at finding the child personality out of the multiple personalities living in the human being. As a result, he/she will be able to connect at the pure level of perception without the limiting states of mind of suspicion, submitting, aggression. Once this harmonisation has been achieved, the personality starts a process of purification (catharsis) from past negative experiences related to studying.

The Love purifies, the Freedom purifies, the Inspiration, which is a main means of expression in suggestopedia, purifies. Although some stages in the process of teaching may resemble other foreign language classrooms where the feeling of pleasure reigns, in the suggestopedic underlying principle there is the state of Inspiration because another level of communication is being tapped. When the teacher manages to establish this spontaneous suggestive relation of harmonisation and inspiration, the students resonate and they perceive their teacher’s state .The peripheral perceptions are those of expextancy, trust in the hidden, latent potential of the students’ functional reserves. Conditions are created for positive expectations, positive emotions which help establishing a calm and optimistic state and motivation for work. The positive emotions are not an end in themselves. In the suggestopedic interaction they are the basis for the concentrative calmness- a notion which has its roots in the psychotherapy- and attaining of a better acquisition of the study material. The emotional stimuli in suggestopedic art (E. Gateva, 1988, 1991) range from the areas of fine art, theatre, opera, ballet, classical music, photography, choreography and others. The milleu is dense with emotional signals submitted to the Law of the Golden Proportion and in service of the didactical end of introduction to or elaboration of a new code of expression – the foreign language.

The criterion for the creation of this ambience is beauty.

As a philosophical category, beauty may be hard to define. As a psychological necessity, beauty, has been expressed in the words of the master Dostoevski: “Beauty will save the world”.

As an educational – didactic means of expression, beauty makes it possible for a person to be more profoundly engaged with the matter and the spirit, it offers the conditions for an easier acquisition, high motivation, love for the target language and from there- tolerance and interst towards the native population speaking and thinking in it.

An example of the above reflections can be drawn from the poetry used on day 12 from the suggestopedic English language course for beginners, introduced in chapter two in the suggestopedic textbook-play The Return. The lines were written by the Romantic genius of Lord George Gordon Byron: “She Walks in Beauty”:

She walks in beauty like the night

of cloudless climes and starry skies

and all that’s best of dark and bright

meets in her aspect and her eyes.

The poetic image of the woman, full of enigma and admiration, provokes the desire to reveal more of the muse who has inspired the lines. They have been chosen to present one of the main characters of the play in a more relief way. It corresponds to the necessity the adult learners have to touch upon the original masterpieces of the English language. The four lines from the first stanza of Byron’s poem are not isolated. They have been inserted into the thoughts of the leading character of the play – Miss Needham-upon her first encounter with the silent men in mackintoshes and the old lady oblivious of her. It is a ray of alleviation in the experience of a foreigner for whom London is still an unknown and alien place. It is a herald of an optimistic meeting, which will have grown into friendship by the end of the play. The romantic language has been supported by the painting on the following page: G. Rommey’s Portrait of the Duchess Elizabeth Derby.The students will be exposed in the unity consciuosness-paraconsciousness to the new language first listening to the poetry as part of the second chapter in the so called active concert session where it will be read with the psychologically impregnated intonation which helps the easier acquisition of the material to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Haffner and Prague. The second music session- the so called pseudopassive session -is conducive to thought and concentrated psychorelaxation which will stabilize the memory tracks. The day after Byron and the epoch he represents will be introduced softly and comprehensibly to the beginners and the beauty of the English language will be present as a stimulus for further immersion, will call forth images which will relate to their past and future states of mind. Later, the students’ sense of rhythm, their oral and aural habits will be carefully engaged in the artistic interpretention of the lines – hesitantly at first and more confidently later in as much as each participant will feel the need to express the emotion that they provoke in him/her. The teacher will invite the students to a reading as a chorus, then individually- the ear will get used to the music of the language, the eye- to its written expression. The students have support at every moment in their mother tongue translation, given to them from the very first beginning of the active session and then on the succeeding days will undertake the responsible task to find the suggestive equivalent of the English into their native language.The verses are a global introduction to the new theme in the text – the aspect and parts of the body.

The use of beauty corresponds to the psychotherapeutic, psychohygienic aims that suggestopedia poses. It is an indespensable part of the whole suggestopedic communicative process. If, according to the theory of suggestology, suggestion is everywhere, then why not use a kind word than a harsh comment to our students, why not express a belief in their abilities than doubt that they can do better, why not surround ourselves with beauty rather than with expressionless environment which does not create any positive emotions in us. The teaching and learning process is not only a study of the matter. Language competences should not only be directed to the utalitarian purposes but should also satisfy the asthetic necessity of the human being to hear, see, express and pronounce beauty.

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