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Early years

Origin and Background

Suggestopedia as a method of teaching, learning and human development was first developed by the Bulgarian scientist Prof. Dr. Georgi Lozanov (Lozanov, 1978, 2005, 2009, Lozanov and Gateva, 1988, etc.). Suggestopedia derives from psychotherapy (Prof. Lozanov was a famous psychotherapist himself, later a graduate of pedagogy) and explores the role of suggestion in addition to other factors in the process of learning communication. Suggestion is broadly understood as the essential ability of human beings to be spontaneously exposed to, to be free to select from and be affected by numerous less conscious and subconscious factors while interacting with the reality such as authority and prestige, intonation and rhythm, second plane of communication, infantilisation, concentrated relaxation. ( “means of suggestion”). Prof. Lozanov is the first one to try to organize various suggestive factors, to integrate them with the conscious activities of the human mind and apply them in the teaching process with the single aim of accelerating learning and opening up the human potential. For the first time he deliberately introduced in the teaching materials large information units and successfully challenged learners` memory capacity. For this reason suggestopedia is alternatively named (Lozanov) reservopedia, i.e. tapping the reserves of the mind. Prof. Lozanov argues that his teaching method develops not only aspects but rather a whole “reserve complex” of the learner (see later “suggestopedic reserve complex”).

Theoretical elements of the methodology

Dr. Lozanov lay the broad foundation of an effective learning process. Prof. Lozanov defines seven of these but for the purpose of the present framework we will divide them into two sub groups: general laws which serve as a pre-condition and specific laws which determine the direction and content of the pedagogic process and materials.

“The mind can neither acquire a huge amount of information without LOVE, nor think creatively without FREEDOM. This is the trap of nature.” (Lozanov, 2009:65) All laws of suggestopedia according to Prof. Lozanov (Lozanov, 2009:56) operate only if there is love, freedom and the teacher has a high personal and professional PRESTIGE.


Love, freedom and prestige are the general laws, the prerequisite (condition sine qua non) which guarantees and facilitates the functioning of the specific laws of suggestopedia.

LOVE in the suggestopedic learning communication may be interpreted as:

  • Sincere love, respect, care of one`s learners
  • Love of one`s profession, its deep meaning
  • Love of knowledge, nature, art, life
  • Love and mutual respect among human beings
  • Love and development of learner independence

FREEDOM in the suggestopedic learning communication may be interpreted as:

  • Liberation from fears and anxiety associated with learning
  • Liberation from the social suggestive norm which tells the learners how much exactly they can learn and remember for a period of time
  • Freedom based on genuine needs and interests which ultimately leads the learner to self-reliance, self-study, self-control
  • Freedom of learners to choose in the learning process among multiple stimuli, perceptions, suggestions information units according to their own beliefs, values and norms
  • Freedom of communication, of building relationships in the process of teaching and learning

What freedom does not mean is giving complete freedom to learners as to what, when, and how to learn. Freedom goes hand in hand with a structured study process in suggestopedia. It also encourages in a stimulating way guided and purposeful individual work of learners.

PRESTIGE in general terms will have different interpretations and it typically relates to significant achievements and great personalities. In the process of suggestopedic learning communication, however, prestige is signalled by the following personality traits of the suggestopedic teacher (Mateva, 1997):

  • Knowledgeable and clever
  • Loving and dedicated
  • Patient, delicate and tactful
  • Crafty communicator
  • Charming, charismatic
  • Sensitive, empathetic
  • Artistic, emotional
  • A good psychologist

Having met the requirements of the pre-conditions of Love, Freedom and Prestige, the more specific laws or principles of suggestopedia can be put into operation.


The first specific and essential law stipulates the increased amount of the study material at least two to three times compared to traditional methods. The teaching material in suggestopedic language books is structured into global units , the lexical and grammatical information is enlarged and clustered around topics and situations interwoven in the story line of the textbook. The information is acquired by the learner at different levels of active and passive attention, different levels of conscousness. This is a quick and effective way to teach the new generation of learners how to acquire and process large quantities of systematised information, to form skills based on real life situations. This is how we can challenge their mental capacity and potential.

For example, the first chapter/lesson in the English textbook “The Return” contains around 800 lexical items, numerous collocations and phrases, grammatical and functional structures. language/functions

  • Present continuous/simple
  • To be
  • To have
  • There is/there are
  • Future simple
  • Modals (can, must, may)
  • Pronouns
  • Numerals
  • Introducing
  • Greeting
  • Asking/telling about family
  • Asking/telling about work, profession, interests and hobbies
  • Describing people and places
  • Asking/telling about future plans
  • Asking/telling about countries and nationalities
  • Travelling by air
  • Expressing preferences about food and drinks , etc.

The presentation and ordering of the lexical, grammatical and functional material is structured in a specific way which will be discussed in the section on suggestopedic materials development .

The next specific law according to Prof. Lozanov gives the direction of the teaching and learning process and it is named Global-Partial; Partial-Global; Global through Partial.

The global approach to designing a teaching material and presenting it in class takes the leading role. Teachers and materials designers first give the full picture of the study phenomenon and its most important characteristic features. The learner experiences, constructs and retains the global image in his mind first. For instance, in language teaching we will introduce the entire paradigm of the present simple or perfect tense with the most typical context and use and only later will reveal more situations of use, different forms will be recycled and consolidated. When teaching a lesson of L1 or L2 culture we will present a global lesson (synopsis) on English or Bulgarian culture through the ages with the most typical events, works of art and only later we will focus on different periods and elements, thus enriching the information.

What happens later in both examples is the use of the partial approach, the focus on detail after the learner has experienced and made sense of the global picture. The teacher draws his attention to the element, encourages him to discover its features, its relation to the global. The next stage involves intensive practice of elements at reproductive and productive level but what makes suggestopedia different at this level as well is that the element is practically never fully detached from the whole. Practice always takes place within the context of the story of the textbook and the role play the learner has assumed.

Next, we summarise and test the most important features of the global lesson which constitutes the final stage of the transition global-partial-global. However, this time the “whole” is understood at a deeper level, it is enriched with new elements and, most importantly, the knowledge is applied creatively in multiple practical activities.

The next specific law of suggestopedia refers to the use of art and aesthetics at all stages of the teaching and learning process (Gateva, 1982. 1991). Gateva experimented with more than 100 musical works and more than 150 selected pieces of fine art which have been integrated in the learning materials and communication.

Gateva introduced the following suggestopedic forms of art:

  • Melodrama and musical recital for presenting new material
  • Suggestopedic operas for children
  • Artistic didactic songs
  • Artistically designed suggestopedic textbooks/drama books

Art is widely applied in suggestopedia:

  • To present and consolidate the study programme
  • To create conditions for psycho-relaxation
  • To increase the range of positive suggestions
  • To enrich the emotional stimuli
  • To harmonize scientific knowledge with art, language with music
  • To introduce aesthetics in the entire learning environment

d) Closely connected with the integration of art is the next specific law which stipulates the application of the Golden Proportion at all stages of learning and teaching in suggestopedia. It can be regarded as a separate law but also as part of the artistic principle, as briefly described above. The Golden Proportion is to be found in world famous masterpieces of architecture, painting and music. It is present in the beauty of nature, in the proportions of the human body. The Golden Proportion can be illustrated numerically when in two unequal segments of the whole the ratio between the small and the bigger part is the same as the ratio between the bigger part and the whole. “Any two variables that are in a ratio 0.6180339 or within certain degrees of this ration are within the Golden Section or Proportion” (Lozanov, 2009:77).

The suggestopedic learning communication in particular strives to balance:

  • The length of the two concert sessions (30:50 or 25:40 minutes)
  • The alterations in tempo, rhythm and dynamics (fast, slow, moderate; high, low, medium)
  • The duration of the two elaboration stages
  • The alteration of more and less active phases of work, of emotional and rational
  • The interchange of holistic and partial approaches
  • The proportions in the teaching materials
  • The sense of measure and proportion in the learning environment

e) The last of the more specific laws represents the quintessence and ultimate aim of suggestopedia. It relates to the process of gradually opening up the hidden reserves of each learner. It has been formulated in different ways by Prof. Lozanov during the years and in its final version it sounds like “Teacher`s conviction that something unusual is taking place”. In fact there is much more behind this formulation of the fundamental law of suggestopedia.

To start with, it will require the existence of:

  • Teachers` expectations about their ability to activate the reserve capacities of the learners
  • Teachers` expectations about the learners` ability to learn at the level of the reserves
  • Teachers expectations about opening up their own unused potential (creative ideas, new talents)
  • Inspiration as a result of spontaneous achievements surpassing significantly the social suggestive norm.

Secondly, the process of revealing the potential abilities of each individual can be seen as the result of the application of the global and artistic approach, of the activation of the rational and emotional, of the left and right hemisphere, of the conscious and paraconscious mind of the learners in suggestopedic classes.

Thirdly, we are talking about opening up not only of linguistic or communicative reserves but of a whole reserve complex in the teaching and learning of foreign languages. The reserve complex manifests itself in the:

  • Increased memory capacity and effectiveness, in the ability of learners to memorise and use a great number of lexical chunks and grammatical structures
  • Increased activity of mental and creative processes during the process of language acquisition and use
  • Improved emotional tonus, group interactions
  • Increased speech production, improved abilities to communicate and socialize in L2
  • Enriched world views, cultural insights, widening of interests
  • Lack of fatigue and tension and improved working capacity

In conclusion it should be noted that the reserve complex always functions in the unity of its pedagogic, psychological, social and psychohygienic aspects as demonstrated above.


In full compliance with its principles suggestopedic methodology can be viewed from three perspectives and applies, according to Prof. Lozanov, three groups of means in the learning process: didactic, artistic and psychological.


  • The global-partial approach is observed at the level of artistically designed text books which contain global lessons (chapters) and contain information which is at least 2-3 times more than traditional materials. The globally presented texts also highlight, through special techniques, important elements of the language system.
  • The global-partial approach is observed at the level of teaching processes starting with presenting enlarged linguistic and cultural information, analysing the elements and going back to the global text for creative production
  • The global-partial approach is applied in learning by creating opportunities for spontaneous absorption of fragments of a text within the whole, by acquiring elements through chunks of language in use and later focusing on and analyzing them
  • The global approach is observed at the level of syllabus design which contains integrated skills and knowledge for active learning but also for passive acquisition. The syllabus also includes information on the artistic means integrated at each stage of the learning process on the first (sentence, situation, general meaning) and second plane of acquisition (grammatical and lexical items, pronunciation, spelling)


  • Art is not a stage of illustration or entertainment in suggestopedia. Art is integrated into all stages of the teaching and learning process-presentation, controlled practice and creative practice
  • Different types of suggestopedic art are applied in the language classroom: classical music for the presentation stage, as background music, as a signal for the start and end of an activity, didactic songs with grammatical and lexical purposes, popular songs, pictures and paintings, artistically designed wall charts with linguistic information, etc.
  • Art possesses a stimulating-liberating function encouraging learners to produce language without inhibition
  • Art induces spontaneously states of concentration and relaxation which facilitates language acquisition and reduces stress and fatigue
  • Art has a strong motivational power, it creates positive atmosphere in the language classroom
  • It provides a multitude of emotions and peripheral perceptions


  • Teaching and learning are organized as processes of communication (continuous role play through L2, group cohesion and interaction, relationship building)
  • The teacher is trained in using non-specific communicative means (first and second plane of communication, intonation and rhythm, credibility and infantilisation, concentration and relaxation)
  • The teacher makes use of the peripheral perceptions in the process of language learning (signals given by different intonation, non-verbal signs to reinforce verbal information, text messages outside the focus of attention, components of the classroom interior, etc.)
  • The teacher creates desuggestive set up to liberate the learner from norms and fears and create conditions for increased language input and acquisition, for opening up of complex reserves


The specific principles and methodology of suggestopedia predetermine the specific character of the teaching and learning process in the language classroom.


The start of each suggestopedic course is preceded by painstaking preparation done by teachers and support staff. First, teachers conduct interviews with all students to obtain information about their language level, needs and expectations, personality, learning preferences, etc. Next, the aesthetic decoration of the classroom requires a certain number and proper positioning of grammatical and lexical charts which are always presented on the background of natural scene. Added to these are photos, reproductions of paintings, etc. Teaching materials, translations in L1, an array of artistic devices, but also report forms, class registers are likewise taken good care of.


The first proper stage of the teaching cycle is represented through introduction to/decoding of the new teaching material presented in a global lesson. It usually lasts about 20 minutes with the exception of the first day of the course. The global lesson in foreign language suggestopedia is usually a chapter from the textbook (8 chapters on average). The latter resembles, as already mentioned, a piece of literary work, most often a play. The first introduction at the beginning of each course is lengthier because of the adoption of new roles/personalities and immersing into the scenario. It is a unique and memorable moment of suggestopedia when teacher and all students choose a new name, nationality, profession, etc. and enter into an on-going role play which continues till the end of the course. Right from the start they are all engaged in communication getting to know each other and getting a feel for the new language. Right from the start they sing, dance and play games, all of these in well structured and linguistically purposeful activities. The stage of introduction also aims at decoding the new linguistic material in the global lesson for active learning through short explanations, the use of wall charts and didactic songs. It also gives some hints about the story line in the chapter of the text-book and raises the expectations of the learners.

concert sessions

In a state of enhanced motivation and expectations learners encounter the new material at the background of music. This is the famous first séance or first concert session in which the teacher stands upright and the literary text is read slowly and solemnly in harmony with the selected piece of music by classical and pre-classical composers (Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn). For the special selection of concerts based on research refer to Gateva, 1982, 1991). The students are instructed to follow the text in L2 together with the rhythmic reading of the teacher and also read the translation in L1 in the ensuing pauses. Suggestopedic teachers undergo special psychological, musical and voice training in order to reconcile the linguistic agenda with the tempo, dynamics, rhythm and tone of the music. Most important, however, is the skill of the teacher to tune in to the orchestra performance as one of its instruments. Next to it comes the ability to articulate clearly, to give a distinct shape to each sound, word and phrase.

The first concert reading is of great importance for acquiring reading and pronunciation habits, for comprehending the new language, for memorising large chunks of the text which will be creatively used at later stages of the learning process.

The splendid music with its emotionality, relaxing effect and positive suggestions balances the large volume of linguistic information and prevents any signs of fatigue or boredom.

The second reading of the same teaching material is done by the teacher during the second concert session at the background of Baroque music (Handel, Vivaldi, Bach). This time the books are closed and learners enjoy entirely the soothing, rhythmic flow of sounds. The teacher sits comfortably and maintains rapport with the students by eye contacting them occasionally. Unlike the first concert session the teacher`s intonation and tempo sound perfectly natural to express the real life situations and characters of the textbook. The articulation remains clear and understandable. Learners have been acquainted with the content of the story, still they hear the same words and expressions through different intonation and rhythmical patterns which facilitates memorization and recall. At the end of the second concert reading the effect of rest is complete.

first elaboration

The first elaboration of the new global lesson (the reproductive phase) takes place during the following two or three days. It goes through several phases and always deals with separate parts of the text (the text is subdivided into meaningful units). It aims to revive and refresh the global lesson presented at the concert session. It develops learners` reading skills, their comprehension of the text, their pronunciation, their memorization of whole lexico-grammatical chunks. Most importantly, in a positive, emotional atmosphere the teacher creates the feeling of confidence that the large volume of material is easily mastered.

Reading and pronunciation phase

The teacher can start with reproducing/pronouncing few chunks of language (of the respective part of the text) using different intonation patterns resembling the classical piece of music or the natural intonation of the situation. Students repeat after the teacher and try to recall the meaning. Generally, at all initial stages they are encouraged to refer to the translation in their native language. Students` repetitions are choral (whole class, smaller groups) and individual. Humorous intonations are often applied-humour and laughter are essential part of the learning process.

Students and teacher read each part of the global lesson in succession. Students throw a glance at the translation of the text. The first reading is slow and reminds of the first concert session. A variety of reading techniques is applied. First reading is only choral and gradually sentences and situations are read by individual students. While reading, attention is drawn to different intonation (e.g. loudly, quietly, slowly, quickly, sadly, joyfully, mockingly, boastfully, etc). Attention can be drawn to different activities performed with the words in bold while reading (e.g. when coming across a word in bold/or underlined word clap your hands, stamp your feet, stand up, touch your ear, turn your head, etc.) The shift of attention is in line with “the double plane” technique of suggestive communication-memory is activated and retention is better when learning happens “on the second plane”. The first plane is engaged by a game or game-like task. Games should not be complicated. They should not be used for entertainment-they are essential part of the learning. Playing games recreate the atmosphere of happy childhood (“the infantilisation” means of suggestive communication) but they take into consideration the psychological characteristics and needs of the adult learner.

The teacher also applies a variety of different reading tasks such as: competing to find words and phrases, reading forward and backward, reading in a chain, etc. At certain points the teacher gives brief explanations about the reading rule, supplies more examples and refers students to the Grammar Section of the course book.

Translation phase

The teacher prompts a second reading of each part. The translation is taken away. The second reading is quicker and students perform individually by reading in roles. They try to imitate the characters in the story by putting on different items of clothing, accessories (hats, sun-glasses, scarvess, wigs), etc. While doing it individual students may volunteer to translate sentences and paragraphs. Translation of paragraphs can be prepared as group work as well. Clubs of reading and translation specialists can be set up. The most important thing is to observe the game/activity principle and the shift of attention from the first (game) to the second (language) plane and vice versa.

Work on language

During the second reading of the text at appropriate places students` attention is attracted to the grammar paradigms on the right hand side. These can be read rhythmically, the endings can be associated with different gestures. Grammar paradigms are practiced through songs and simple dances. Grammar elements are coded with gestures, movements, symbols, objects At the same time grammar phenomena in suggestopedia are always extracted from and treated in the context of the story/situations in the book. To practice grammatical structures the teacher again applies different games: imitation games (guess the tense), retelling a short story through a diagram, time-line, ball games (for questions and answers), card games, dice games, ordering sentences and paragraphs, etc.

The activation of grammar and lexis happens in a strictly planned way and is always based on key moments of the development of the plot in the suggestopedic book. Suggestopedia makes use of a great number of lexical games like auctions (buying and selling of objects), guessing games (guessing letters, words, parts of sentences, nationalities, professions, etc), working in groups and forming of different lexical sets (synonyms, antonyms, word families, semantic fields and mind maps), coding and decoding of sentences through numbers and other symbols, memory games, chain games, etc. What makes suggestopedia different in using games is that the latter are integral part of the learning process, not a stage. Secondly, they deal with larger volumes of material and enhance memorization significantly. Thirdly, they are always closely connected with the characters and story line of the book which creates natural motivation for participation.

In the linguistically oriented elaboration the teacher also encourages a lot of substitution and transformation tasks by replacing words, by changing verb tenses, by transforming statements into interrogative/negative sentences. In this way the phrases are made flexible, detachable from the book and the students feel more independent in making the transition to the more creative stages of work.

The second elaboration and production (performance)

The transition stage between the first and second elaboration is very subtle. The aim of the second elaboration is to create opportunities for the personalized use of the language in new situations. The role plays based on the book become more intricate, they provide new obstacles which require a new solution, new ending which on its part requires creative recombining of the linguistic resources. Students can make their own version of the stories in the book, add more details, express their opinion, opposing views.

The most creative stage of the elaboration process is the so called performance which happens during the last two hours before the new concert session. The students prepare at home a monologue speech based on the main topics of the preceding global lesson. Some pairs may prepare a dialogue. During the performance everybody participates in a monologue or a dialogue which represents a synthesis of the material covered. The stories are prepared to a certain degree (some revision takes place at home) and unprepared because the stories are original and personal and also during the presentation both teacher and other students ask questions and prompt unplanned speech. In addition, the teacher often introduces a small object and asks the students to integrate it into their story which creates opportunities for spontaneous speech..

This project has been funded with the support of
the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union

The project IGETADAPT

The project IGETADAPT is based on transfer of the "Suggestopedia" educational system and its adaptation to the methodologies used in trainings and education on Basic skills for adults.

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