SUGGESTOPEDIA (Method for Teaching Speaking to YL)

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Suggestopedia as a Method for Teaching Speaking for Young Learners in a Second Language Classroom
Arif Suryo Priyatmojo
Graduate Student of English Studies
Semarang State University

Suggestopedia, one of the humanistic approaches was developed in the 1970’s by the Bulgarian educator Georgi Lozanov. It is based on the idea that people, as they get older, inhibit their learning to conform to the social norms and in order to reactivate the capabilities they used as children, teachers have to use the power of suggestion. This paper presents theoritical components, key features and the use of this method in classroom. The conclusion is that, despite a lot of inconveniences, suggestopedia has elements that can be used successfully to teach speaking for young learners.
Key words: Young Language Learners (YLLs) development, suggestopedia, advantages and disadvantages, suggestion for English teachers.

1.         Introduction
Teaching speaking for young language learners (YLLs) is an interesting and challenging duty for teachers for some considerations. In one hand, YLLs are individuals of very early age who are interested in many new things such as a foreign language, English. Young language learners (YLLs) are defined here as being school pupils up to around 13 years old (Hasselgreen, 2005). In this level, young learners seem to have the same proficiency in speaking that is novice level. The characteristic of novice level is the students’ ability to communicate minimally with learned material and oral production consists of isolated words and perhaps a few high-frequency phrases essentially no functional communication ability (Brown, 2001).
Related to this, Wells (1991:52-53) cited in Hammound (1997) divided the students’ literacy into four levels. They are performative, functional, informative and epistemic level. YLLs are included into performative level. It emphasizes the ability to master speaking skill:
The emphasis at this level its on the code as code. Becoming literate, according to this perspective, is simply a matter of acquiring those skills that allow a written message to be decoded into speech in order to ascertain its meaning and those skills that allow a spoken message to be encoded in writing, according to the convention of letter formation, spelling and punctuation. At the performative level it is tacitly assumed that written messages differ from spoken message only n the medium employed for communication.
On the other hand, teaching YLLs is regarded as the most difficult thing to do in a second language classroom by some teachers. Since YLLs have little or no prior knowledge of the target language. We can find many distructions done by the students in every short time. Making noise, playing with others, walking around, etc are phenomena encountered in every day teaching and learning process by the teacher. So, the teacher is the central determiner to accomplish their goal. Every eye and ear are focused on the teacher.
Moreover, English has been introduced as a second language for years for YLLs, but the result is not satisfying. It can be seen when they are asked to make small conversations in the first class of senior high school. They tend to keep silent and do speaking activities after the teacher gives some models of dialogues. There are some reasons why they have difficulties to do speaking activities. One of which is the use of uninteresting and unapplicable method in the teaching learning process by the teacher. Ramelan (1991) says ‘The failure of English instruction can be explained by many factors including little knowledge of principles of foreign langauge taching and the ways of teaching’.
The teacher should utilize a teaching method that is attracting to teach speaking for the students which includes materials, comfortable environment, self-confidence teachers, etc.
2.         Suggestopedia
Suggestopedia is a teaching method, which focuses on how to deal with the relationship between mental potential and learning efficacy and it is very appropriate to use in teaching speaking for young language learners (Xue, 2005). This method was introduced by a Bulgarian psychologist and educator, George Lazanov in 1975. Maleki (2005) believed that we are capable of learning much more than we think, provided we use our brain power and inner capacities. In addition, DePorter (2008) assumed that human brain could process great quantities of material if given the right condition for learning in a state of relaxation and claimed that most students use only  5 to 10 percent of their mental capacity. Lazanov created suggestopedia for learning that capitalized on relaxed states of mind for maximum retention material. By using this kind of methof, YLLs can get the memorization 25 times faster rather than conventional methods (Bowen, 2009).
Suggestopedia is an effective comprehensible input based method with a combination of desuggestion and suggestion to achieve superlearning. The most important objective of Suggestopedia is to motivate more of students’ mental potential to learn and which obtained by suggestion. Desuggestion means unloading the memory banks, or reserves, of unwanted or blocking memories. Suggestion then means loading the memory banks with desired and facilitating memories.
Lazanov (1978) cited in Lica (2008) argued that learners have difficulties in acquiring English as the second language because of the fear of the students to make mistakes. When the learners are in this condition, their heart and blood pressure raise. He believes that there is a mental block in the learners’ brain (affective filter). This filter blocks the input, so the learners have difficulties to acquire language caused by their fear. The combination of desuggestion and suggestion is to lower the affective filter and motivate students’ mental potential to learn, aiming to accelerate the process by which they learn to understand and use the target language for communication to achieve superlearning. It is the final goal of suggestopedia
Richard and Rogers (1998) stated that there were some theoretical components through which desuggestion and suggestion operate:
(1)   Authority: students remember best and are influenced when information comes from an authority or teachers
2)    Infantilisation: learners may regain self-confidence in a relation of teacher-student like that of parent to child
(3)   Double-Planedness: learning does not only come from direct instruction but also comes from the environment in which instruction takes places
 (4)  Intonation, rhythm, and concert pseudo-passiveness: varying tone and rhythm of presentation frees the instruction from boredom, and presenting linguistic material with music gets the benefit of the effect produced on body.

a.         Key Features of Suggestopedia:
1.   Comfortable environment
In this kind of teaching method, the classroom is very different from common classrooms. In the classroom, the chairs are arranged semicircle and faced the black or white board in order to make the students pay more attention and get more relaxed. The light in the classroom is dim in order to make the students’ mind more relaxed (Xue, 2005).
2.   The use of music
One of the most uniqueness of this method is the use of Baroque music during the learning process. Ostrander and Schroeder cited in Harmer (1998) said that Baroque music, with its 60 beats per minute and its specific rhythm, created the kind of relaxed states of mind for maximum retention of material. It is believed that Baroque music creates a level of relaxed concentration that facilitates the intake and retention of huge quantities of materials. Baroque music helps the suggestopedic student to reach a certain state of relaxation, in which the receptivity is increased (Radle, 2008). The increase in learning potential is put down to the increase of alpha brain and decrease of blood preasure and heart rate. The music used also depends on the expected skill of the students: grammar, imagination exercises, making future plans, discussion, etc
3.   Peripheral Learning
The students acquire English not only from direct instruction but also from indirect instruction. It is encouraged through the presence in the learning environment of posters and decoration featuring the target language and various grammatical information. They are changed everyday. By doing this, the students can learn many things undirectly in the classroom or outside classroom. For example, YLLs can make simple oral production by using the posters or grammatical information on the wall.
4.   Free Errors
In the teaching learning process of speaking, YLLs who make mistakes are tolerated. The emphasis is on the content not the structure. Grammar and vocabularies are presented and given treatment from the teachers, but not dwelt on.
  1. Homework is limited
YLLs reread materials given in the classroom once before they go to sleep at night and once in the morning before they get up.
  1. Music, drama and art are integrated in the learning process
They are integrated as often as possible
b.         Suggestopedia in the Classroom
Teaching speaking for YLLs using suggestopedia, the teacher should take three steps (Lazanov, 1982) cited in Xue (2005):
a.   Presentation
Presentation is the basis of conducting Suggestopedia in class successfully. The main aim in this stage is to help students relaxed and move into a positive frame of mind, with the feeling that the learning is going to be easy and funny. Desuggestion and suggestion happen at this stage at the same time.
b.   Concert
First Concert.
This involves the active presentation of the material to be learnt. The original form of Suggestopedia presented by Lozanov consisted of the use of extended dialogues, often several pages in length, accompanied by vocabulary lists and observations on grammatical points. Typically these dialogues will be read aloud to YLLs to the accompaniment of music.
Second Concert
The students are now guided to relax and listen to some Baroque music. The best choice of music according to Lozanov, with the text being studied very quietly in the background. During both types of reading, the learners will sit in comfortable seats, armchairs rather than classroom chairs, in a comfortable environment. After the readings of these long dialogues to the accompaniment of music, the teacher will then make use of the dialogues for more conventional language work. The music brings the students into the optimum mental state for the effortless acquisition of the material. The students, then, make and practice dialogue after they memorize the content of the materials.
c.    Practice
The use of a range of role-plays, games, puzzles, etc. to review and consolidate the learning. Here is an example of teaching speaking using role play:
1.      The teacher greets the students with either English or their native language and tells them that they will have a new and exciting experience in language learning.
2.      The teacher asks the students to close their eyes and tell them that they will go to an English speaking country. For example, they are in an airport. “Now, you are in an airport of America, listen to the people around you. They are talking with immigration officials”, said the teacher. The teacher asks them to open their eyes and bring their awareness to the class. She says,”Welcome to English!”.
3.      Then, the teacher tells them that they will have new names and identities by showing a poster showing English names. The students will pronounce the names by repeating the teacher. The teacher helps them by doing pantomime to help them understand about their new identities such as doctor, nurse, police, etc.
4.      The teacher greets each student using his name and ask some questions in English about his occupation. Through her action, the students understand the meaning and they reply ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
5.      The teacher teaches them a short dialogue about greeting in English. After that, the students will practice. The teacher tells the students that they are having a party and they have to introduce one another by their new names and identities.
6.      Next, the teacher announces that the class is over and they will have another exciting activity tomorrow and they do not have homework.
c.          Advantages and Disadvantages  of Suggestopedia
a.      Advantages
As a particular method, suggestopedia offers some benefit for its use in the second language classroom for YLLs. There are some benefits in utilizing suggestopedia:
1.      A comprehesible input based on dessugestion and suggestion principle
By using this teaching method, YLLs can lower their affective filter. Suggestopedia classes, in addition, are held in ordinary rooms with comfortable chairs, a practice that may also help them relaxed. Teacher can do numerous other things to lower the affective filter. According to Kharsen (1989) cited in Xue (2005) activities that allow students to get better acquainted with each other may help lower anxieties and make students to adopt new names for the duration of the language course may have a similar effect.
2.      Authority concept
Students remember best and are most influenced by information coming from an authoritative source, teachers.
3.      Double-planedness theory
It refers to the learning from two aspects. They are the conscious aspect and the subconscious one. YLLs can acquire the aim of teaching instruction from both direct instruction and environment in which the teaching takes place.
4.      Peripheral learning
Suggestopedia encourages the students to apply language more independently, take more personal responsibility for their own learning and get more confidence.  Peripheral information can also help encourage students to be more experimental, and look to sources other than the teacher for language input. For example, the students can make some sentences using the grammatical structure placed on the classroom’s wall, describe a particular place in an English speaking country by looking at the poster on the wall, etc. When the students are successful in doing such self-activities, they will be more confident.
b.      Disadvantages
It is not fair to analyze only from the benefit aspects. Suggestopedia also has limitation since there is no single teaching method that is chategorized as the best based on some consideration such as: the curriculum, students motivation, financial limitation, number of students, etc.

The main disadvantages of suggestopedia are as follow:
1.                  Environment limitation
Most schools in developing countries have large classes. Each class consists of 30 to 40 students. One of the problems faced in utilizing this method is the number of students in the class. There should be 12 students in the class (Adamson, 1997).
2.                  The use of hypnosis
Some people say that suggestopedia uses a hypnosis, so it has bad deep effects for human beings. Lazanov strongly denied about it.
3.                  Infantilization learning
Suggestopedia class is conditioned be child-like situation. There are some students who do not like to be treated like this as they think that thay are mature.

c.    Suggestion for English Teacher
Teaching speaking for young language learners (YLLs) using suggestopedia is not easy especially in the countries in which the level of education is still low. It needs a professional and experienced teacher. Very few working teachers are in a position where they can use this system (Adamson, 1997). The teachers should take more training in order to utilize suggestopedia in the classroom. Richards and Rogers (1998) cited in Xue (2005) stated that in conducting Suggestopedia for YLLs, there are some suggestions:
(1)   Teachers show absolute confidence in the method.
(2)   Teachers display fastidious conduct in manners and dress.
(3)   Teaches organize properly and strictly observe the initial stages of the teaching process. This includes choice and play of music, as well as punctuality.
(4)   Teachers maintain a solemn attitude toward the session.
(5)   Teachers give tests and respond tactfully to poor papers (if any).
(6)   Stress global rather than analytical attitudes towards material.
(7)   Teachers maintain a modest enthusiasm

Teaching speaking for young learners using suggestopedia is very interesting but challenging to do. It can be seen from some considerations. In one side it has some benefits, but on the other side it also has some weaknesses. In addition, the key factors of effective teaching are not the approaches and methods in language teaching themselves but the teacher’s deliberate selection of different approaches and methods and the devoted practice of putting theories into real teaching activities in a corresponding social-cultural context. It is a fact that no approach or method is perfect. However, there is no end for us to seek the perfection of the approaches and methods in language teaching. The language teaching method known as Suggestopedia provides some valuable insights into the power of cognition and creates techniques that make students feel comfortable, relaxed and suggestible to the material being learned.

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