*This is a Kickstarter campaign, keep reading to find out more.
Back at the Polyglot Gathering Berlin in May, one of my roommates was a Bulgarian. Little did I know that he was developing a language app, but not just any old app. Space Polyglot. It was a game developed on the principles of Bulgarian scientist Dr. Georgi Lozanov using “unintentional learning.” But what caught my attention was as you piloted the little space ship, you would hear Vivaldi or Mozart in the background. Off to you, Nikolay:
Could you describe the main idea behind this app?
Thanks for the nice words, Fiel, it was a pleasure to meet you too!
Well, me and my colleague Alex were working on an idea for a platform that can help people learn foreign languages while being social. My colleague, Alex had an idea of a game that can help people improve their vocabulary in the language they were learning, which was going to be part of the platform. It was about flying a spacecraft on different planets and translating words that come really fast against you… and then it hit me! I got the idea to involve the basics of Suggestopedia in the game- an unusual approach for super fast memorizing of words unintentionally. It works by using unusual approaches to store the new records directly into your subconscious memory, which is much stronger and longer lasting. It is something with which we are proud of in our country, Bulgaria, as this is a teaching method created here by our great psychiatrist Goergi Lozanov.
There is an interesting story about a guy which Lozanov describes in his book. A boy had to learn a poem by heart for school in one day and he got really upset about it. He was a bad pupil with bad memory. So he met profesor Lozanov and shared his concerns about that and that he can’t believe he will be able to learn the poem regardless of his efforts. Lozanov just asked: “Did you hear the poem at least once?”. “Sure, the teacher read it loud in front of the class” – answered the boy. “Don’t worry then, it’s all in your head. You don’t need to study. Tomorrow, when you go to the exam, just relax, and start with the first word. You will see how each next will come naturally up”. The next day the boy returned happy and excited – “It worked, I said the whole poem by heart!”. Lozanov says about that in his book: This was nothing more than a chat between two buddies. So that’s his conclusion: the human brain has hidden reserves of huge capacities, we just need to know how to unlock them. And that’s what Suggestopedia does.
What’s your mission with this app?
Thank you for that great question. In my humble experience with language learning the best way to learn it is to follow Benny Lewis approach: stop learning languages, start speaking them. After I learned Slovene and Spanish in 6 months from scratch, I started to think how easy is actually to learn any language! But I was concerned about the major obstacle: how are you supposed to start, if you don’t know a single word in the language? With Slovene I did’t have that problem as I already knew two languages of the same family, and with Spanish I got the background from the Suggestopedic course. Our mission is to help people learn languages, starting from scratch. Space Polyglot is designed in a way that simply by playing a game and making your journey trough the solar system you end up memorizing 1,000 words in your target language and a decent amount of them actively, starting from scratch. While the app can not teach you to actually speak, it is very valuable as by using the effective memorizing approach from Suggestopedia it can give you that major background in no time. After that you can start your skype sessions with natives much easier and get your language to a decent level. I’m currently studying Japanese and I am so sorry that we don’t have the app ready for Japanese, as I’d love to use it! This project is a solution made by language learner, who felt the pain and need for this solution himself.
An app using music?
Can you tell us about these studies, and why Classical Music? Specifically Mozart and Vivaldi, why not Mahler, Bach, or even Rachmaninov?
The most impressive study of Suggestopedia tells of the experiment where 15 Bulgarians tried to memorize up to 1,000 French words in a single learning session. The day after, they were tested and the average result was 98.08%, the worst result not falling below 90%. In 1978 UNESCO made a statement saying, “There is a consensus that Suggestopedia is a generally superior teaching method for many subjects and for many types of students, compared with traditional methods. We have arrived at this consensus following a study of the research literature, listening to the testimony of international experts, observing films portraying Suggestopedia instruction and visiting classes in which Suggestopedia is practiced. The films were prepared and the classroom visitations were impressive.”
Sadly, due to internal political reasons in Bulgaria (namely the communist regime), not only did this not happen, but the method was suppressed because the government of that time was not fond of things that can give people super powers, even when it comes to learning.
The classical music chosen was also tested in experiments by Lozanov and apparently there are special pieces which are proven to improve the memorizing process. By the way – we DO have Bach 🙂 Actually, the music is separated into passive and active groups. The passive is more like pre-classical: Bach, Händel, etc.. and helps you learn the new words passively, the active is mostly Mozart and Vivaldi and is used when doing active exercises.
What does it have that makes this app different from others?
It is actual interactive game! We have access to different apps and sites for e-learning, but are yet to find one which is a real interactive game. In Space Polyglot you will fly around with your ship avoiding obstacles while constantly speeding and at the same time you will memorize words and phrases, without forcing your brain. Pure fun! The app demo can be downloaded for free from our Kickstarter campaign to raise funds and finish its development. We need your help! Either by backing or spreading the word, anything is appreciated. We hope to be able to bring together to the world this new game with huge impact on language learning.