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Is it possible to learn a foreign language while sleeping?

By: April Carson

The idea of learning a foreign language while sleeping may sound like a sci-fi fantasy, but it has actually been studied by scientists. In particular, researchers have looked into the concept of “incubated learning” or “incubation training” to determine if this is possible. The basic premise of incubated learning is that we can learn new information while asleep by repeatedly exposing ourselves to it.

Studies have suggested that certain types of language learning can be enhanced through incubation training. For example, in a study conducted at the University of Bern in Switzerland, researchers found that subjects who listened to grammar samples in their native German language while sleeping improved their ability to correctly answer questions about those same samples the next day.

While this research is promising, the reality is that learning a foreign language during sleep isn't the most efficient way to do so. To truly master a foreign language, it's important to practice speaking and listening actively while awake as well. Incubation training can only be effective if you have already acquired some basic knowledge of the language before going to sleep.

It is suggested that listening to foreign recordings along with their translations while you sleep may assist you in learning a new language, although the benefit seems to be limited.

Flavio Schmidig and his team from the University of Bern in Switzerland decided to test if the idea of utilizing the continuous activity of our brains could be used to aid in the memorization of foreign words during sleep.

The researchers observed the brain activity of 30 individuals who spoke German while they slept overnight in a sleep laboratory. Each individual listened to a series of German grammar samples before falling asleep, and when they woke up, each person was asked to answer questions about the same samples. "We found that the subjects had retained more information after a night of sleep than they did when they were tested awake," Schmidig said.

The results showed that the participants' performance on the questions improved after sleeping compared to their performance prior to sleep. This suggests that incubation training can be used to enhance language learning during sleep.

Overall, while it may be possible to learn a foreign language while sleeping, the most effective way to do so is still through active practice when awake. Incubation training can act as a supplement, but it cannot replace traditional learning methods. "At the present moment, incubation training is not the norm for language learning," Schmidig said. "But I believe it could be used as a useful tool to support traditional methods of language acquisition.”

According to another researcher, Dr. Elizabeth A. Kensinger, “the growth of the brain during sleep is essential for healthy development and may lead to language learning enhancements”. This suggests that language learning through incubation training could be beneficial in helping people gain fluency in a foreign language more quickly and efficiently.

So, while it may be possible to learn a foreign language while sleeping, in reality it is not the most optimal way to do so. Incubation training can serve as an aid, but active practice and engagement with a language during wakeful hours should still be the primary focus.

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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav



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