Tuning in on the twilight zone

I have found that the best time (for me) to listen to a new language is often just before falling asleep or first thing after waking. I find this time seems to really “imprint” in my mind new sounds and phrases that I may listen to.

Similarly, as with most other people, I have also experienced the effect of hearing a piece of music first thing in the morning and not being able to get out of my head.

I’ve often wondered if there is an optimal time to listen to a new language, and is it perhaps at this time just before sleeping or just after waking?

Obviously, any time that best suits your schedule is the best time to listen - but, I’m questioing, is there an optimal time?

Recently I came across this link that suggested that the “twilight time” may perhaps be beneficial. Any others have thoughts / experiences with this?


Some quotes:
"FOR A BRIEF TIME as we lie in bed at night, neither fully awake nor yet asleep, we pass through a twilight mental zone that Arthur Koestler has described as a state of reverie. Many people associate this drowsy stage with hallucinatory images, more fleeting and disjointed than dreams, and compare it to the viewing of a speeded-up, jerky series of photographic slides. A host of artists and scientists have credited the imagery of this twilight state with creative solutions and inspiration for their work…

We are now beginning to understand that during this brief somnolent state, people not only may have creative insights but may also be more in touch with the unconscious in general. They are hyper-suggestible and capable of learning certain things more efficiently and painlessly than during the day, when logical and analytical faculties are in control…

My colleagues and I at the University of Colorado Medical Center and at the Biofeedback Institute of Denver have found that people can make use of the twilight zone for many kinds of learning. We have found, for example, that it may help some people who have trouble assimilating certain kinds of information: students who have mental blocks for subjects such as foreign languages…"

1 Like

Stage 1 sleep isn’t it? I can compose songs in stage 1 sleep, which I can’t do when fully awake.

I generally doze off listening to languages, and I find that hypnogogic (?) state very helpful to listen in an intuitive, less analytical way.

I was interested to hear Robert talking in the interview with Steve how he puts on his ipod first thing after waking and listens while getting ready for work, and then before he goes to bed he again listens to what he has on his ipod.

This is perhaps a really good way to both; a) gain time to spend with the language - and b) to do so at a time when the brain is most receptive to learning a new language.

@iaing - This thread was before my time, so thanks for drawing it to my attention! It’s a really interesting read. I think you’re on a winner.

The only way I can get my little boy (who has autism etc) to sleep every night, is to lie next to him for 30-60 minutes. After a short time of hugs, kisses, & prayers, I pretend to fall asleep and start listening to Chinese on my mp3 player.

Should have done this years ago! Now I sometimes wake up in the night, conscious of Chinese words, and wake up every morning more often than not thinking Chinese.

I think one good thing, is that you are more relaxed “in that zone”, where you don´t analyze everything, and/or getting upset because you don´t get it. I do think the exposure is quite short, soon as you start sleeping, I doubt there is so much of it. But I also noticed, that during this phase (of listening right before sleeping) I sometimes completely forget, that the language is (should be) foreign to me, and that helps. Still, you need a lot of exposure, so I’m not really sure about the “optimal” part of the original question. The psychological and emotional part of the learning process, however, is often underestimated.

Interesting stuff. Listening to audio while asleep has been proven to be a completely ineffective way to learn a language. However, since this “twilight time” is indeed an awake, partially conscious time, perhaps it might be effective. It seems that it would be very difficult to scientifically measure the benefit in an isolated manner though, since everyone has what I believe to be a different learning rate, and everyone’s learning rates generally change as their knowledge levels expand.

Personally when I fall asleep, I tend to go from my conscious state to a sleeping state very quickly. So that brief time for possible heightened passive listening would be very small for me.

1 Like

I’m always listen to PRI’s The World on my iPod at night, but I listen to my Spanish while I’m doing other things during the day.

So, in the likely event that kimojima will delete, I’ll post a detailed comment, here, rather than under that direct post. As a side issue, lingq should review the deletion of posts - particularly when it means that others who have contributed will have their comments deleted as well, particularly serial deleters?

1- This original post was made 3 1/2 years ago and the original link is now broken, so most people are commenting on what they perceive the original post was, rather than what it actually was.

2 - In addition, the original link was largely an updated reference to a Psychology Today article written 37 years ago, and that has since stood the test of time.

3 - There is very little (to no) difference between being in a “just woken up 7-8 Hz theta wave state” and listening to content, versus, being in a “8 Hz alpha state” " taking a pause on the sofa with no other distractions and playing a podcast on my phone". We are both making similar arguments. Any difference is a strawman. You listen when you have the time, and are best able to absorb. Being at 7 Hz does not mean you are not focused / groggy etc. Indeed, the opposite is actually the case (which is the whole point, and has whooshed right over kimo’s head).

4 - This isn’t an either/or proposition. It is just something to do – in addition to-- listening at other times. Taking full advantage and utilising all your time, which is only sensible. I work full time and have a family, and the twilight hours allow me to keep up with language learning. I would guess there are only a couple of non-natives on lingq with better all round skills in my target language. If that makes me a groggy listening hero who can’t pick up girls. Well, I guess I can just live with that one…