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Learning a foreign language with hypnosis

The scene takes place in the Rue Montmartre: a dozen or so Chinese students are sitting back in their chairs and appear to be asleep. However, they are not taking a nap but in fact are having a lesson in French as a foreign language. In charge of this unconventional system of learning is Richard Grandisson, a hypnotherapist and associate professor at the Collège de Paris who has taught techniques of accelerated learning for over 25 years. An interview with an original  teacher! 

Interview with Richard Grandisson, associate professor at the Collège de Paris

portrait Richard

How did you come to teach languages by hypnosis?

At the beginning of my teaching career, I noticed that one of my students was able to understand everything that was said to him in French, but was incapable of pronouncing a single word in the language. That led me to contact the University of Palo Alto to consult one of the followers of Milton Erikson. They explained hypnosis training to me. I tried it on my student and it worked. He overcame his blockage in the space of a month….

So you decided to train in the field?

Yes. I took my hypnotherapy degree in 1986. From then on, I’ve systematically applied the method with all my students who need to be able to learn a foreign language quickly, whether it’s French English or Spanish…

What is the practical procedure in a course?

Each course lasts about four hours with ten or so students and the training is divided in four parts. First, we study a text with four levels of reading. The next part is more conventional and concentrated on the grammar and vocabulary. The third part works on pronunciation to the accompaniment of rhythmic music. Finally, there is a global exploitation of the text where the students act out role plays. That really makes the course more exciting!

When does the hypnosis come in?

In the first part, where each of the readings of the text is accompanied by relaxing music. The students first of all go into light relaxation, then they go into a deep hypnotic state, and some of them even into deep sleep. It doesn’t matter at all if they drop off: you have to remember that the brain continues to treat information even when you’re asleep!

What are the advantages of this method?

The remarkable thing about this sort of teaching is that the student doesn’t need to study at home. All he has to do is reread the text with soft music, that’s all. All the vocabulary and structures studied in the course will be recorded by the brain.

How many hours do you need to become proficient?

If a student from a Western country studies regularly two hours a day for two months, he or she will easily get to a good level. So it’s very fast and efficient.

What’s so innovative about the Collège de Paris proposing courses in French by hypnosis?

This sort of training is practically unknown in France. The Collège de Paris has given me the opportunity to apply this hypnotic method to their Asian students. This is a first, and it’s very bold and original.

Some reactions from our Chinese students

Two students give us their reactions after a French lesson by hypnosis: in French s’il vous plaît!

Apprendre le chinois sous hypnose

Lili: « I’m thrilled, and I really want to do it again! I loved the way the teacher spoke to us. I felt really relaxed, and I loved working to music… »

Apprendre l'anglais sous hypnose

Maxime: «I thought the course was very interesting, even if I fell asleep during it. Perhaps I was a little too relaxed. I think it’s a good method, because we play and communicate, it’s really great, it helps you to progress quickly. I want to do another course again soon, I really like it. »

Three questions for Olivier de Lagarde, President of the Collège de Paris

odl rigolant

Why do you propose French lessons by hypnosis?

We believe that educational research and innovation in teaching are very important. Since we set up the school in 1984, Elfe has developed original and interactive methods of teaching French as a foreign language in very small groups. Testing this method of French teaching through hypnosis is part of our tradition of innovation. Each year we welcome interns and students enrolled in a Master’s programme of teaching French as a foreign language at the University of the Sorbonne to conceive and try out new learning tools and approaches and improve the speed and efficiency of the learning process. So teaching French with hypnosis is a natural part of the research and development of the Collège de Paris.

What attracted you to this unconventional teaching method?

The possibility it gives to make the first practical steps in the language more quickly than with traditional methods. All of our students are learning French with one goal in mind: to work or study in France or in the French language. They expect us to provide them with rapid results so they can practice the language realistically and naturally. We deliberately tested this approach with a group of Chinese students who wished to continue their cycle of studies in the Collège de Paris. This means that we can analyse the results more easily in the medium term. Hypnosis is one of the means that we use in order to allow them to follow the training that interests them in the best possible conditions for oral comprehension and expression.

Do you wish to make this type of training more generally available at the Collège de Paris?

Why not? But our desire for innovation is also based upon a culture of evaluation of results. After trying this training out, we need our teaching team to evaluate the progress that the students have made and compare their progress with that of other foreign students who have not undergone this training through hypnosis. If the results are convincing we can imagine broadening the scope to other foreign languages in different schools attached to the Collège de Paris. I am thinking particularly of English at Ascencia Business School, as well as Mandarin in our Chinese courses in Paris.


Published by Collège de Paris
On 16 January 2015