PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It’s the lazy linguaphile’s dream come true: Scientists say it might be possible to learn a new language while you sleep.

Yes, just listening to recordings of words spoken in another tongue while dozing could help you remember them later.

Researchers from the universities of Zurich and Fribourg say they had German-speakers who were learning Dutch listen to tapes of vocabulary words. One group dozed off to the recordings played at low volume, while the other group stayed awake.

Hours later, both groups were given the same test on the words. The sleepy students who’d listened to the tapes while dozing performed better than those who’d stayed awake.

The study’s leaders say their results show that sleep activates freshly learned material and reinforce previously tested theories about sleep and memory.

“Our results indicate that verbal cues presented during NonREM sleep reactivate associated memories, and facilitate later recall of foreign vocabulary without impairing ongoing consolidation processes,” the scientists conclude in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

But there is a catch: researchers say you can only successfully recall words you actually learned BEFORE you fell asleep; playing recordings of random words you don’t know while sleeping will not produce the same results.

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