Dreaming in L2

OK, so during the period of time between A1 and a weak B1, I often had a type of babbling dream, where, as I was falling asleep, I was semi-aware of a jumbled mess of words in my target language bouncing around in my mind. It wasn’t quite dreaming, but it also wasn’t something I was doing consciously, or something I had any control over. Sometimes when fully asleep I’d have semi-coherent dreams (of those I could remember), at a very basic level, where some L2 words would be used.

Fast forward a few years and my level is quite a bit stronger (probably a weak B2), but the dreaming/babbling has completely stopped. This is despite a recent intensive period of listening to/reading in L2.

Has anyone else experienced this? I always assumed that the higher your level the more likely you are to dream in L2?

One thing I will say is that I probably ‘struggled’ more during the early stages (A1-B1), and I was probably using material that was too advanced for me at the time, something I don’t do so much of as I’ve reached a higher level of comprehension. Is ‘the struggle’ the main trigger as to what you dream about? Is this something I need to be concerned about?

FWIW, I feel like I’m improving still. It just seems a little strange that dreaming was such a regular experience of the initial process and now it appears to have completely disappeared, and all my dreams are now exclusively in English. The pre-sleep ‘babbling’ thing has stopped too.

It’s probably been a least a couple of years since I had anything resembling an L2 dream, and when I was having them, that period lasted for more than a year. It can’t figure it out, other than to put it down to how taxing the different periods were relative to each other.


Well, my chances of dreaming improve greatly in German when I cross over 8 hour threshold in a day. Dreaming is a testament of language processing happening in the background. It is like in God’s eyes 8 hours of language exposure is intense or natural and is the way to go. Try upping your game and crossing over 8 hour threshold in a day and see if you can still manage to dream in your TL.
Considering you are now dreaming in English I believe that you are not putting in enough hours like 8 hours. Your intensity has mellowed down a bit that’s what I think about it.


It think the whole subject of dreaming in an L2 is probably one of the most mischaracterized, and overvalued aspects of language learning. As many times as it comes up, it has very little significance, or correspondence in actual ability in my experience.

There are many reasons for this, the first being that many people who first claim that they started “dreaming in” their L2, usually just had a dream that they were communicating in that language, without that communication actually making sense – meaning the words spoken in the dream are technically gibberish, but part of the dream is that the words all make sense. Dreams are weird.

As one gets better, yes, they may have some dreams where they may speak fluently, but again, this is very hard to verify, because it’s a dream, and dreams are not real.

Third, depending on your psychological make up, or your current state of mind, your dreams might be triggered by various things. Some people dream based on what they were doing during that day – BUT, a lot of dreams are triggered by day to day stress about a particular subject.

So as you first start out, you might be stressing about learning a language, and hence it makes an appearance in your dreams, but as you get better, this stress maybe lifted and may be replaced by other day to day stresses so you dream about those as opposed to you language stuff.

If you immerse in your L2 you end up having a double trigger – immersion is stressful at first, and your short term memory is flooded with L2 words, so you will probably end up dreaming in it.

All that to say that in and of itself, dreaming in an L2 doesn’t really mean much as far as an indication of your abilities.

You could be fluent in a language and never dream in it.


I have few observations.

  1. I do not dream at all when putting in 6 hours a day. However, every time I crossed over the 8-hour threshold, I ended up dreaming in German. Consistent.
  2. All my dreams occurred between 2-5 AM at night. Why?
  3. When I put in 8-10 hours of language exposure in a day, the next day when I wake up in the morning - the first two hours I feel like having a hangover from drinking even though I did not drink at all. After having slept for 8 hours I should have freshened up - I feel the opposite of it for the first two hours upon getting out of my bed.

Interesting, I also had dreams in TL, when I studied for 5-8 hours a day more or less actively. Then it stopped, when I changed the balance between activities in favor of listening. Overall time stayed the same and became even bigger, so I’m wondering whether it depends on the type of activity you dedicate to.
Kind of ‘babbling’ sometimes still happens after repeating phrases (or reading aloud) for at least half an hour. Is it possible, that speaking somehow indicates the importance of the task to the brain better than the other activities?
And should we get concerned about such signs of intensity, if immersing for 8 hours causes burnouts and hangovers in the end?

Asad, to answer your questions:

  1. Seems that after 6 hrs is when the stress and short term memory overload happens in your case. For others, it may be different. Also, dreams are weird, so who knows.
  2. This has to do with sleep cycles and different stages of sleeping, but 2-5 is when you hit your deep sleep cycle, it’s kind of a common timeframe.
  3. Language learning and exposure works your brain a great deal and can be very exhausting physically. The effects on your body can be pretty much the same as physical labor – your muscles don’t hurt, of course, but your brain is a muscle that was being exercised and it will tire you out just like any other muscle.

You may evaluate such concerns, but remember that some people don’t have that luxury – some people are in a situation where they’re learning their L2 in country and have to immerse and use the language no matter what. It’s exhausting for sure, but people tend to survive it. I’m not saying you have to do that, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t take a break if you feel like it. I’m just saying that in and of itself this “hangover” is not harmful to your efforts.

But of course this is for everyone to evaluate on their own. You’re allowed to take a break if you want to.

I myself only do a couple of hours a day max. But if I was in a different country my situation would be a lot different.


Your reasoning is quite strong, but I wouldn’t so quickly devalue the importance of language dreaming. The phenomenon is happening and we just don’t know for certain, whether it means something essential or not (in terms of effectivness of approaches we deploy).
All modern studies show the importance of dreaming to a lot of things, especially to learning.
Dreams are a concrete real thing. All we can say is that visualisations in dreams are not ‘real’ and formed rather by internal processes than by perception of real stimuli.

Sleep has a complex and important role learning and proper brain function in general. But I think dreams, themselves don’t have the significance that people think they do.

I’ll give you a specific and weird no language example: I used to have a dog who I loved very much, and I used to have stress dreams about him all the time – things like “I forgot to feed him” or “he’s lost” – it was constant. After my dog died, I was heartbroken and missed him a great deal – I still do – but I stopped dreaming about him. Why? Because most of my night time dreams are fueled by stress factors and when the daily task of taking care of my dog was removed from my life, that subtle but constant subconscious stress factor was removed from my brain. Hence no dreams.

And for other people, this may be different, but that’s exactly why I don’t think dreaming in L2 deserves as much attention as some people pay it. If you study a language, you may dream in it as some point, but it may not have anything to do with your progress or your methods. It’s just your brain working through its own issues.

I can going on for ages, when it comes to dreaming :slight_smile:

Your example isn’t weird at all, I have the same story about my pets, but I still (though quite rarely) see stress dreams about them, because sometimes I still have an urge to check them up and feed.

The topic of dreams and their importance is an open question in psychology and the neurosciences. I agree about t_harangi’s main point that dreaming in a TL is not such a big deal as we sometimes think. I also agree about the impact of stress and recent experiences in dreams.
On the other hand, dreams probably play a role in learning. Well-known studies about this topic are those exploring people dreaming about Tetris blocks after playing the game.
My favorite theory about dream content and their role is Allan Hobson’s, which is based on neurophysiological processes and has good empirical support (although of course not undisputed).
I highly recommend his work for anyone interested in the topic. He proposes a three-dimensional space created by three different neurological processes, each of which has an impact in our perceived state of consciousness, through which we constantly fluctuate.
He also provides a fascinating description of many dreams and discusses where they come from. He has extended his analyis to other states, such as those producced by some drugs, mental problems, lucid dreams and so on.

Quick summary of his conclusions, relevant to our discussion:e
Dreams are made up of little fragments of memories, images, words, etc. which are assembled mostly at random. Our narratives of remembered dreams are often re-constructed. Recent events often appear, often distorted, but there may be fragments of older ones. Most dreams (not all) are stress-related or simply produce feelings of unease or emergency.
However, they do play a big role (Hobson changed his initial mind about this point) because they allow us to connect disparate thoughts and ideas in creative way. Hobson presents examples of discoveries or insights facilitated by dreams.

So, what happens with “TL dreams”? We probably don’t carry out any kind of meaningful protracted conversation in our TL (or native language for that matter) in dreams. So, it’s not really any kind of usuful training. Pieces of dreams in our TL don’t relate much to our level in the language, as t_harangi stated.
However, our brain may use our dreams (including the fragments in other languages) to help us come up with new ideas.