Language learning and dreaming

I am a person who rarely dreams, I also have a hard time remembering when I dreamt, apart from the exact moment that I wake up. In general, I would say that I dream maybe twice or thrice in a year, certainly no more than ten times a year (and that feels like a stretch).

However, in the two weeks I specifically remember that I have dreamt five times, as I am writing this, I only remember small snippets of what I have dreamt but I definitely remember waking up and thinking, I dreamt last night.

Anyway, I remember that I read somewhere a long time ago that dreams occur when the brain is processing stuff that I learnt during the day. Given that I have significantly increased the intensity which with I have focused on language learning (65 hours more or less) it would make sense that I have dreamt a lot more than usual.

Have any of you experience something similar?


Hey hi Swedishfinngermanophile!

Now that I’ve read your post, I am starting to think about it, and it’s come up to me that language learning can make you dream a lot more, at least that seems so. When I started to learn the English language, intensevely I mean, my brain had become so active in regards to dreaming, the mind would just pour them on me, which isn’t always great because nightmares haunt me every now and then. Well, it is quite interesting that you brought it up, I will surely be consumed with that subject at length. Looking forward to see what other language learners have to say. What is more, the topic definitely deserves research, in my opinion.


The fact is that we always dream, and we have multiple dreams every night. When you remember aspects of your dream, they are about your last dream, you forget about all of the others. People tend to remember more when the dreams are charged of emotion, so for example if I have a scary dream I’ll definitely remember it, same the other way around. I found this article that pretty much answers your question: What Processes in the Brain Allow You to Remember Dreams? - Scientific American
In the article they talk about how theta brain-wave activity in the prefrontal cortex is related to remembering dreams. Maybe because you are remembering more vocabulary, you are increasing activity in this area, therefore you remember your dreams more often.


Interesting. I think we simply don’t remember our dreams for the most part, but since I’ve ramped up my Japanese lately, I’ve woken up several mornings remembering dream snippets of myself speaking to Japanese people in pleasant and fluent exchanges. :balloon: .Some years ago when I was doing a French Challenge, I remember sometimes waking up hearing sentences in French, but it doesn’t happen now because I’m just doing French on the side whilst I focus on Japanese :grin:


I wonder if it’s just a coincidence those of us with high activity scores dream in L2 ?! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye::rofl::grin:


I tend to have high activity scores and I have as far as I can remember never dreamt in a foreign language other than English and Finnish (have no emotional connection). However English and Finnish are languages that I use on a daily basis so I don’t think it’s that extraordinary or unusual that I would dream in them.


The original post is about dreaming in general. As concerns dreaming in the foreign language that you’re learning, I did that a lot more back in high school than I do now. Always an active dreamer, I hadn’t been having any dreams in Russian since picking it up again on Lingq a few years ago. I thought that curious, given that I’m much more active with the language now than then. Happily, however, I have started to have dreams in Russian again, which I think is a good sign. It happened again last night, as a matter of fact.

Part of the difference in dream activity may be that back then the subject was very new and stimulating for me. My brain was also younger, if that matters. But I suspect it has a lot to do with the fact that I spoke the language much more back then, whether compulsorily in class, or with a friend I hung around with after school. Wouldn’t a brain that is accustomed to forming the language be more likely to form it in a dream? Nowadays I read and watch a lot in Russian, but I have no interlocutors.


Yes, and like you, during the most intense periods of language exposure. It’s weird though, it wasn’t really during sleep (that I’m aware of), or even that much upon waking. It was more as I was drifting off to sleep, I’d start kind of babbling (in my head) Spanish words which weren’t exactly coherent, full sentences, but rather jumbled up jibberish of words and the sounds of the language. I can’t be totally sure that it made no sense as it happened whilst I was semi-conscious between being awake and asleep, but I was kind of aware of it happening whilst it was happening and it never seemed to make grammatical sense.

My suspicion is that language learning is far more subconscious than we think. I mean, you have to put in conscious effort, of course, but most of the actual learning is done by the brain over many sleep cycles. This would also explain the delay phenomenon where you suddenly make an unexpected, noticeable improvement after having a few months break without exposure, it’s like the brain has been busy working on it still behind the scenes.

I’m sure that applies to all learning to some degree, but it seems particularly prominent for language.


That’s weird… I barely dream as well and since I’ve been reading and listening to Spanish everyday for a month now, I’ve had 4 deep dreams and like 2 nightmares lmao

REM can happen anytime during sleep. If they cycle through close to the time you wake up, you have a better chance of remembering them. You can also train the brain to remember them at any time of the day. That sounds like what you did. It’s an easy habit to develop, and results in richer and more structured dreams. The content might have something to do with your increased intensity of studying, but the mechanics of remembering is something different.

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I’ve had similar experiences to what other people have said on this post. I was doing some pretty intense reading in Russian for several months and usually found myself saying/thinking random words/sentences when I was in a half-awake state in the morning. Then when I took off 2 months cold turkey from doing any reading these thoughts stopped. This same thing happens to me when I’m actively practicing piano too. In this half-awake state in the morning I often have some sort of visual representation of sounds floating in 3D space and I can see their position and one sound is jumping to the next. This sometimes happens to me during the day when I’m fully awake too but on a much less visceral level. Oddly enough I’ve never had a similar experience in Spanish even though I have about the same proficiency as Russian.

On a side note, I rarely remember dreams (maybe 1-2 times per month), but if I do some good stretching (back and neck) before bed then I remeber my dreams maybe half of the nights. I don’t know if it’s related to relaxation or blood flow, but there’s something going on there too.


To understand the ‘Dream’ we have to delve into deep state of Sigmund Freud’s ‘Interpretation of Dreams’. He has worked with this subject a lot and has many papers and writings. By the way, Dream is aligned to regular activities consciously or subconsciously done and thought. We can try to control our conscious mind but we can not control or drive our subconscious mind always as per our own choice. In the state of Dream every bit of happenings , thoughts are fetched out. Another important substance is ‘Focus’. when you would put focus on anything mainly, that bit of images will come in your dream. When I first started to learn English from my dad and got enough interest, many thoughts, sentences started to come with or without my conscious sense. Even yes I have felt many happenings in my dream also. I have found many unknown structures of well written English in my dream though it is difficult to remember everything which used to come in state of dream. So there is an alignment, a shuttle alignment establishes many unknown things which are gem in this Universe in fact.