Who is the fluent speaker in our dreams?

I had a great dream this morning.

A French woman (don’t ask me how I knew she was French, she just was in my dream) spoke to me in a classroom setting - she was the teacher, I an adult student. She told a long and involved story - her voice was so pleasant. I understood all and laughed at all the right places. She commented on that and tried to get me to speak; the bleep of the alarm clock killed off any hope of hearing my own voice speak.

How do we produce audible fluency in our dreams - a kind of weird ventriloquism?

Do you ever dream in English or have bilingual dreams in English and German?

To the best of my knowledge, I myself have never dreamed in any language but my native English. Which worries me, though only a little.

It depends what the dream is about : sometimes I have both German and English conversations in the same dream with people from my childhood mixed up with people from the present. Generally it’s either English or German, though, I think…

There are many published theories on how to enhance your dreaming state or lucidity that directly relate with this. I find:

  • Absolute immersion before sleeping
  • No stress, family drama, business or work issues (in your native language) on your mind
  • Extensively reviewing flash cards, reading books in your target language before sleeping, for me preferably away from the computer.
    -Writing or speaking to long-time or close friends in a rested state whom you have spent extensive time with or developed a connection with in person and speak your target language before sleeping.

You may have a point there: I watched a lot of French tv yesterday, something which I hadn’t done in ages. So that’s perhaps how I got this wonderful teacher into my head…

Mario Pei, the well known polyglot of a couple generations ago, told in one of his books of dreaming about giving a speech in Russian, although he was hesitant to converse in the language in everyday life. As I recall, he felt that this indicated he actually had a better command of the language than he allowed himself to act upon during waking hours. This was in Language for Everybody, or How to Learn Languages and What Language to Learn, I think, but I don´t have either book here to hunt up the quotation.

I have been studying German intensively for the past 3 years and have been speaking for the past 2. Last week I finally had my first dream in German. Don’t even remember now what the circumstances in the dream were, but it was after a day when I had spent nearly the entire day engaged in the German language either, listening, reading or speaking. It was an interesting experience, which I hope to experience again.

Aren’t our brains wonderful? I like the idea of a well known polyglot being hesitant to converse! No wonder, I make such hard work of it at times.

Dreams can certainly be very interesting. I’ve only got two things to add.

  1. What do you think this dream symbolises for you, in terms of your language learning / personality? Perhaps you are subconsiously trying to tell yourself something interesting :slight_smile: I also find the timing of the alarm clock very… suggestive.

  2. This French teacher in your dream was created by your own subconscious. So you could argue that her (native-like) speech, was really all created by you! :slight_smile:

Well, I need the teacher within me to speak up a bit more to drown out any alarm clocks, I think. Would it be greedy to ask also for her looks and voice?

It was fascinating to read about Mario Pei - I had never come across his name before. Kato Lomb and Heinrich Schliemann - the two people I knew about - have now been joined by him.

SanneT, Thanks for mentioning reading about Mario Pei, as it induced me to read the article on him in wikipedia, which led to this interesting page: http://www.folkways.si.edu/searchresults.aspx?sPhrase=Mario%20A.%20Pei&sType=‘phrase’/ The Latin samples are particularly interesting, espec. for those who prefer the ecclesiastical accent.

Many of his books were quite popular in their day, and used copies for sale are easy to find on the Internet. . . . Speaking of older recordings, Caedmon Records had a huge catalog of spoken-word recordings in English, including many works read by their authors. It looks as if HarperCollins now has the rights to it. You may find some of the recordings worthwhile: http://www.harpercollins.com/imprints/readingGuides.aspx?imprintid=518000 .

How do we know that the languages we hear/speak in our dreams are actually correct fluent forms of the language and not just our perception of such within our dreamy state? For instance, my perception is that my language skills in Italian and Spanish are much better after I have had a bit of vino, but this does not mean they actually are. Perhaps our dreaming brain is just tricking us in the same way.

On a somewhat related note, I woke up in the middle of the night last night and started speaking to my wife in the wrong language. It took about 3 of her "what?"s for me to realize before switching to a language she understands.

As the English and German in my dreams tend to be correct, I only hope my imagined French - spoken by ‘not me’ - is equally so. I’ll have to have a test dream in Spanish, because I know the level of my Spanish is inferior and so I except to not be able to understand everything the Spaniard in my brain will say.

I love the idea of waking up in a foreign language… Some time ago there was an interview on the BBC where a high-profile interpreter spoke about how her father tested his children to find out which language was hard-wired into them. He would wake them in the middle of the night by shouting at them that the house was on fire and they had to get out. Whichever language they replied in was the one he considered their ‘mother tongue’. Each of his children was educated in a way where each child spoke a different foreign language at a very high level. The interviewee’s major FL was French, her siblings had Spanish, German and some other language. It was a fascinating interview. I’ll try to find the link.

BTW, the Forum contains other threads on this topic. One that started in December 2008 was entitled “Have you ever dreamed in other language than your mother tongue?”.

Here is the url:

@Ernie I have only just looked at the Smithonian Folkways site: fascinating that they promise to keep all their titles on their books forever, irrespective of numbers sold.

@donhamiltontx It was nice seeing some familiar names on a thread from 2008!

well last night I had a dream about killer whales and the first thought that popped into my head was the spanish word idioma. I think I know why is because of the lesson I’m on it’s has the word five times in the lesson so now the word idioma is now is in my vocab but now I just need other words to go with idioma.