In what language do you dream?

Published 27th October 2017
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My friends thought I was weird when I told them that I often dream with background music. It was no surprise then that they were tipped over the edge when I told them that foreign languages interchange in my dreams. However, the fact remains that I am one of a number of people who have repeatedly dreamt in a language other than their mother tongue, and I do not find this weird at all. I don’t know about you, but foreign language ‘speaking’ is probably the most common thing that occurs in my dreams. I mean, have you never caught yourself thinking in another language? If you’re a linguist then of course you have! Then what is so unusual about dreaming in a foreign language, considering that individuals’ brains are still active during sleep anyway?

The actual issue here is whether an association could be made between the content of dreams and foreign language mastery. It is a popular notion that dreaming in a foreign language is a ground-breaking point in terms of actual language learning progress. In fact, many people report dreaming in a foreign language after they have already studied it for some time. In this respect, I was surprised to find that little to no research has been conducted in this area. But then again, this might be less of a linguist’s task and more of a psychologist’s/ psycho-therapist’s business.

Indeed, as challenging as the issue appears to be linguistically speaking, it seems that linguists have been busy with different projects and the purely scientific and pragmatic approaches have gained much more ground on the argument so far. According to relevant research, the brain creates dreams through random electrical activity and it is the analytic portion of the brain that strives to make sense of such signals metaphorically or symbolically, since there is no literal message involved. Yet, this does not mean that dreams are meaningless; we can assume that there is a psychological explanation for dreaming in a particular language.

Nevertheless, this is still unexplored territory and the argument is open to much discussion. We foreign languages dreamers are waiting to become case studies for further research!

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