05 February 2011

What dreams may come to speak of

What language do you dream in?

Michael Erard's essay in the NYTimes, "Dreaming in English," highlights that moment of language fluency in which dreamers begin dreaming in their learned tongue - as an escape from English?

As a native speaker, it isn't a profound event to dream in English, although I clearly remember the times when I started dreaming in French and in Chinese, both while studying abroad in the respective countries, and feeling excited about really "getting it."  Then it became disturbing to me once I started mixing up the two or unable to think in the other foreign language when I was entrenched in the other.  I don't recall ever actually speaking both in a dream, but often I do progress through languages: if I can't think of the word in Mandarin, I'll think of what it is in Cantonese.  If the Cantonese word doesn't come to mind, I then think of it in French - and then in English.  Worth a study?  Maybe, maybe not.  Is my brain mixed up?  As I learn more - my most recent language being random Khmer phrases - perhaps the answer to that question will be...

oui / si / hai / jaa / shi / yes.