Language Recall in Dreams

I’ve heard many people claim that they sometimes dream in languages besides their native one that they’ve learned – some even say that “you aren’t truly fluent until you can do this.” What perplexes me is that despite being decently fluent in French and semi-“fluent” in Latin (though Latin is of course a special case), I’ve never had a dream where any intelligible conversation was held by means of these two languages. In fact, I recently had one where I failed to recall basic Latin words I had known since my first year of learning the language:

Has anyone else ever had anything like this happen to them?

This occurrence sheds some interesting light on the way memory works in dreams. I’ve almost never spoken or heard either French or Latin while dreaming, and when I have, it’s generally been me overhearing garbled, nonsensical sentences that I vaguely comprehend and responding with modified stock phrases. For example, “petite pro nobis” is a standard request for intercession by various saints, and my mind must have just slotted in the necessary “vos” for the sentence to remotely make sense in context. Similarly, I only knew “spero” from some college motto that goes “dum spiro, spero.” I also seem to just never encounter French in general, despite being more fluent in it than in Latin. I never have any trouble remembering how to speak English in dreams – I wonder why this is…

I don’t know what to tell you… What I can do is offer anecdotes of my own. If you peruse my DJ you may find I use a occasionally speak in other languages… though it may be like a 1 in 100 or 200 kind of thing… unless it was heavily on my mind during the week leading up to the dream.

I can say, however, that when I haven’t known how to say something IWL I didn’t know how to say it in dream either. I’ve also had “nonsense” words used for languages I don’t know… and somehow I’ve understood them… But what’s really crazy…

… is that I’ve had full on conversations in Spanish that, when I can recall the dialogue, end up making sense IWl! I’ve had a few one-liners in Japanese… but nothing as profound as my Spanish.

I should note that when it comes to Spanish, I studied it for 6 years in grade school, and studied abroad for four months in Colombia in college where I used Spanish 97% of the time. I lived the language at that point… so that definitely aided in my ingraining of the language.

This makes me want to set a lucid goal to have a dream where I become lucid and “convert” the dreamworld to Spanish to see what happens. :tongue:

For the languages I learned as a child and use on a more or less daily basis IWL, I remember just fine in dreams just like English. For the other languages I’m learning but not really using, I’ve only dreamt of simple phrases or even just words or characters, not necessarily correct. Sometimes I dream of something being in a certain language, but don’t remember it well enough when I wake up to know if it was correct or not. I just know it was in that language.

My guess is that how much and how well you understand and use a given language in a dream is directly correlated to how much you’re using it casually in your day-to-day waking life, and how much you’ve used it in the past.

For example, I took Japanese classes for years without ever dreaming in it, but after I had been living in Japan for a couple months I did start to have dreams in it sometimes, and I continued to now and again even after coming back to the States. This is true even though I never got as far as fluent, just decently conversational. I think it’s because I was actually surrounded by the language while I was there, so when my brain was sifting through my memories to generate dreams out of there was a lot of “Japanese language stuff” in the recent past to draw on. Similarly, I still use my Japanese skills online every day, but my day-to-day life has been happening in English for years and years now, so it’s pretty rare that Japanese shows up in my dreams. I bet that if I went back to Japan, stayed for a long time, and made an effort to use Japanese as my primary language, it would start turning up in my dreams a lot. I also bet that even if I spent years in Japan speaking mainly Japanese, I would still dream in English sometimes, just because I have so many memories where English was the primary language in use.

It makes sense to me that your dreams wouldn’t have strong Latin content even if you spend a lot of time studying Latin, just because I don’t think you’re in an environment where everyone is speaking Latin all the time. Maybe if you went to some sort of intensive Latin study retreat where everyone was required to use Latin for day-to-conversation, you would have some dreams in it and be able to use it confidently in them.

I feel like dreams have a different language than waking life. So when we wake up its hard to capture all of the essence of the dream in our dream journals. Some of it is left behind. I speak more than one language so sometimes I speak chinese in dreams, but what I really mean is the language of dreams is very lyrical and strange so at least for me I find that when I write down my dreams I probably only capture 25% of them. Kind of sad.