LINGUIST List 9.115

Sat Jan 24 1998

Disc: L2 and Dreams

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <>


  1. Karen S. Chung, Re: 9.104, Disc: L2 and dreams
  2. ALICE FABER, L2 and dreams
  3. Andrew McMichael, L2 and Dreams
  4. Marcia Haag, 9.104 Disc: L2 and dreams

Message 1: Re: 9.104, Disc: L2 and dreams

Date: Fri, 23 Jan 1998 12:45:22 +0800 (CST)
From: Karen S. Chung <>
Subject: Re: 9.104, Disc: L2 and dreams

 A related? point: Especially when I had not been living in my L2
country (Germany) very long and really especially when I had to see a
bureaucrat, I would dress rehearse what I would say before I had a
conversation. Since then, I have sometimes been back in my mother
country (USA) and found myself going through the same procedure
(sometimes in German, sometimes in English) when I have a "heavy"
interview coming up. Then I jog myself and say 'Hey, I don't have to
do this!'

KIM DAMMERS U. Goettingen.

	Actually, I think this has the buds for an interesting
offshoot discussion in itself. In my own experience of learning
Mandarin, there was a phase when I was in fact more fluent and
comfortable speaking Mandarin than I was in my native language,
English. At first it was ego-boosting and amusing, but then I realized
not being as articulate as I should be in my own language was nothing
to be proud of.

	After thinking about it carefully, I realized this happened
because I had developed the more-or-less subconscious habit of
rehearsing beforehand all kinds of things I was going to say in a much
more complete way than I ever did in English - so my Mandarin could
flow when my English often faltered. I dealt with this by working
harder at my English - holding long conversations (which were
sometimes a bit self-conscious - both the listening and the speaking
parts) with sharp colleagues and friends, reading well-written
materials in a very engaged way, looking up new words, making written
or mental notes of new idioms and constructions. At some point, I
noticed while teaching that my English now 'flowed' much better, and I
felt a sense of relief. Since then I've been big on reminding my
English students in Taiwan of the importance of cultivating your first

					 Karen Steffen Chung		
					 National Taiwan University

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Message 2: L2 and dreams

Date: Fri, 23 Jan 1998 00:13:10 -0500
Subject: L2 and dreams

My experience with other-language dreaming is very similar to Dan

| Well, I'll add another anecdote, because of the interesting level of
| metalinguistic awareness in dreaming: I dreamed that I was in China,
| and was frustrated that I couldn't have the dream in Chinese, which
| would have made it seem more authentic. So I decided to carry on
| the dream in Russian (in which I am fluent), and had the pleasant
| double-consciousness of the dreamer believing he was carrying on
| conversations in Chinese, along with the lucid dreamer who knew that
| it was really Russian. I distinctly remember real conversations in
| Russian in that dream, along with the belief that they were in
| Chinese.

During a time in my life when I was quite fluent in Hebrew (actually
my L3, but one I was much more proficient in than L2 [French]), I
regularly had dreams in which Hebrew stood in, as it were, for all
foreign languages. For instance, I might have a dream in which I was
purportedly speaking Polish (a language in which I have less than no
proficiency). All of the purported Polish conversation was actually in
Hebrew, a fact of which I was aware enough at some level to wonder how
it was that I thought I was speaking Polish when it was actually
Hebrew. In another dream, Hebrew might have been standing in for
German, or for Swahili. It was as if Hebrew was somehow the "generic
foreign language".

Alice Faber
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Message 3: L2 and Dreams

Date: Fri, 23 Jan 1998 11:11:47 +0100
From: Andrew McMichael <>
Subject: L2 and Dreams

Here's my personal experience of dreaming in a second
language. English is my first language but I have been living in
France for over 20 years. I also speak German and Chinese. I have
dreamt in all of these languages but I have noticed that these dreams
are triggered by some traumatic experience either to take place, or
that took place and in which I felt that I could have done
better. Thus I do not believe that you start dreaming in a language
when you have reached a degree of fluency. Several other messages on
this list prove this point. 

However, I do think that you start dreaming in the language once you
have reached a basic degree of proficiency in communication in that
language. When learning to speak a new language, and especially when
it's a third or fourth one, there is a period when one of the
languages interferes with communication in the new one. I have found
that it is always the language that I learnt previously. In my case,
learning to speak Chinese after German, but already speaking French
fluently, resulted in a lot of interference from German, but not from
French or English. The same was true when I started German and the
interference came from French. I started dreaming in the new language
once I had just enough vocabulary and grammar to make myself
understood. This may suggest that the dreaming phase in learning a
language is a cognitive process setting up discrete barriers to enable
the brain to function in one language only without overlapping on the
others. My definition of biligualism is when you can not only speak
the language but think in it without reference to the mother tongue or
its cognitive patterns. This may sound like Benjamin Worff revisited
but I feel there is a relationship between a language and how its
speakers think. Dreaming may be one way of 'visualizing' the new
cognitive processes being implemented.

 Andrew McMichael
 Language Dept
 Ecole des Mines d'Albi
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Message 4: 9.104 Disc: L2 and dreams

Date: Fri, 23 Jan 1998 09:36:40 -0600 (CST)
From: Marcia Haag <>
Subject: 9.104 Disc: L2 and dreams

This is an extension of L2 speaking in dreams: I don't talk much in
dreams, in any language, but I've had several where I've need to read
or write something and found that in dreams I'm utterly illiterate: I
can neither read nor write--to my increasing panic since one part of
me knows perfectly well that I can. I've wondered if the `dreaming
brain' is not synonymous with the `cognitive brain' as others have
suggested. Marcia Haag
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