Thursday, June 15, 2006

the language of dreams

I was talking to a friend yesterday. She came to Canada a few years ago from Zimbabwe. We got around to languages, and how many languages our children speak compared to us. I asked her about the language of her dreams. She couldn't answer. She said she supposed she dreamed in the language of her country, but that she had never thought about it. She added that dreams are mostly action, so she was not conscious of language.

Thinking about this made me realise that my dreams are a lot about words and language. I speak only English (grade 12 French does not count as a functional language), so I don't know about dreaming in more than one language. But I know that words and conversation are huge in my dreams. In fact, I have lots of dreams that I remember only as auditory experiences. Loops of words or phrases or even whole conversations, with no visual element whatsoever. Often I'll remember what someone said in the dream, and that will trigger my remembering of what I saw in the dream. The language is foremost. People in my dreams say things, and often tell me things that I remember and think about when I wake up. Sometimes it's more like a song - a repetition of words that I wake up with, ringing in my head like I just heard them on the radio.

When I dreamed about the birth of our son, shortly before he was born, he did a vaudeville act from the gurney on which we were lying in the dream, "And now, for my very first song," he said, "I will sing Happy Birthday - now isn't that appropriate heh heh!" In the dream, I thought to myself, "Hey, new-born babies don't sing happy birthday!" but it was a dream, so it was okay. I also have vivid dreams of people who have died, in which they have conversations with me just like when they were alive. My father-in-law visited me regularly in my dreams, especially while we were living in his house in the months after his death. He talked to me about Andy's mom - hoping she would be okay and saying he was very close and keeping an eye on her, and also about our next baby. I felt reassured by these conversations. They ended shortly before our daughter was born, in a wild dream in which my father-in-law sat beside me on a bench in the sun, and shrank down into a tiny baby in my arms. He said, "We've all been waiting for this. Now it's time."

I've always paid attention to my dreams. Clearly I have lots to say to myself in them.

question: in what language do you dream?

mompoet - I would never make it as a mime


Mango Lane said...

I think dreams are fascinating;however, my dreams are often rather ordinary. They`re just about normal everyday situations. It`s hard sometimes to figure out if a memory was just a dream or if it really did happen.
It does seem unusual to have auditory dreams. I know some of my dreams have some dialogue but I guess I`m the type that needs pictures to go with the words.

Imran said...

Wow, you made me think again about my dreams.

I know that words were spoken, but never knew what language was spoken... English or Malay, my native language.

I sometimes don't remember if it was in colour or black and white, with some people with no faces.

Always wander about that. Till date, not answers for me.

Good subject. Got me thinking about it again.

mompoet said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Mango and Imran. Mango, I know that feeling about memory/dream confusion. I try to talk about my dreams or at least talk to myself about them as soon as I can upon waking, to help solidify what I really dreamed, but I'm sure that memories of dreams morph just as memories of waking-life do. Imran, I think when I see things in my dreams, they are in colour. People with no faces - now that's very interesting!