December 14, 2013 | Review Period

Another Crazy Language Dream

In this one everyone was a linguist.

Last night I had a language dream. I have quite a few language dreams. Sometimes they involve my being able to produce helpful bits of a foreign language to solve a pressing need.

Sometimes I am just delighting, in my dream, in being able to speak a particular language. Sometimes when I wake up, I can remember the precise sentences I produced (at least that is my impression; dreams are finicky things) and then find and fix my own grammatical errors. Sometimes they aren’t errors, exactly, but rather, instances where I mixed and matched different languages in the same sentence.

Sadly, some language dreams are full of disappointment about how lame I am!

Chelsea Piers: For Grammar?!

Chelsea Piers: For Grammar?

In last night’s dream I went to an English grammar class for adults. It was held in Manhattan at Chelsea Piers, which is a giant athletic complex along the Hudson River. Not your usual location for a grammar class.

There were eight of us in the session, and the instructor didn’t have to say a thing, because as soon as the class began, the attendees were off and running. (I mean mentally, not physically.)

It promptly turned into the most cerebral grammar class you can imagine. Although everyone seemed to be American-born, at least four just happened to speak Irish Gaelic and were able to make reference to examples of its grammar to support their points about English. There also seemed to be some Icelandic speakers. It’s hard to say, because languages kept mutating into other languages.

It was in any case a very international grammar discussion.

Then for some reason while we were still mid-session, I had to go take a shower. By the time I got back, the class was over and people were packing their bags. I was sad, though maybe slightly relieved that I wouldn’t be shown up as ignorant. My hair was wet.

Later that afternoon (this is still dreamland), I was hanging out with my husband, Brandt, on the grass along what had transformed inexplicably from the Hudson River into the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago. It was warm, and we were lounging there in the sun when President Obama just happened by.

He asked what was up and I told him about the grammar class. I told him that the people there had known how to speak Icelandic. 

“Old Icelandic or modern?” he asked.

I told him modern. Then he came up with “Where is the bathroom?” in Icelandic. Except that as he talked, it changed into Irish Gaelic and then Egyptian Arabic, which is the last thing I studied before going to sleep last night. 

In the dream I was embarrassed that I couldn’t remember “bathroom” in Irish, so I tried to hide it by just smiling as he produced his multilingual sentence.

That’s all I remember! But my point is, my unconscious seems to be populated by people who have an excellent grasp of both ancient and modern languages.

Also, what a great grammar class that was. I would love to go to a class like that in real life. But how very silly that I went off and washed my hair in the middle of it!

Comments (1)

James • Posted on Tue, January 06, 2015 - 4:39 pm EST

I sometimes dream in other languages, too, usually German. In my dreams I am very fluent (if perhaps not always accurate). I wish I could bring some of that fluency into my waking hours.

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