October 27

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To Dream Speaking English (Why does this happen?)

By Gordon Gaffney

October 27, 2021


To Dream Speaking English (Why does this happen?)

A former student of mine sent me this interesting article:

The American writer Mark Twain said: “A body does just the same in a dream, as he would do if he was awake”.

The writer of this sentence in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer reflects a widespread thought, dreams reflect what we do or would like to do when we are awake.

Have you ever dreamed speaking in English?

The word “dream” has many meanings, it can represent anything from future projects to a deep dive into our subconscious.

This phenomenon has been studied in many fields such as medicine, psychology, social sciences in order to better understand this process.  

Is it common to dream in a second language such as English?

For those who are in constant contact with a foreign language, it is common that at some point they start dreaming in that language, and then dreaming of speaking in that second language, for example English.

English has been part of my life for many years. I lived in the land of Queen Elizabeth II(The UK) form a very young age and so I became fluent in “English”.

To Dream Speaking English (Why does this happen?)

Queen Elizabeth II

As a medical student and translator, there isn't a day that I don't read or write something in English. For some years now, because of my personal activities, I speak English more and more in my dreams.

Yes, it has been constant, speaking fluent English and surprisingly, sometimes with an accent!

To Speak British English In A Dream

About 2 weeks ago, for example, I dreamed that I was giving a lecture on a technical topic to a group of doctors. I'm not sure if, in my dream, this lecture was in Brazil or abroad. Perhaps, from the face of the audience, the dream took place here in the Tupiniquim lands.

But one thing was quite interesting, I spoke British English.

(You can learn more about the differences between British and American English in our video course on sale on Udemy for €29.99/69.99R$ "Eliminate the Mistakes that Portuguese Speakers Make in English". 4 hours of video exclusively for people that speak Portuguese. You can read more about it and watch free videos here.



It seems that when it is necessary to talk about more technical or more complex issues, in my dreams I resort to British English.

Study of the language we speak in dreams

The language we speak in our dreams has been a topic of study in several research centres around the world. As early as the 1980s, Joseph De Koninck, professor emeritus in the Department of Psychology at the University of Ottawa confirmed that students who spoke the language that they studied in their dreams advanced more quickly in the study of that language.

In the same sense, we know that sleep is vitally important for anyone. It is a physiological process common to everyone.

Studies indicate that during sleep the body recovers from the activities of the day, memory undergoes a consolidation process, hormones are released and the immune system is strengthened.

We know that it takes 6 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each day to ensure good health.

REM the stage where you speak English in dreams

Science divides sleep into two main parts: the non-REM phase (Rapid Eye Movement) and the REM phase.

Sleep begins in the non-REM phase and little by little we move to the REM phase, it is in this second phase that dreams and memory consolidation occur. The REM phase is characterized by intense brain activity and rapid eye movements. 

To Dream Speaking English (Why does this happen?)

The famous American band REM (Rapid Eye Movement) in 1990

So, we can say that as we advance in the proficiency of a second language, it is natural that this is also incorporated into our dreams, into our subconscious.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the more we learn English, for example, in the real world, the more we dream and the more we speak English in those dreams.

In my case, it's quite interesting that when I have dreams about informal situations, where I'm speaking in English, I speak the language with an American accent.

This is perhaps the result of the greater contact that I, as a Brazilian, have with the English spoken in the United States, after all, practically all the content of movies and series that we access originates in the land of Uncle Sam.

So, even subconsciously, my mind relates American English to more everyday and less formal situations. 

Fluency in other languages in dreams?

I speak other languages, specifically Spanish. However, I don't have the same fluency in Spanish as I do in English.

The amazing thing is that I very rarely have dreams where I speak in Spanish. My brain seems to prefer speaking the English language in dreams. This certainly reflects the security and experience of life I have in both languages. 

But can those who don't speak another language speak English in their dreams?

One thing is certain, life is full of limitations of all kinds, however our subconscious is free and not subject to the same limits that everyone experiences in the real world on a daily basis.

Therefore, it is entirely possible for someone who does not speak English to have a dream in which they speak English.

It is quite common to dream that we are interacting in languages we do not master and this can reveal the desire to break new ground and acquire new skills. 

The importance of speaking English for the job market

Everyone knows the importance of speaking English for the job market. People who master this language are more valued in companies and generally receive a higher salary.

In addition to the salary issue, those who are fluent in another language have access to more information, culture and can be more up-to-date in various fields of knowledge. New opportunities can arise for those who reach a good level in a foreign language.

To Dream Speaking English Shows Desire

The Swiss physician and psychiatrist Carl Jung said that: "Dreams are realisations of hidden desires", so when we speak in English in our dreams we signal that speaking a foreign language is something important to us, it is a wish burned into our unconscious.

To Dream Speaking English (Why does this happen?)

Carl Jung

Many people who are learning to speak English will always remember when they spoke the new language in their dreams. It can be considered a turning point that helped a lot to reinforce the self-confidence needed for the challenge.

So don't be surprised when you start speaking English in your dreams.

Know that this will be a clear sign that this knowledge is reaching the deepest levels of your unconscious and your brain. In short, you are on the right track. Be happy and speed up your English language studies

This article was written by a former student of mine.

If you enjoyed this article, then you may be interested in "Good Songs for Learning English", discover here about books that are easy to read in English or learn here about the difference between teacher and professor.

Have you ever dreamed of English? You can write your experience in the comments!

Gordon Gaffney

About the author

Gordon is The Irish English Teacher, creator of this blog and many products to help all students learning English as a second language, but with a focus on Portuguese speakers.

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