Friday, April 02, 2010

Speaking Fluent Japanese: In Your Dreams

Sleep Your Way to Speaking Fluent Japanese.

Have you heard that blogging is a form of self-help therapy?

Let me lay myself out on the counselling couch and tell you a story.

It all relates to one of my first dreams in Japanese. One that I have only told to few people. I've done enough analysis of it on my own, but it still puzzles me as I have no formal training in Psychology or dream interpretation. All I can offer you is an observation of a very peculiar experience.

224/365「Ka」は刀(かたな)です (Katana) by Kanpeki Yume (Perfect Dream)
224/365「Ka」は刀(かたな)です (Katana) by Kanpeki Yume

It must have been at the end of my first year in Japan. I had been immersed in the Japanese language, hearing it spoken each day and attempting to speak it to whoever would listen. I was a faltering and hesitant speaker.

My work as an English teacher was stimulating and challenging enough. At the end of each day, after a late supper and a couple of beers I would fall in to a restless sleep. My body was always racked but my mind was active.

It was then I had a strange dream.

I was walking along the bank of a beautiful river, 500 years ago in feudal Japan. The water was clear but smoke from a nearby battle filled the air. A whistling sound came through the air and with a thud an ornate katana [刀|かたな] hit the opposite bank and slid into the water.

Swords don't swim.

As the sword slipped beneath the surface of the swiftly flowing river it began to talk to me in a lilting western dailect of Japanese. The sword implored me to spring to its rescue.

I dived in without hesitation to its cries of  助けてください (Help me!), and reached it just as it fell to the gravel at the bottom of the river. Holding it aloft as I rose to the surface it continued to talk to me in an excited fashion. I felt as though I was embracing an old freind.


What does it all mean?

I have always been a lucid dreamer, able to direct the storyline of dreams and interact conciously with their characters. The action of the sword or its place in my dream doesn't puzzle me as much as what I heard.

I heard fluent Japanese. My mind was producing Japanese in a way that I was physically incapable of doing during my waking life, yet I understood every word.

Was my subconcious revealing the latent potential I had in Japanese? In my dream was I spared the hesitation and self doubt so common in waking life? Who knows?


I've been asking people.

Thumbnail for version as of 12:15, 17 May 2009
I asked my girlfriend at the time. I asked my best friend. I even asked an Aardvark if they could suggest a plausible hypothesis for why I seem more fluent in Japanese when I dream.

I searched wikipedia and found an interesting reference to an 18th century French philosopher and political scientist, marquis de Condorcet. The marquis believed that he thought and wrote with greater fluency in his dream than in waking life.

I wonder if he dreamt in other languages.

I'm probably reading too much into it. I know I'm not alone.


What the dream tells me.

We all have unrealised potential. There is tension between who were are right now, and who we wish to become. Languages are no different. We dream of being fluent in Japanese, and we imagine ourselves speaking fluently. Holding this dream tightly is actually no different from embracing your inner child who wishes to be heard, and to be rescued from the passage of time.

Do you have whacky dreams of speaking fluent Japanese? Are you reaching your hidden potential? Do you have an explanation that could help me understand this dream? Let's hear about it in the comments.

Thanks for reading, I mean that. You are what make this blog such fabulous place to learn about Japanese language and culture. Thank you for the support and the ongoing conversation on Facebook.

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