Language and dreams

My family emigrated to the States when I was 11 years old, from Argentina. I’m a native Spanish speaker and, when I arrived in the U.S., I spoke barely a few words of English. We arrived in early May, so after 2 months of 5th grade I was let out of school for the summer and, in the two months that followed, I learned how to speak English.

I think it was during that summer that I stopped dreaming in Spanish and began dreaming in English. As I recall, the change was more abrupt than gradual: in other words, one night I dreamed in my native tongue, the next in English, as though it’d been that way always.

Has this happened the same way for other non-native English speakers? I’ve asked my brothers about their experience, but they have no recollection of the exact moment it happened to them.

In highschool I was talking to a foreign exchange student from Germany. He’d been in the country for about 8 months. We were talking about how it’s easier to learn languages by immersion, and he said “you know, last week I started to dream in english!” In between one night and the next he went from dreaming in german to dreaming in english, which he contiued to do for as long as he was here.

It’s not really a general question, is it? Are you just asking for personal experiences, or do you want to learn more about this phenomenon?
Since I think it’s experiences you want, I’ll share mine: don’t be surprised if this ends up in IMHO though.

I’m a native Dutch speaker, and learned English in school from age 12-18. In addition, Dutch television subtitles nearly everything, so you pick up a little here and there as well (in fact, I had a distinct American accent when I was about 15 :D).
I went to University, where 90% of my books where in English, and 50% of the lectures were. Did that for six years. In my current job, English is the language 95% of the time, since the nationalities of my colleagues are from all over the world, and our field of work is global anyway.

Only after working this job for 6 months did it first occur, but YES, I do dream in English sometimes. However, I don’t dream in English exclusively. Sometimes it’s Dutch, sometimes English. I don’t remember many dreams to begin with, but I’d say the Dutch/English ratio is about 60/40.

A Dutch friend of mine, who’s married to a (francophone) Belgian girl and lives in Brussels, dreams exclusively in French.

Gravity and Coldfire,thanks for your responses. I am interested more in the phenomenon than in personal experiences, even if my OP isn’t clear on that. What I’m curious about is the immediate nature of the switch from one language to the other, and possible reasons for it. I never went back to dreaming in Spanish, even though my English vocabulary was relatively small by comparison to my Spanish one.

My WAG would be that your daily environment was 100% English - assuming you went to school, had a job, et cetera. What your brain absorbs during the day is what it releases at night. Which would explain why in my case, I still dream in both languages. My private life is pretty much 100% Dutch, even though my work is almost 100% English.

Cool, because I happen to think this is a damn fine question, and I would have hated to have to move it.

I look forward to seeing what folks have to say on this one.

Well, evidently nothing. Damn, posting 3 times in my own thread…

Sorry, I just have another story, and this thread does kinda need a bump…
This last summer, I spent 2 weeks on the ASU campus, working on a site selection project for Europa. One of the project leaders was an Argentinian who had lived in this country for something like 6 years. He spoke good english but had a noticiable accent. He said that he had a recurring dream where he was being reviewed for his Ph.D. He said that is the dream he spoke perfect English with no accent at all. Even english words he could not pronounce he was able to speak perfectly in the dream. Pretty interesting stuff.

I’m a native English-speaker. When I was in highschool studying French, I once or twice dreamed in broken French.

I’ve now gotten to the point where I can read, write and speak Esperanto slowly, but I haven’t dreamed in Esperanto, not even when I was over in Europe and spent a week in an exclusively Esperanto-speraking environemnt.

A few years ago in the mids of an intense software project, I dreamed in Labview, which was a very odd experience.

A lot of the time though, my dreams are are more like experiences, including full vision, colour, feel, smell, sound, touch; there are many things that do not reduce to a language such as English, but are simply themselves. I may be thinking in English during the dream as I react to it though.