Holy Roman Emperor Charles V reportedly said, “Je parle espagnol à Dieu, italien aux femmes, français aux hommes et allemand à mon cheval” (I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men & German to my horse). Another version quotes him as saying: “Je parle latin à Dieu, italien aux musiciens, espagnol aux soldats, allemand aux laquais, français aux dames et anglais à mon cheval” (I speak Latin to God, Italian to musicians, Spanish to soldiers, German to lackeys, French to ladies & English to my horse). I guess it depended on whether he was riding a German horse or an English horse~!
I have studied seven languages over the course of half a century; it was only when I lived in Brussels and Paris in 1991-1992 that I began to dream regularly in French; many years later, I revived my French in 2003 as a political statement in response to the rampant francophobia of Republicans in Congress and the Bush administration as a reaction to France’s opposition to the Iraq war. In 2015, I began studying Korean and then took Norwegian in 2016 and 2017; in 2018, I began reviving my long dormant German. It was over the course of 2017-2019 that I began to dream in various languages other than English, increasing in frequency over the course of 2019, as this record of speaking and sometimes singing in my dreams show:
I just woke up from a dream in which I said the words Selbstverständnis & Bewußtsein and later in the dream explained to a friend that they mean ‘self-understanding’ & ‘consciousness’ in German…
I awoke from a dream in which I had an extended conversation in German. I was in the house of a complete stranger in some city in the Midwest & a woman who lived there asked if I spoke German. I responded, “Ich kann Deutsch. Aber im Moment kann ich nicht das gute Wort errinern.” I suddenly realized I was stark naked and asked her, “Wo sind meine Kleider? Kennen Sie? Wissen Sie? Ich muß anklagen…” Of course, ‘wissen’ is the right word, not ‘kennen,’ but interesting that I corrected myself. But ‘anklagen’ actually means ‘to accuse, charge, indict, prosecute or condemn,’ not to dress (which is ‘sich ankleiden’); still, despite two mistakes (one self-corrected), I did actually speak real German in my dream, which is something. I was going to read a Grimms Märchen before going to bed but I felt too tired, so maybe this dream was a reminder to get back into my reading of the Grimmsmärchen in the original German…
I took a nap in the afternoon and woke up from a dream in which I had a long conversation in German; someone in the dream whom I didn’t recognize from daily life asked me, “Was machst du täglich?” I responded, “Ich arbeite für Queens Pride House, eine LGBT organisation in Jackson Heights…” There was more to the conversation that I forget, but it was wonderful once again to be dreaming in German & even nicer that I didn’t make any major grammatical errors in my sleep~!
I woke up from a dream in which I said, “Es gibt ein Dokumentar über Michael; eh, voilà~!” followed by several sentences in German; it was by far the most German I’d spoken in any dream to date…
I awoke from a dream in which I said ‘Eugene V. Debs,’ ‘Gudrun und Gutrune’ and ‘vereinbar’ (‘compatible’ in German).
I awoke from a dream in which I spoke the words ‘Schwiegervater’ and ‘Schwiegermutter’ — ironic, since I have neither a father-in-law nor a mother-in-law; perhaps it was prompted by a chat over Facebook with a friend in Berlin that was partly in German…
I just woke up from a dream in which I said, “Ich interesse mich für die Grimmsmärchen. Ich lese die Grimmsmärchen auf Deutsch. Die beste der Grimmsmärchen sind wunderschön, nicht war…?” It was my first dream in which I spoke 3 whole sentences in perfect German~!
I woke up from dreams in which I said ‘der Unterschied,’ ‘die Untersuchung’ and ‘wunderlicher Alter’; the last of these is a line from “Der Leiermann” (‘The Organ Grinder’ or ‘The Hurdy-Gurdy Man’) from “Die Winterreise” — Franz Schubert’s most famous song cycle — which includes settings of poems by Wilhelm Müller. The curious thing is that I’d sung two other songs from “Winterreise” the previous day but had skipped “Der Leiermann.” The words ‘wunderlicher Alter’ literally mean ‘curious old man,’ but in the context of the poem and the song, they are freighted with significance.
I awoke from a dream in which I sang (the first verse of) La Marseillaise (en français) & then later spoke the word ‘zusammengebrochen’ (auf Deutsch).
I woke up from a dream in which I sang the Italian tenor’s aria from the opera “Der Rosenkavalier” of Richard Strauß; I remembered this much:
“Di rigori armato il seno contro amor di ribellai, ma fui vinto in un baleno in mirar due vaghi rai. Ahi, che resiste fuoco astral poco cor di gelo…” but couldn’t remember the very last few words, “di fuoco astral.”
I woke up from a dream this morning in which I said, “‘gallina’ means ‘hen’ in Italian…”
I woke up from a dream this morning in which I was “au Lycée Louis le Grand” in Paris and said so (in French).
I awoke from a dream this morning in which I was singing, “Holde Träume, kehret wieder,” the closing line from “Nacht und Träume,” my favorite song of Franz Schubert; that was followed by Jerry Seinfeld (of all people) singing “Des muntern Fischleins Bade im klaren Bächlein zu” from “Die Forelle,” one of Schubert’s most popular songs and one whose melody he used as the theme for his ‘Trout Quintet.’ I may have been dreaming of singing “Nacht und Träume” because I didn’t get the chance to sing it yesterday, as I spent the afternoon walking 3.8 miles around the borough; and I channel-flipped through just a few seconds of “Seinfeld” on TV last night before going to bed. There is of course some irony in singing “Holde Träume, kehret wieder” in a dream~!
I just woke up from a dream in which I said “Min farfar var norsk och min farmor ochså; han komerste fra Haugesund” in Norwegian & “Schwarze Münster” in German. I said the two words in German in a part of the dream where I was part of some sort of chorus or choir. After we sang, I was chatting with a librarian in a library-like section of the building in which there was a whole series of books in Norwegian; that’s when I started to speak with her in Norwegian; that sentence was one I used quite often in Norway and more often than any other.
I just woke up from a dream in which I sang two words from Schubert’s song “Der Leiermann” (“Wunderlicher Alter” = ‘curious old man’), which I’m currently working on.
I woke up from a dream in which I spoke or sung in four different languages. Ian’t remember what I said in French (I think I said, “J’aime le français aussi”), but I remember saying in German, “Die deutsche Sprache ist die Sprache von Musik. Die deutsche Sprache ist die Sprache von Bach und Händel, Schubert, Schumann, Mahler und Strauß.” I quoted two lines from the Norwegian/Swedish song, “Hvem kan seile foruten vind, hvem kan ro uten årer” (Norwegian); the (orignal) Swedish version (pronounced not too differently) is “Vem kan segla förutan vind? Vem kan ro uten årer.” And if I said one word in Italian (‘nonostante’ means ‘nevertheless’), that would make it a quadrilingual dream~!
I woke up from a dream in which someone said (and then I repeated), “Sono bello tutti,” though grammatically, it should be, “Sono tutti belli” (they are all beautiful); maybe it was the influence of a commercial advertising a liposuction service called “Sono Bello.”
I woke up from a dream in which I used the German word ‘braten’ (which means ‘to fry’ or to ‘roast’ and which I visualized in my dream capitalized as ‘Braten’) in the middle of a sentence in English.
I woke up from a dream in which I said something like “Da ist nichts dagegen” (there’s nothing against that) in German.
I woke up from a dream in which I said “Jag hadde studerarde svenska,” though “I have studied Swedish” is actually “Jag har studerat svenska.”
I awoke from a dream this morning in which I was canvassing for Bernie Sanders in Iowa and approached a house (it looked like a white farmhouse); when a woman opened the door, I sang the entirety of the Italian tenor’s aria from “Der Rosenkavalier” by Richard Strauss (Di rigori armato il seno) in the original Italian.
I woke up from a dream this morning, the first dream in which I sang in more than one language in the same dream. I sang “Ombra mai fu” from Handel’s “Serse” in Italian and then “Bist du bei mir” (attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach) in German.
I woke up from a dream in which I spoke the name of the German Lutheran hymn, “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” (How Brightly Shines the Morning Star), apropos of nothing.
I woke up from a dream in which I was singing “Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, die Sonne” (The rose, the lily, the dove, the sun) from Robert Schumann’s “Dichterliebe” song cycle; I was also playing the accompaniment on a small keyboard, but I could only remember “Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube…” Op. 48, No. 3 is in fact one of my favorite Schumann songs & I sing & play it quite often.
I woke up from a dream in which I said ‘im Ruhrgebiet’ (in the Ruhr region) to someone who was a classmate in high school; Gwen Stellberg was in the same English and math classes as me and also in both the symphony orchestra and the chamber orchestra; the rest of the conversation was in English and we were considering which cities in Germany we could visit together (we were apparently already in Germany); we decided that Freiburg and Baden Baden were the most best bets.
I woke up from a dream in which I said ‘blessés,’ which means ‘wounded’ (plural) in French.
I woke up from a dream in which I said ‘sex personer,’ which means ‘six persons’ in both Swedish and Norwegian (spelled ‘seks’ in Norwegian); the next day, I told a friend about the dream and she said she thought it sounded like a pun on ‘sex persona.’
I woke up from a dream in which I had an extended conversation in French but I only remember a small part of it. In the dream, someone referred to ‘le Wisconsin français,’ a small part of the state perhaps in the northeast corner of Wisconsin; he then referred to the rest of the state as ‘le Wisconsin britannique.’ I responded, “J’ai habité Angleterre et le Wisconsin n’est pas très britannique…”
I woke up from a dream in which I said, “‘Mild und leise,’ the Liebestod from ‘Tristan und Isolde’…”
I was on a bus in San Francisco and suddenly realized it was an express bus. I got off in Alameda and found myself on a farm after following some people off the bus into a field. I then asked a woman, “¿Dónde esta la ‘el autobús?” but she just shook her head. I then asked a white woman in English and she pointed out the bus stop. Upon waking, I checked the gender of the word and discovered that it’s ‘el autobús,” so I made a grammatical error in a dream in a language which I’ve never (seriously) studied.
I woke up from a dream this morning in which I sang “Vivi, tiranno” from Handel’s “Rodelinda” in the original #Italian (the complete ‘A’ section but no ‘B’ or da capo ‘A’). I was singing to a group of about 15-20 people in a room in either an office building or at a university.
I just woke up from a dream in which I used the word ‘Grundgesetz’ (‘basic law’ in German) in a sentence otherwise entirely in English…