I was in Denver this week, attending the PASS conference. I always have a good time at PASS: connecting with old friends and making new ones. Plus, it never hurts to crash a few parties, drink some beer (Rock Bottom, just so so, in my opinion), and talk with people from different parts of the country and the world.
On Thursday night we had a volunteer party at the ESPN zone in downtown Denver. Kevin Kline, the current president of PASS, and I had an interesting conversation. We talked a little about learning foreign languages. Kevin mentioned that one foreign friend of his told him that he knew he was good with English when he speaks English in his dreams. Kevin asked if that happened to me.
That was really an interesting question to me, for the following reasons. 1. I never heard of it before; 2. I don’t dream that much, or maybe I do but I couldn’t remember most of them. 3. When I dream, there usually is not much conversation going on. I usually find myself in certain unpleasant predicament, a lot has something to do with taking exams: I didn’t study for the exam or didn’t have enough time for the exams, etc. By the way, both situations actually happened a lot during my school years. In fact, those exam dreams have happened so many times, that I have tried in vain to send a message to the brain part that controls my dreaming to tell my other self in the ether world that “it is just a dream, don’t take it seriously”.
By the way, exams gone wrong seem to be a popular theme of dreamers from all over the world, at least in the US and China. A few other people at the conference told me about it.
My university roommate Du Chaoyun asked me a similar question when he visited Chicago: do I think in English? I actually don’t know the answer to this question. I guess sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. What I do know is that I will always count in Chinese. I may say the numbers in English out loud, for the benefits of people around me, but there is always translations going on back and forth internally, and I will always count much faster in Chinese.
I have asked the same question to my Swedish better half. She told me she probably thinks in English most of the time nowadays. Sometimes she has trouble remembering a Swedish word when she needs it. I found that to be true in my case also. And she counts in her native language internally too.
I have read it from more than one Chinese web site that English teachers encourage his/her students to think in English. My middle school and high school English teachers may have said the same thing. I don’t know how to achieve it, what it means exactly, or even if achieving that goal is such a good thing.