To Dream in Foreign Languages

“Do you dream in French or in English?” my friend asked me the other day.

“In English,” I answered without hesitation.

Yet her question brought me back to my very first days in California when my dreams were 100% French. Back then, my English knowledge was weak and I had to translate every sentence in my head before speaking. Man, that was exhausting!

No wonder I dreamed in French. At least my brain could relax. A little.

“But,” I told my friend. “When I’m in France, I dream in French.”

This summer, for the first time ever since I moved to the States, I spent a short week alone in my hometown before my husband and children arrived. I had already been alone in France a few years ago after I dropped off my sixteen-year-old daughter at her grandparents’. Before flying home, I spent three days alone in Paris.

But in cosmopolite Paris I always bump into someone who speaks English.

On the other hand, the chance to meet an English speaker in my small Normandy town is very, very slight.

So, despite the sad fact that I was there because my father was dying, this sojourn was a true linguistic reconnection with my homeland.

On the first day I searched for an occasional French word. I also said ‘hi’ to everyone until I remembered that Normandy is not California.

On the second day I learned that the French use many American/English words but often with a French twist. Too complicated. I stuck to French/French.

On the third day I had met so many French people that I was fluent.

Right on time for my family’s arrival from California.

Then we spoke together in our signature language – a unique blend of French and English.

No wonder it takes me so much time to become an English speaker.

In Normandy I dreamed in French. Every single night.

Back to the States I searched for an occasional English word. I also had to learn to say ‘hi’ to everyone again.

I smiled when the waitress wished me bon appétit and suggested crème brulée or pie a la mode for dessert.

By the third day I was back in the game.

And I dreamed in English.

The great thing is that in my American dreams I am totally fluent. Accent included.

What a dream!

P.S. A dreamy scenery just for you.

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P.S. #2 Unlike many American National Parks, Yosemite isn’t a cul-de-sac. So, although the park is closed due to the partial government shutdown, it remains open to drive-through traffic and the scenery is still yours to enjoy. Here Tenaya Lake, a few miles before leaving Yosemite.

My dream: to see the sign OPEN instead of CLOSED.

But as of today, as the American say: Dream on.

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