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Momoko’s Musings: Dreaming in Japanese for the First Time

Last night, Khatzumoto, a friend, and I sat down for a marathon of the first season of Trick, our favorite mystery-comedy series starring Nakama Yukie and Abe Hiro. I was feeling a bit discouraged because my level of comprehension was the lowest in the group. But after watching nine episodes in a row until the wee hours of the morning, I unexpectedly reached a new milestone last night: I dreamed in Japanese.

Now I didn’t have a dream where everything was in Japanese. But I definitely remember trying to understand or speak real Japanese words in (hopefully) meaningful sentences—just like I’d been trying to understand the dialogue in the show. After six hours of listening, the language had become so familiar that my mind was reproducing it on its own. Cool.

I honestly never thought it would happen so soon. My listening level is still abysmal, my speaking level practically non-existent (although my pronunciation isn’t bad ). Dreaming in Japanese was the last thing I was expecting. But it happened, and (if it hasn’t already) it can happen to you too.

The key, I’ve found is simply listening, for long periods of time. I wasn’t pausing and writing down sentences or anything; we didn’t even have Japanese subtitles turned on. I was just trying to follow the show. Pausing, looking up words and checking subtitles is certainly important, but so is pure continuous listening. The first helps you build up vocabulary and match sounds to words; the second gets you used to real-time speed and rhythm and tests how fast you can recall what you’ve learned.

I’ve gotten pretty good at reading Japanese, but since the last Obon visit to a Japanese friend’s house, I realized: I have to practice this listening thing more if I ever want to carry on an actual conversation. Well, I’m off to the video store now to pick up the second season of Trick and hoping for some more pleasant dreams in Japanese.

  14 comments for “Momoko’s Musings: Dreaming in Japanese for the First Time

  1. Wan Zafran
    October 15, 2007 at 16:34

    Congratulations, Momoko! Perhaps this is one of those ‘clicks’ that signify you having reached the next level in the language-learning process. Do your best!

  2. October 15, 2007 at 16:57


  3. momoko
    October 15, 2007 at 21:15

    Alex: お前のやってることは全部まるっとエブリウェアエブリシングお見通しだ!!

    Wan: I hope so…頑張ります!

  4. October 15, 2007 at 22:46

    What a milestone! Congrats =)
    I never got into Trick, but I really liked Abe Hiroshi in At Home Dad. Funny guy.

    Are you a new co-author on the blog now?

  5. October 16, 2007 at 06:34

    恭喜恭喜! I remember first doing that in Chinese, and waking up so elated. Now, when I dream of Japanese friends, they tend to speak in Japanese, even though I almost always talk to them in English or Chinese in real life. A few nights ago a waitress in my dream said “kamsamnida” (“thank you” in Korean) which kind of freaked me out, because I know basically zero Korean. I wonder if it just gets easier over time to dream in random tongues.

  6. momoko
    October 16, 2007 at 11:55

    Ruisu: Yeah, I love At Home Dad too. I’m just Khatzumoto’s wife who’s far behind him in Japanese and trying to catch up. I’m too lazy to be called a co-author — more of an on-and-off contributor.

    John: That’s pretty awesome you dreamed in Korean. Multilingual dreams would be wicked!

  7. Savara
    October 16, 2007 at 17:11

    I dream in English all the time, probably more often than in Dutch. Japanese… ehm well, I did dream about Dutch people who were learning Japanese, and a girl spoke about her favorite singer (being Nana Kitade) and I saw Nana Kitade’s name (北出菜奈) in kanji, while I only knew about 100 kanji or so at that time.

    And I tend to dream in “Japanese” when I visit Japan in my dreams, but that “Japanese” is the weirdest mix of English, Dutch and a few random words of Japanese. All Japanese people in my dreams understand it though ^_~ (Dreams are weird.).

  8. Whatsifsowhatsit
    February 4, 2009 at 00:36


    I do think that the key isn’t necessarily listening. You simply dream of whatever keeps you busy. Your mind repeats the things you were doing or thinking about the day before, in a way, while dreaming. So, much preoccupation with Japanese of any sort could cause Japanese to become a part of your dreaming. So, after… what was it, six hours?… of listening to Japanese, it’s not strange that you would dream of it.

    It can be very helpful, because REM-sleep (the part of sleep in which you dream) helps solidify memories and cognitive skills in your mind. So you were effectively “studying” it some more while dreaming of it, so to speak!

    Just wanted to share that little bit of knowledge 🙂 but anyway, again, congratulations!

  9. Harry
    March 4, 2009 at 08:10

    Wow this post was a long time ago! I’m assuming that your completly fluent in Japanese by now! Anyway late late late grats. I hope I dream in Japanese soon:[

  10. Matt
    September 21, 2009 at 14:15

    I’d love to know how your Japanese has come along since this post was written. The people demand a new Momoko’s Musings! …please. 🙂

  11. d_u_okada
    May 24, 2011 at 18:30

    from a fellow trick fanatic and japanese student who just experienced a similar thing.

  12. Rose
    December 28, 2011 at 03:13

    Sadly, this still isn’t working — the link seems to be broken, and the archives don’t claim to go back that far 🙁

    • Rose
      December 28, 2011 at 03:14

      sorry! I put this in the wrong place! I was talking about the Di-…ahem…”Richard” and Jane comics

  13. Sachiko
    October 31, 2012 at 09:15

    I did this twice, and both were before I started immersing, which is really weird. But I listened to Japanese music all the time and watched Japanese-subbed shows a lot, so I guess it just got stuck in my head and my brain recycled it. In one I was talking to a Japanese girl in Japanese. It sounded like Japanese to me, at least, and I knew what I was saying (like, we were actually having a conversation) but I don’t know if I was actually saying words or just making Japanese-like noises. She started to insult me and then threatened me, and I ran away as quickly as possible. That was fun.

    Don’t remember the second one much, but there was a lot of Japanese everywhere. I think I was in Tokyo…

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