Sprechen sie Deutsch?

Castlegar News bi-weekly columnist pulls a bilingual somniloquy

It’s always a good day for me when I learn a new word. At the age of 61 I’ve learned a lot of new words in my time and, whenever I do, I strive to incorporate them into my vocabulary. I love words!

A couple of weeks ago I learned a new word – somniloquy – which simply means sleep talking, or talking in your sleep.

According to sleep specialists, talking in your sleep isn’t usually a big deal. I’m certain that most of us have talked in our sleep at one time or another. The thing is though; have you ever sleep talked in a foreign language? Apparently, I did. One morning, about two weeks ago my husband asked me, “Did you dream in German last night?”

Just barely awake and in need of a strong cup of java, his question hung there heavily while I tried to negotiate my way from just waking up to fully alert. Seriously, my brain had to process that odd question before it made any sense to me.

“Uh, I don’t know,” I answered. After all, while I am sure that I dream, it’s seldom that I actually remember those dreams when the morning light nudges me awake.

“Why do you ask?” I prodded.

“Because you were talking in German in your sleep last night,” he said.

Really? German? In my sleep?

“Yup. German. You had quite the conversation in German,” he explained.

“Are you sure it was German?” I asked.

“Absolutely,” he said.

Shaking my head awake, I trudged down the hall for that now badly-needed cup of coffee.

As I drank the coffee I pondered what he had just told me. German. German?

I am ashamedly unilingual, having escaped Canada’s mandatory French classes by moving to the States in Grade 3. When I was in Grade 7, however, I was required to study a language. I chose Latin and barely passed that class. The following year I chose German and didn’t fare much better in that class. To this day I only remember a smattering of German and even less Latin.

But my great-grandparents were full-blooded Germans on my father’s side. When they (Oma and Opa) would visit I was in my preschool years and could barely (if at all) understand them as they resolutely spoke only German. So, as you can imagine, my grasp of the German language is about as firm as a 50-year-old mattress.

After mulling over the sleep talking thing for a couple of days, I decided to research online. A simple search of “talking a foreign language in your sleep” netted a bonanza.

That’s when I came upon a site containing “Sleep talking associated with mental or medical illness occurs more commonly in persons over 25 years of age.” Uh oh. But what about sleep talking in a foreign language?

Well, I guess the answer depends on which website you read. Some (radicals, I am sure) claim that indicates I was actually talking in tongues. Take it from a former Southern Baptist girl, I have seen and heard talking in tongues and thoroughly discount that opinion.

Another website suggested it could be past life regression. While I’m fairly open-minded about such things I also tossed aside that theory.

Being more logically oriented, the only thing I can chalk it up to is the extraordinary beauty of the human brain and its fascinating ability, the depths of which have yet to be fully plumbed and understood. With that sorted out, I had one more question to ask.

Walking into the living room I asked my husband, “So, for a second there did you think you were sleeping with a Fräulein?”

Wise man that he is, he chose to not answer .

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