When I lived in Japan, I started dreaming in Japanese. I believed that was the sign that I was finally becoming fluent. Years later, Japanese only pops into my head occasionally, and the phrases aren’t very fluent. Last night, I found myself in the top floor of an old library. While there were comfy chairs to sit in, this place wasn’t one of these clear, bright, modern libraries that I go to now. This was more like the library of my childhood, that smelled like books and dust the minute you walked into the door. I was with a few people, although I’m not sure who (my mother-in-law?) one of whom knew I spoke Japanese. The others were Japanese, and started testing me. They also kept handing me books. Books that creaked open and had cobwebs holding them together. Now, mind you that even when I was pretty fluent, I could only read about 1000 kanji (which is only about a fifth grade level I believe) so these library books would have been beyond my capabilities even then. But, out of respect for my insistent friends I struggled through reading and conversing in a language no longer comfortable for me.
What does this dream mean? It could simply be a reaction to the beginning of a long overdue e-mail conversation with one of my best friends in this world who still lives in Japan. Or, maybe it is my subconscious telling me to pull out the dusty books of educational desire and start embracing learning for learnings sake again. I didn’t study Japanese because I had to (there were plenty of gaijin who got through their time in Japan speaking as few phrases as possible). I did it because I love learning, I love language, and I love words. So, maybe my next step involves dusting off some old dreams and pursuing something new. Suggestions, anyone?