After a recent email from Bill W5WMB about his progress in learning Morse code and how he was starting to copy in his head, I realised that the subject of copying Morse code in your head needed a bit of coverage to avoid any misconception about it and not to try and do it too early in the learning process.
Most experienced CW operators copy most of the QSO in their head and only write down the relevant parts of the standard contact RST, Name and QTH. When you are skilled enough to do this, all of a sudden CW becomes even more enjoyable and suddenly you are talking to people using CW without really thinking about it. You should find it quite easy to follow a basic QSO without writing it all down as it is usually sent in a standard defined format.
Before you think about copying Morse Code on your head, you should be competent at copying CW speeds at about 15 words per minute with no problems. If you have to think about the Morse characters then you are going to find it very hard to try and read it i your head as you will have an even longer thinking time and remember that reading Morse code should be a reflex action to gain any sort of competence.
One of the hardest things to do is to find enough confidence to throw away your pencil but when you have done it, the Morse experience becomes even more pleasurable but don’t try it to early in the learning process.