JAN 08, 2019 7:05 AM PST

How bilingualism affects your sense of time

Research shows that bilingual brains work differently than monolingual brains. Even more fascinating, studies have also shown that depending on the languages you speak, your brain activates differently in comparison to people who speak other languages. One such way this comes into play is how speakers of different languages perceive time. Because every language has its particular vocabulary for organizing the world - i.e. time, sense of directions, relationships to each other - it makes sense that people who speak different languages might perceive time differently (a fact that you've likely noticed if you've ever traveled to a different country or culture!). 

In general, there are two types of ways to express time across all languages: distance and volume. English and Swedish, for example, express time using distance. You could say you need "a short break" or you have "a long time" before you need to leave. But in Spanish and Greek, for instance, volume is used to express time (in these languages you would say "a small break" or "a big time"). And it turns out, these small differences affect how we view the passage of time - something that is itself independent of our perceptions. Want to find out how? Watch the video!

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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