A joint study from Lancaster University and Stockholm University found that bilinguals think about time differently “depending on the language context in which they are estimating the duration of events.” And if you are bilingual, I bet you know exactly what they are talking about!

Linguists Professor Panos Athanasopoulos and Professor Emanuel Bylund who published their study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology explained that bilingual speakers often go back and forth between their languages- both consciously and unconsciously.


From the article:

“The researchers asked native Swedish speakers who also spoke Spanish to estimate how much time had passed while watching either a line growing across a screen or a container being filled. Participants were prompted to use the word ‘duracion’ (Spanish for duration) or ‘tid’ (the Swedish equivalent).

When prompted by Spanish words, bilinguals based their estimates on volume relating to a container being filled. When prompted by Swedish words they switched their behaviour and suddenly gave time estimates in distance, referring to the lines travelled, rather than volume.”

Athanasopoulos believes that this proves language is influenced by our emotions and perceptions more than we realize, “The fact that bilinguals go between these different ways of estimating time effortlessly and unconsciously fits in with a growing body of evidence demonstrating the ease with which language can creep into our most basic senses, including our emotions, visual perception, and now it turns out, sense of time.”

Fascinating. Are you bilingual? Do you recognize this in your own life? Our brain is a WONDER.

XO- Erin

Source: Independent