Bilingual people perceive time differently

Bilingual people perceive time differently

Learning a new language is like learning to look at the world from another angle. It is known that the language we can speak and understand directly affects the way we experience the world. Based on the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, who defended this view, researchers conducted a scientific study on bilingual people and revealed that the language we speak also affects our perception of time.

The research, published in the ‘Journal of Experimental Psychology: General’ in 2017, was conducted by Panos Athanasopoulos from Lancaster University and Emanuel Bylund from Stockholm University. The researchers asked bilingual subjects, who spoke Spanish and Swedish, to watch a growing line on the screen and with it filling a bowl with water. Participants had to guess how much time had passed during this time.

For this, the participants were asked first how long it could have been in Spanish, then the experiment was repeated by asking in Swedish. When asked in Spanish, the subjects made their time estimates based on how full the container was. They perceived time in direct proportion to physical occupancy and were not affected by the progression of the line on the screen. When asked in Swedish, they predicted the time on the line’s progression and were not concerned about how full the containers were.

This is because, in Spanish, adjectives expressing time express physical characteristics (such as a big break, a small activity); In Swedish it was the expression of time with distance adjectives (like taking a long break, a short activity.)

“When we learn a new language, we adapt to perceptual dimensions that we did not know before,” says Professor Athanasopoulos. “Just as being bilingual affects the way we unconsciously predict time; It directly affects our emotions and visual perceptions. “

According to the researchers, language, which affects our perception of what is happening around us, also affects our flexible thinking capacity. Bilingual people are better able to see from different perspectives as they mentally move between different languages ​​in their daily lives, and in the long run, they have various mental benefits.


“Bilinguals perceive time differently​, study finds”. Şuradan alındı: (04.09.2019)

Bylund, Emanuel,Athanasopoulos, Panos. “The Whorfian time warp: Representing duration through the language hourglass”. Şuradan alındı: (2017)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *