Different languages often refer to time differently. It is interesting when to understand how a language forms the concept of time, and knowing various different languages, then, permits to understand time with different perspectives at the same time. Time passes differently to bilinguals than to monolinguals.
In English language, time is mostly related to length. We say ‘how long have you lived there?’, ‘long time no see!’, ‘let’s take a short break’ and etc. When to refer to time, we imagine a line of point A and B, and the development of time is the line between the two points. The longer the line becomes, the more we perceive the time.
In Spanish language, time is mostly related to volume. The common expressions go: ‘cuánto tiempo has vivido allá(how much time have you lived there)’, ‘qué mucho tiempo sin verte(how much time we haven’t seen each other!), ‘tomemos una pequeña pausa(let’s take a small break)’ and etc. When to refer to time, we imagine a box that is being filled, and the development of time is the quantity that fills the box. The more quantity the box fills, the more we perceive the time.
In Korean language, time is mostly related to velocity. As modern Korean culture is known as ‘pali pali(빨리 빨리)’ culture, of which literal meaning is ‘quicker and faster’, Korean language speakers happen to perceive time with its velocity. ‘우리 안 본지가 벌써 그렇게 됐나?(it’s been already such that we haven’t seen each other?)’, ‘잠깐 쉴까요?(let’s take a quick break)’, ‘이번 휴가도 순식간에 지나가네(this vacation passes as an eye blink)’ and etc. When to refer to time, we imagine a spinning clock whose hands are running. The faster the hands run, the more we perceive the time.
I exemplified those three languages above, since those are three languages that I dominate even in thoughts and dreams. As so, I realised that how I perceive time is different than that of other monolinguals. This gives a flexibility on thinking, permitting myself going back and forth different languages effortlessly and unconsciously with different dimensions of time. But at the same time, it gives me blurred answer when one asks; how long have you lived in Argentina? I answer; An instance? I feel like I arrived to Buenos Aires yesterday. Yes, it happens when a English monolingual asks me with the concept of time in length, and my answer is with the concept of time in velocity, for example.
It is still getting more interesting to think in Chinese language, so far as I’ve perceived, there is no time concept in the very language. In Chinese language, people say ‘明天下雨(it rain tomorrow)’, instead of saying ‘it will rain tomorrow(or it rains tomorrow)’ as in English form. They indicate the future with the possibility(会) of action happening, and the past with the termination(了) of action. Unlike other languages there is no conjugation of Chinese verb differentiating by time tension. (I know basic Chinese, but it’s not one of my dominating languages, which I’d like it to be one in near future.)
I thought about these different dimensions of time, and I felt glad and proud that each language is helping me to have different points of view toward time perception; which makes me conclude that each of these languages are important and unique to me. Thanks to these languages, it wouldn’t be arrogant for me to say that I’ve lived much, I’ve lived running quickly and I’ve lived long enough. Even with Chinese language I’d be able to say; I live, no matter how you perceive time differently to mine.
Will there be any comparative literature study in those languages which perceive and form time differently? It would be interesting to read and analyse.
How other languages would perceive time, then?