As a young adult, I spent two years learning Arabic. Unfortunately, I remember very little of it now. And mostly, I spent my time learning writing English names in Arabic script. But I still find myself speaking about the striking difference in language structure when it comes to talking about time.
In English, French and Spanish, we have different tenses to indicate whether an action is occurring in the future, the present, the past, or the distant past. In Arabic, the verb structure only really tells you whether an action is complete or incomplete – you need the context of the sentence to understand the action’s timing. It’s almost as though the Western mind is geared toward a type of legal precision, while the Middle Eastern mind is more relaxed about the timing specifics*.
*Although that may just be some confirmation bias on my part.
But it’s something that I still think about. Then I found this youtube clip:
Here are some older posts about bilinguilism and time perception:
- In a manner of speaking. It’s about how thinking in a foreign language actually makes you more rational. So perhaps we should all make important financial decisions in French. Unless you’re French.
- Time: It’s There For The Taking. This post was a little poetic. But the point is that our perception of time is within our control.
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