A person’s verbalization of time appears to differ based on language. Here are some examples:

  • English speakers tend to use horizontal spatial metaphors for times (e.g., this time is ahead of us, that time is behind us)
  • Mandarin speakers tend to use vertical metaphors for time (e.g., next month is the “down month,” last month is the “up month”)
  • English speakers talk about duration of time in terms of length (e.g., that was a short talk, the meeting didn’t take long)
  • Spanish and Greek speakers are more likely to talk about duration of time in terms of amount (e.g., use words such as much, big, and little rather than “short and “long”)

Interestingly enough, when English speakers were taught to use different ways in which to speak of time, for example using size metaphors as in Greek to describe duration )e.g., a movie is larger than a sneeze), their cognitive performance began to resemble that of Greek or Mandarin speakers. Refer to Practical Applications, Cultural Neuroscience for additional information. (Max Brockman, Editor. What’s Next? Dispatches on the Future of Science. p 118-123. NY: Vintage Books, 2009.)