68. Cultural differences in Time

Different cultural groups interpret the concept of "TIME" differently. Time concepts like "being on time," "time to go," "dinner or lunch time," "time running out," "nap time," "killing time," "wasting time," etc., cannot be translated literally into other languages because the cultural groups that speak these other languages have totally different perceptions of the meaning of "time." Measurements of time, like "a minute," "a second," "a long time," etc., mean different things for different cultural groups.

For example, the "siesta" or nap time, is a totally unknown concept in the United States. People work from morning to late afternoon with only a very short time for lunch in between. (Unfortunately, because there is no "siesta" time, most accidents in the United States tend to occur AFTER lunch, when people are naturally sleepy after a long working morning.) In many Spanish-speaking countries, people work in the morning, then return home for lunch and a nap, and late in the afternoon return to work until dinner time, which is usually late into the evening, around 9 PM. Life is organized around a totally different conception of "time" in Spanish-speaking countries, although modernization and the global economy seem to be changing that.

Arriving "on time" may mean different things to people from different countries. In the United States "on time" means at the exact time agreed upon. For many other cultures, "on time" means "whenever you can" rather than "at exactly the time agreed upon."

Recently, a group of teachers from Arizona visited and worked in Australia as exchange teachers. They were very disturbed on the first day of school when their Australian colleagues did not show up "on time" for the opening of the school day. The students did NOT show up "on time" either. The main reason for this situation was that the school had no time bell – No bell rang to "begin" the day, nor for recess, or lunch, or to dismiss the students at the end of the day. Teachers and students just "arrived," worked, went to recess, had lunch, and teachers dismissed students at their "own" time, but no one kept a bell ringing to tell everyone what to do!!!

For students who have a concept of "time" different from "our" concept of time, school routines may make no sense at all, and consequently, they show no concern for arriving on time, keeping to a schedule of classes, or leaving school at a certain time. In some cultures, so long as you want to stay, you stay. Why change classes when you like the class you are in?

"Time," as Americans understand this concept, MUST BE TAUGHT to many students from many other cultural backgrounds that have a totally different perception of "time." Teachers need to observe how students from other cultures react to the time constraints that are meaningful to Americans, for example, due dates for homework assignments. Lack of understanding may result in very serious miscommunications between teacher and students, or teacher and students’ parents.


For more in-depth information, classroom demonstrations, and "coaching" of new and/or experienced teachers, Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK offers:

1. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
2. Cross Cultural Diversity - Multicultural Strategies
3. Effective Instruction for English Learners (L.E.P. students) Parts 1, 2, 3, 4
4. Promoting Academic Success in Language Minority Students
5. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
6. Oral Language / Literacy Skills / Higher Order Thinking Skills
7. 50/50 Dual Language Programs: design, planning and implementation
8. The Structure of English / The Structure of Spanish
9. Transition: Introduction to English Reading

Web Site Programs for Teachers: Numbers 1, 5, 7, 8, and 9.
Web Site Programs for
Paraprofessionals: Number 3.
Web Site Programs for
New Teachers:
Enhanced Cultural Sensitivity - The Challenge of Students Diversity
Identifying / Responding to Students' Language Needs
Phonemic Awareness: Teaching English phonics to L.E.P. students
Relationship Between Reading, Writing and Spelling
Improving Reading Performance -- Building Oral Language Skills)

Write and e-mail any additional questions you may have, and Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will establish with you, your school or district a Technical Assistance Service Contract. Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will answer all your questions promptly and to your satisfaction.


For information and credentials please click on the link below or contact directly:


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