The difficulties that children have in thinking about time concepts may result from the complexity of time as a concept, but also reflect the idiosyncrasies of particular calendar systems. Previous investigation into children's acquisition of time concepts has shown that Chinese children outperform English children in using the days of the month (DOW) and the months of the year (MOY) - a result explained by the fact that Chinese encodes the DOW and the MOY using a numerical system (Monday is "weekday one," January is "month one," etc.), while English uses arbitrary names. These studies claim that the use of number terms facilitates the early mastery of time concepts. However, their results could be alternatively attributed to cultural and educational factors that differ between the two language groups. Korean, as a "hybrid" language that has both numerical and arbitrary time words, serves as a perfect candidate in testing if numerical transparency of time words truly affects children's acquisition of time concepts. The Korean MOY system is like Chinese in being numerical, but Korean's DOW system is like English in being arbitrary. Fifty Korean children between the ages of three and seven participated in the experiment. Each child first was shown a set of 7 and 12 picture cards, describing cartoon characters' weekly/annual activities. They were then asked questions with five levels of complexity to assess what level of mastery they had attained in comprehending and using time terms. Results show that Korean children have better performance in MOY test than in DOW test for each age group. A repeated measures ANOVA, with Age as a categorical within-subject factor and Test-type as a between-subject factor, showed a main effect of Test-type, F(1,45) = 9.656, p < 0.001, confirming the observation that Korean children generally scored higher in the MOY test.
Patra Vlachopanou, University of Essex, United Kingdom
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