Numbers

Japanese language uses two systems of counting. One of them is called Chinese system and the other is Japanese system. However, the majority of objects are counted with Chinese system because Japanese system is only available up to ten. When something is counted, the number is followed by a numerical classifier which depends on the object.

Cars are one of the simplest examples. They are counted with Chinese system and their classifier is ‘dai’. Therefore, it goes as ‘ichi-dai’, ‘ni-dai’, ‘san-dai’, and so on. Memorising how to say the numbers is the first step and classifiers are also important to count objects in Japanese. Another simplest example is flat sheets, which is counted as ‘ichi-mai’, ‘ni-mai’, ‘san-mai’. It is slightly more complex to count in Japanese than in English because of the classifiers.


Unfortunately, it is not only memorising the classifiers but also memorising the sounds. For example, books are counted with ‘satsu’ as their classifier and it goes as ‘is-satsu’, ‘ni-satsu’, ‘san-satsu’ where one book is not counted as ‘ichi-satsu’. One page is ‘ip-peeji’ and six pages is ‘rop-peeji’ instead of ‘ichi-peeji’ and ‘roku-peeji’. These are categorised to the group of objects that have sound changes in the number only.


As you can imagine, there is the group of objects that have sound changes both in the number and the classifier. A cup of coffee is ‘ip-pai’, two cups is ‘ni-hai’ and three cups is ‘san-bai’. In this case, ‘hai’ is the classifier and ‘ip-pai’ is used instead of ‘ichi-hai’.


Furthermore, some objects use Japanese system. People are counted as ‘hito-ri’, ‘futa-ri’, ‘san-nin’ and ‘yo-nin’. In this case, one and two use Japanese system but three and more use Chinese system. Although Japanese system has up to 10, it is usually used up to 4 to count objects.


Using two systems is already confusing for learners. The way Japanese counts objects is more confusing because of the changes of sounds. There is no shortcut to learn how to count in Japanese other than to memorise. One idea is to categorise the types so that organise your memory as written in this article.

By the way, we do not use ‘Juu’ nor ‘Too’ for ‘10’ in ‘Windows 10’. Instead, we use ‘ten’. However, ‘Windows 8.1’ is called with ‘hat-ten-ichi’.


Popular Posts