CONTRIBUTED BY KATHERINE MOORE
Counting in Japanese is easier than you think. You can actually count up to 99 by just memorizing the first 10 numbers. So here is how it goes:
FourShi or Yon
Seven Nana or Shichi
Once you memorized these 10 numbers, all you have to do is combine them to move on to 11. For example,
• 11 is a 10 and 1, so that will be ju-ichi.
• 21 is two 10’s and 1, so that will be ni-ju-ichi.
• 40, use yon-ju, shi-ju is incorrect.
• 70, use nana-ju, shichi-ju is incorrect.
For the 1’s place, you can use both yon and shi for 4, and nana and shichi for 7. For example, saying san-ju-yon and san-ju-shi are both correct. To minimize making mistakes, you can always use yon for 4 and nana for seven. Shi for 4 and shichi for 7 have limited use. After you have completed your numbering up to 99, all you have to say is hyaku for 100.
I also wanted to teach you a few common counters. These are words you use right after saying the number to indicate the thing you are counting. For instance, instead of saying, “I’m 27.” You correctly say, “I’m 27 years old.” The years old-part is like the counter.
Hon – for long, cylindrical objects, for example: pens, chopsticks: ni-hon
Mai – for flat, thin objects, for example: papers, plates: ichi-mai
Ko – (most useful counter) small objects, for example: fruits, toys: san-ko
Hai – for liquid in glasses, cups, bowls, etc., for example: soda, soup: ni-hai
Ji (jee) – o’clock, for example: san-ji (3 o’clock)
Fun (foon) – minutes, for example: go-fun (5 minutes)
Gogo – for p.m.
Go-zen – for a.m.
So, to say 3:05pm, it is gozen, san-ji, go-fun.
Kai – times, for example: nana-kai (7 times)
Ban – ordinal numbers, for example: ni-ban (either second place or number 2)
Nin (neen) – counting people, for example: go-nin (5 people)
Sai – (very important!) age, for example: ni-ju-sai (20 years old)
There are many more rules in using numbers and counters, but if you take the time to learn the above, you will get your meaning across. Japanese people will probably be impressed that you didn’t just use your fingers or just say the number itself with no counters. Remember, it is okay to have a cheat sheet — if you have those 10 and the counters, you are good to go up to 99!