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Counting in Japanese: ICHI NI SAN

Updated on February 14, 2016

Basic Counting in Japanese

In this lens, we will study numbers in Japanese. When I lived in Japan, one of the strategies I used to become fluent was to count to a certain number, and then count backwards. At first, it started with counting from one to ten, and once that was mastered, I went from one to one hundred and then backwards. Once that was mastered, I counted from one to one thousand backwards. Yes, it sounds tedious, but the work paid off. I can easily count, add, give change, give directions, ask for addresses, and use or do anything that requires numbers without even thinking about it. Numbers became routine and easy.

Studying Numbers in Japanese

-  Study Strategem                                

1 – ichi

2 – ni

3 – san


4 – shi, yon

5 – go

6 - roku

7 –shichi, nana

8 – hachi, ha

9 – kyu, ku

10 – ju, to

11 – ju ichi

12 – ju ni

13 – ju san    then (14-19 etc.) 

20 –ni ju

21 – ni ju ichi

22 – ni ju ni

30 – san ju

31 - san ju ichi

95 – kyu ju go

99 – kyu ju kyu

100 – hyaku

101 – hyaku ichi

108 – hyaku hachi

197 – hyaku kyu ju nana (shichi)

200 – ni hyaku

300 – sam byaku

400 – yon hyaku

500 –go hyaku

600 – roppyaku

700 – nanahyaku

800 – happyaku

900 – kyuhyaku

1000 – sen

1001 – sen ichi

2000 ni sen, etc

Counting Strategies

Counting Strategies

Some numbers seemed for some reason or another harder than the others, so I would concentrate more on the hard ones. I don’t think I tried 11’s.  The more your mouth and brain coordinate all their efforts in the target language, the more accustomed the muscles of the lips, teeth and tongue will be to this foreign language. 

Keep practicing until you can say all the numbers smoothly and without hesitation. Always practice with correct pronunciation. When practicing your speech start slowly and make sure you enunciate your vocabulary as close to a native as you can correctly. Anything you can say slowly you can say quickly.

1. Count from zero to 1 million then count backwards once you arrive at 1 million, counting from 1 million to zero. If 1 million seems tough, it would be o.k. to go as far as you can, but maybe stretch yourself a little, a least 99,000 or something. You want to get good don’t you? Setting language goals of your target language helps you achieve them.

2. Count up the odd numbers from 0 to 1 million

3. Count up the even numbers from 0 to 1 million

4. Do #2 and #3 counting back to zero from 1 million

5. Count in multiples, and multiples of numbers by 3’s, 4’s 5’s etc for example for the 3's it would be 3,6,9,12,15,18,21,24,27. For the 2's it would be 2,4,6,8 who do we appreciate! etc.

6. Do long division by saying out loud the problem in Japanese. An example of this would be 8 / 2 = 4, or hachi waru ni ekoru (=) yon.

Here are some handy math related Japanese word to help you in your vocabulary building endeavors:

To add – tasu

To subtract – hiku

To multiply -kakeru

To divide – waru

ex.  8 x 8 = 16 hachi kake hachi wa ju roku desu or 8 times 8 is 16. or you could say hachi kake hachi ekoru juroku desu.

Being able to think in terms of numbers in a different language doesn't sink into your psyche until you’ve actually recited the numbers from zero to one million (1,000,000) a couple of times, using the above suggestions, easily  without hesitation. Eventually you will get to the point where you can count in another language without even blinking an eye.

One of the secrets of fluency sprouts from the ability to think in the target language. If you catch yourself thinking in the target language you are on the road to SL2 mastery if that; if you catch yourself dreaming in the target language you have reached an even better signpost, keep practicing you have still much to learn. Heading towards fluency one might get to a point where the dreams they see would be in Japanese and it didn’t matter who or what type of people were in the dreams, everybody spoke  Japanese.  The more one thinks in the target language the more apt they are to acquire the skills necessary to use it conversationally. 

There isn't a fast and easy road to fluency. It takes hard work, goal-oriented study, persistent practice and an iron will coupled with an abundance of motivation to excel in a second language. Those who persevere will be well rewarded in their endeavors.

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