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Japanese Journey 八 — Numbers, Counters

If you have learnt numbers in Chinese language, you will master numbers in Japanese language faster. The reason is that both languages use the same concepts: counting units change every four digits and the use of counters (quantifiers in Chinese language). The difference is the pronunciation. There is irregular pronunciation in Japanese language.

Let’s go to numbers starting from one hundred.

百 (ひゃく) — 100

千 (せん) — 1000

万 (まん) — 10000

Counting units change every four digits

10,000 is ten thousand in Western countries, but Japanese language has a name for the unit: 万. Thus, 100,000 is one hundred thousand in Western countries, but it is 十万 (ten 万) in Japanese language.

The use of counters

English language: two books

Chinese language: 两

Japanese language: 二本, where 二 = 2, 冊 = the counter for book and 本 = book

Just like Chinese language, you need to keep learning so that you can get yourself familiar with the use of counters.

Lesson learnt

1. Do revision.

2. Keep learning.

Next lesson here


When you hear your 6-year-old child says: “我有二个书包。”, do not panic. It is a common mistake for young children for not differentiating “二” and “两”.

The reason is simple, the usage of “二” and “两” depends on whether you are using it with 量词 or not and 量词 is a concept in Chinese Language that does not have an exact equivalent concept in English.

二 is used for numbers, for examples:

  1. 二十四 = 24 (整数 = whole number)
  2. 二百三十五 = 235 (整数 = whole number)
  3. 一点二 = 1.2 (小数点 = decimal point)
  4. 二哥 = the second brother
  5. 第二名 = the second prize

两 is used with 量词, for examples:

  1. 两支铅笔 = two pencils
  2. 两只老虎 = two tigers
  3. 两个二哥 = two second brothers

两 is also an old unit of weight measurement. Though we do not commonly use 两 as unit of weight measurement now, but we may read it in books or the list of Chinese medicines.

The famous 成语 that uses 两 as a unit of weight measurement is 半斤八两, which means two people or things that are the same or similar. It is because in old times, 半斤 is the same weight as 八两, only in different unit of weight measurement.

With the examples above, hopefully you know when to use 二 and when to use 两. Happy learning!

Prelude 序幕

Let’s start with something fun: Why don’t aliens eat clowns?

Because they taste funny.

It’s a joke, but there is someone who claimed to have done his PhD on this topic (Source: blackhat-lounge). What can we say, some people are just too serious? No, jokes teach us something, depending on how we look at them.

Another one: Why is six afraid of seven?

Because seven eight nine.

It’s a silly joke, you bet. But, I use this joke to teach young children phonics and numbers. Guess what? They learn fast and remember better than anything else. I also use Candy Crush Saga to teach colours.