What is one of the absolute first things you learn when studying a foreign language?
That’s right. Numbers.
I learned to count in Spanish. Easy. I learned to count in German. Easy.
I learned to count in Japanese…
ichi, ni, san, shi, go, roku, shichi, hachi, kyu, jyu
But wait!…there’s more.
You know how in English when you count something you simply say the number and then whatever the item you are counting? For example: Three apples. (ah, ah, ah, ah!)
Then there is Japanese counting. In short, it’s a nightmare. If The Count from Sesame Street existed in Japan-he would be insane.
There is a different way to counting everything. How can that be, you ask?
I’ll give you an example: You are at a restaurant. You order some yakitori. (delicious) Instinct says, “四やきとりおねがします。” (yon yakitori onegashimasu-Four yakitori please.) But no. What you should say is, “やきとり四本おねがします。” (yakitori yonhon onegashimasu-Four yakitori please.)
Explanation: Because of the shape of yakitori, you have to use the counter for cylindrical objects. One is “ee pone,” two “ni hone,” three “san bone,” four “yon hone,” five “go hone,” six “rope pone,” seven “nana hone.” Etc.
There are different counters for flat things, people, small animals, big animals, machines, etc. etc. etc.
The list is endless.