Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Japanese Numbers

I don’t know how Japanese children ever learn numbers, let alone learn to count.

The year is 2013, but Japan has a secret code for years.  This is the year 25 in Japan.  I think it has to do with the Emperor and the year of his being the emperor, but I’m not totally sure about that.  1950, was also year 25, so I don’t know how they keep it straight.

Time is usually told in what I would call military time – 24 hours instead of two 12’s.  If you want to meet someone at 8:00 pm, it’s best to say 20:00 not 8:00, which means eight in the morning.  If you learn 24 hour time to start with you are probably better off.  I’m always trying to subtract 12 from all the numbers over 13 to see what time it is.

Likewise, metrics are probably best learned rather than trying to convert them all the time. Fabric is sold by the meter or you can get cuts of 10 cm or more.  I have no idea what the equivalent of a fat quarter is.  I can figure out distance without a lot of trouble because running races are usually measured in kilometers, such as a 10K is 6.2 miles.  I don’t try to convert temperature, though. I have a centigrade to Fahrenheit chart in my kitchen. If someone tells me they were sick and had a fever of 39, I have no idea if that’s normal or bad. In the summer it sometimes gets as hot as 27 or 28 here. It doesn’t sound very hot does it?

Counting things in Japanese is the real problem for me. The ending of the number depends on what it is you are counting. (Plus there are irregular number words on top of the endings).  If the thing you are counting is a flat thing, like a paper of a leaf, the ending is mai. If the thing is long and skinny, like an umbrella or a pen, the ending is either pon, hon, or bon.  A cup of coffee is pai, hai, or bai, depending on how many. The ending for number of people is nin. There are word endings for small things, for age, for time, for machines, for little animals, for every different thing! By the time I figure all of this out, I’ll be too old to count anything.

I carry this around where ever I go and have managed to work on it quite a bit.  I’ve been making it up as I go along and I’m very happy with how it is turning out.  I really like the little pulled stitches in the diamonds, but please don’t ask me to count how many there are.

1 comment:

  1. I had to giggle at your description of Japanese counting as I remember being utterly bamboozled myself! I had less problem with the centigrade and centimetres as NZ is metric. Have a good day.