Ahh the basics. Basics beyond basics. It brings you back to your first textbook. The numbers 1-10. The building blocks of all other numbers. Gotta learn those. And this is usually that blissful number phase before you learn what a number counter is, and the world of number pain you are in store for.
So you learn how to count.
Yes, there are two ways to do something as simple as counting from 1 to 10. 4 can be よん or し. 7 can be なな or しち.
At least it’s only 2? Well, 9 can actually be きゅう or く, and depending on where a person learns, there can be a bit of a mix and match with these variations.
This wasn’t a satisfactory answer enough for me, as there are often a lot of ways to say certain things, usually with one slightly clearer winner. Time for some important life changing number research.
And here’s what I’ve found about 1-10 (based on multiple Japanese opinions and discussions about the subject on the Internet).
1. Japanese people often want to know which one is more “correct.” Most likely they want to teach their young children, they remember how they were taught, but have some slight doubt due to the ambiguity of the matter.
2. There really is no “correct” or “standard” way (at least that I could find.)
3. When counting, if someone uses し for 4, they most likely will use しち for 7. And the reverse, if he uses よん for 4, he will most likely use なな for 7. So they act as pairs.
4. きゅう for 9 is almost always more common than く.
5. There is a theory that when counting forward, pattern one is used, and when counting backwards, pattern two should be used.
6. Depending on who you ask, they will tell you there is a more correct or common way.
The ultimate answer?
There is none. When I learned counting, I actually started with pattern 2, but from personal experience I “thought” I saw pattern 1 a lot more, so switched to that about a year into learning Japanese.
How do you do it?
How do you count from 1-10? What have you heard is more correct or proper? Let’s see if we can get some stats on this and maybe find out the most common way foreigners count.
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