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Counting From 1 To 10 In Japanese Is Deeper Than You Think — 16 Comments

  1. I count using pattern 2. But I actually have heard a lot more often native speakers counting using pattern 1. I think foreigners, except for in karate classes, are taught pattern 2 way more often because they are told し and しち are “taboo”. It’s a good lesson on culture at least because し is used as a cultural reference in media. But I think it’s overdone.

    I teach kids pattern 2 as well. Just to be different from what kids learn in karate (^_^) I’m also slooowly teaching counters. We’ve learned ひとつ and ふたつ so far and they are still struggling with that (they always guess number two is ふとつ). I teach older kids both patterns.

    • It’s kind of strange that foreigners are more often taught pattern 2 because of the 死 taboo even though Japanese use pattern 1 more.

      While it may not exactly apply to this, it kind of reminds me of sometimes when teachers with good intentions try to teach Japanese the way it should be, instead of the way it is (which they don’t like).

  2. Ive learned both at the same time really, in the page I had read about that, they showed both at once because they can both be used, I was so confused as to why there was 2 ways haha

    • Yea usually they are taught at the same time, and I felt the same way.

      That “why?!” can linger a bit.

  3. I actually tend towards a mix: いち、に、さん、し、ご、ろく、なな、はち、きゅう、じゅう. I think I picked it up from a 実況プレイ video. It sounds the most natural to me. If I had to choose, I think I’d opt with pattern 2 though.

    • Yea I know plenty of people who mix it too. It eventually becomes so natural to you that when you hear it a different way it stands out.

  4. My husband just mentioned the theory about counting backwards! He thinks it might be because it’s easier to say “nana” after “hachi” and “shichi” after “roku”.

    He counts with pattern 1. He thinks he would also do pattern 1 for counting backwards.

    • Interesting. If you say it out loud it is easier to say nana after hachi so that sounds about right to me.

  5. I learned to count to 10 in my karate class when I was 5, and we used “shi” and then “nana.” I think “shichi” and “hachi” sound too similar to be used right after each other anyway. I use “yon” when I’m just using the number four though (not when counting through, but if I’m, say, giving my phone number), as I try to avoid saying 死.

  6. There’s also pattern 3 「ひ、ふ、み、よ、いつ、む、なな、や、ここ、とお」 though it’s nowhere as common as the other 2.

    I remember hearing it in an episode of 古畑任三郎 as well as one of the Trick movies.

    • Thanks for bringing that up! I completely forgot to mention that. And yes I remember that is the way 上田次郎 from Trick counts (I think he does it a few times throughout the series). And what 上田次郎 does is good for anyone.

  7. I always use pattern one, and I think it’s because when I went to high school in Japan as an exchange student, we always used the first one for gym class stretching (which if you’ve ever heard them count for stretching, it’s really funny and sounds rather cult-like “ich! ni! san! shi! go-rok-shich-hach”). It was rare to hear any native Japanese use pattern two.

    • And I think the same goes for the standard ラジオ体操. Maybe pattern 1 has more power in it for exercise.

  8. Just to add: in the traditional linguistic sense, when counting from one to ten, numbers have two morae: いち にい さん しい ごお ろく しち はち きゅう じゅう.

  9. I’ve always done it like いち に さん し ご ろく なな はち きゅう じゅう

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