How I remember big numbers in Japanese

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In Japanese, Chinese, and I assume many other Asian languages, big numbers can be hard to say.

The next big number after 1,000 is 10,000, so it’s a one ten thousand. Next is ten ten thousands for 100,000, one hundred ten thousands for 1,000,000, one thousand ten thousands for 10,000,000, and then they have a word for 100,000,000.

So, it can be very confusing to go between the two languages, especially when interpreting because you have to really think on your toes.

I thought I’d share a technique I use to help those who are struggling.

For each large number, I associate it with something personal I can remember. For example, I remember that New Zealand has a population of 5 million. All I do is remember that number in Japanese, and I can more easily go between the two languages. (hyaku man in Japanese).

Then, I remember the number of sheep in New Zealand (typical kiwi), which is about 25million, or ni sen go hyakuman in Japanese. So ten million is sen man.

For 100 million, thats easy. Japan’s population is 126 million (probably less now), so I can easily remember that number (ichi oku ni sen roppyaku man).

Then I also remember the price of a house, which is also in the 10s of millions of yen in Japan, or sen man. And oku yen (100,000,000 yen or about 1 million dollars) is easy to remember for when I do indeed become a millionaire.

That’s it! Try it if you struggle with big numbers like I did!

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