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29 June 2006 @ 08:57 pm
Can you count in japanese?  
I didn't take this picture, actually....One of the things that I learned the fastest in Japanese was how to count. Every time I went shopping, I heard some insanely large number quoted back to me as my total, and even though I actually never studied numbers, I soon could count up to the millions with ease! But in Japan, there is counting, and there is counting things.. It really, really seems as if knowing numbers is almost useless here, because almost nothing is counted with numbers, it is counted with counting systems.

Those who study japanese know what I'm talking about, and those who live in Japan know what a bane it is. Confusing and perplexing, and never, never what you think it will be. Japan has a system of counting for almost everything, and the rules are pretty strict. For example, two is "ni." Two people are "futari." Two photos are "ni-mai". The second day is "futsuka". Two books are "nisatsu". The thing that eludes me is that if you use the wrong one, most japanese people will look at you as if they don't understand. This happens OFTEN. Very very very often. To me, two is two is two. But it doesn't seem to be that way in Japanese, and it's so hard to understand why people just can't understand that we want two of something.. o.o;;

For instance, I have always wondered, "how do you order hamburgers?" I don't know which counting system to use. For example, do I say "ni-mai" or "futatsu" or something else? I've heard both used. I asked a japanese friend this last week, and he told me that either of those was correct. So today, I went to get two cheeseburgers from McDonald's, and said, "cheeseburger o futatsu". The waitress stared at me like I was brain-dead. So, feeling self-conscious, I thought she hadn't understood my "cheeseburger" (because, oh, it sure sounds a lot like big-mac or potatoes. yeah.....), so I said it again, reading the menu exactly in katakana, "CHIIZUBAAGAA o futatsu."

She still looked at me like I was brain-dead, then suddenly I saw the lightbulb go on in her head, and she said, "Cheeseburger o nikko?"

Um. I responded yes, but felt seriously like something was wrong. I don't understand. I have ordered cheeseburgers 8000 times in Japan at this same McDonalds, and while for some reason they always don't want to understand me, they have ALWAYS used one of the two counting systems that I mentioned above. I've never heard this before in reference to cheeseburgers, and I have no idea why when I said what I say every time I go to McDonalds, she could not understand.

I mean.. what? I just wanted two cheeseburgers. Next time, I guess I should just say "two cheeseburgers, kudasai" and see what happens? o.o;;;;;;;;
r j00 teh nwe pimp l0rdz?: my 3 favesryoko293 on June 29th, 2006 12:05 pm (UTC)
when do I feel scared and unsure all of a sudden if I'll be able to oder ANY KIND OF FOOD there *sweat*
Koko: bang you're outclarinetkoko on June 29th, 2006 12:20 pm (UTC)
Yeah, Japan's counting system is so complicated. ~_~ Personally, though, I've never heard of cheeseburgers being counted as 'ni-mai'. I always say 'niko', but then again, since I'm bad at counting stuff I always use 'ko'. XD; 'Futatsu' is correct, though, I think. Maybe the waitress thought you were saying something in English when you asked for two cheeseburgers in Japanese? I think that Japanese people have this biased belief that foreigners cannot speak Japanese. Like how if foreigners ask a question to a Japanese person in Japanese, the Japanese always tries to answer back in Engrish. XD;
Hi-chan (火ちゃん)hinoai on June 29th, 2006 12:27 pm (UTC)
Yeah that whole thing where japanese people don't understand you because they expect you to speak english is annoying. It's like, here I am making a humongous effort to speak to you in japanese, and you're not even listening right. X.x;;;;

That's so weird, I've never heard anyone use "ko" before. Always, they use "mai" or "futatsu" when speaking back to mein this McDonalds at least. Ahhhhh so confusing! I just can't understand why even if I don't use the counting system that they are expecting, they can't understand. Two is two. I mean, "futatsu" is the exact same number as "ni-mai" so.. argh! X.x
(no subject) - clarinetkoko on June 29th, 2006 12:41 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - isachi on June 29th, 2006 10:19 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mizukiaya on June 29th, 2006 12:57 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shiroro on June 29th, 2006 04:34 pm (UTC) (Expand)
thenefariouslee on June 29th, 2006 12:25 pm (UTC)
I'm studying Japanese right now, and the counters scare me like whoa. I'd thought that the "[item] wo [number]tsu" was the catchall version. Your hamburger experience has opened my eyes... O_O

The vagueness of the counter categories doesn't help. "Round, flat objects?" "Skinny items?" Give me a break. >_>
mizukiayamizukiaya on June 29th, 2006 12:33 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the counters can be annoying. There are so many to remember.
I remember them and the differences most from using them so much. (Not to mention the Japanese exams in college.)
My tip is, when in doubt use the Japanese counters: hitotsu, futatsu, mittsu, etc. Those counters can be used for basically anything.

Like your friend said, futatsu is fine. And the way you said it was fine, too. Assuming your pronounciation was fine, sounds like the clerk may have just been flustered by the fact that you're a gaijin. I hate it when Japanese people get so caught up in the fact that youre a foreigner that they dont expect you to speak Japanese. And so when you do, they automatically act like they dont understand without having really listened. It's one of the most frustating parts about learning Japanese in JAPAN.
Anyhow, I really think it WAS the clerk. I've had an instance of the same thing where Im at like a conbini and I ask for something but the clerk doesnt even ask me to repeat or anything but instead panics and runs off to get a manager with whom I repeat what I had just said and the manager understands me perfectly and reprimands the clerk saying "What was the matter with you, she was speaking Japanese."

BTW, -ko is the counter for small things. It's a very handy counter. I used it just the other day when I ordered a shu cream (cream puff).^^
超ちゃ人: Threesome ^___^chochajin on June 29th, 2006 12:38 pm (UTC)
AHH XD I hate the Japanese counting systems !!! I will never manage to fully understand or learn it XDDDD~
美夢: RyoSaku : closer_miyuchan_ on June 29th, 2006 12:48 pm (UTC)
Futatsu was perfectly fine...that person just wanted to make you feel stupid..
Mattaku..I've never had problem ordering cheesburgers using that system..but it annoyes me to see the behaviour of that waitress..mou >_
ange: 殺ッangelamori on June 29th, 2006 01:33 pm (UTC)
I AGREE!!!!!!
dream_rainedream_raine on June 29th, 2006 12:58 pm (UTC)
maybe show sign language...?? ^^V
Katsu ★カツー☆(^▽^)katsu on June 29th, 2006 01:09 pm (UTC)
I also have major problems to distinguish when to use which counting system. >.< Makes my head hurt. ^^;
Fiammattafusakugyoku on June 29th, 2006 01:15 pm (UTC)
I guess you could hold up fingers...

Chinese is similar--with the counting systems and all. But I think it's much simpler still... (Darn Japanese and their multiple pronounciations!)
美夢: Jam *_*_miyuchan_ on June 29th, 2006 02:21 pm (UTC)
*enters in the conv for one second, gomeen*
....knowing both, I would say chinese is more difficukt tho, they have way more classificators^^;;;
angeangelamori on June 29th, 2006 01:32 pm (UTC)
well, my sensei tells me that when in doubt, use the 'hitotsu', 'futatsu' counters (since they're generally neutral)...
Hi-chan (火ちゃん)hinoai on June 29th, 2006 02:41 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I've heard the same thing! ^^ Stupid waitress tonight just wasn't up to par. No wonder that they had 5 people working the counter/cooking area (that I could see), even though there wasn't a single customer besides me inside the restaurant. X.x
(no subject) - angelamori on June 30th, 2006 02:57 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Yuntokkitsu on June 29th, 2006 01:35 pm (UTC)
Oh man, it sounds like Chinese, and how for different items, there are different counting terms. So confusing!
sailorstarsun: boogie-woogie //cashewsailorstarsun on June 29th, 2006 01:45 pm (UTC)
For some reason this reminds me of me and Mew in Japan, going "NihonGO wakaRImasen" in purposely bad white-person Japanese. XD I mean...not to actual Japanese people, just making fun of ourselves. ;P

But whenever I'm in Japan (I say like it happens all the time.. .^^* ) getting something, and I want more than one, I can usually get away with saying the thing (ie. "cheesburger"), then "demo! demo! ::holds up two fingers:: two?" They seem to understand that....though they're probably calling me a stupid gaijin in their minds... .^^*

Of course, I also understand you probably want to say it the correct way, since you live there and aren't just visiting. .^_^ And that's very commendable.
Hi-chan (火ちゃん)hinoai on June 29th, 2006 02:44 pm (UTC)
Ahhhh, even better, pronounce japanese with no stress at all, and people will just think it's because you're being a retarded foreigner who doesn't know japanese. Because all of the japanese teachers that I've ever had have said that there's no stress in japanese words, but they're wrong. There is definitely stress in japanese words (it's usually on the second syllable), but for some reason they all think that there isn't. It's so weird! wtf...

I am ganbarimasuing!! ^^ I want to say it the right way, that way it's the waitresses' fault for being stupid and not understanding me.
(no subject) - sailorstarsun on June 30th, 2006 03:46 am (UTC) (Expand)
Melissa D. Johnson: Pinoco - Master of Chopsticks!mippa on June 29th, 2006 01:51 pm (UTC)
It's the same way when I studied Chinese--different measurement words used for different types of things, like "zheng" for paper, "men" for people...@.@ I am pretty sure Japan borrowed all of their mathematical systems from the Chinese, so blame them! XD
バク: Tongari Porn { - Nice Tsubass - }shuyuki on June 29th, 2006 09:21 pm (UTC)
XDD Hey, hey. Ours ISN'T as confusing as Japanese. Honestly, sometimes Chinese measurements are confusing, but at least there aren't words for TWO of something(not that I can remember). XD I don't know why there are. ~__~;
(no subject) - mippa on June 29th, 2006 10:23 pm (UTC) (Expand)
debbinyadebbinya on June 29th, 2006 02:12 pm (UTC)
*laughs* that sounds crazy. Japanese must be one of the most complicated languages in the world.
Cherprudence: How Ood...un_voyage_cher on June 29th, 2006 04:14 pm (UTC)
I love that Japanese is so complicated and has too many counters so that even JAPANESE PEOPLE cant understand it XDDDD