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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;;;;;;;;
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
Koko: humphclarinetkoko on June 29th, 2006 12:41 pm (UTC)
But then again, it seems to go the other way around too. My mom was mad today about how the new Mexican English teacher at my little sister's English class was acting as if all the Japanese mother's couldn't speak English at all. I guess everyone thinks that you can only speak one language fluently. ~_~

Really? 'ko' is really used a lot and useful, I think. みかんが二個とか?
None of Your Bee's Wax lolisachi on June 29th, 2006 10:19 pm (UTC)
hehe just wait until it happens to you though. I had this funny incident in a post office because after 5 minutes of perfectly wonderful Japanese, the postman decided to be "nice" and use his English. I gave him completely blank stares until he switched back to Japanese XD XD XD Not cause his English was bad, just because I totally wasn't expecting it, so I'm standing there thinking he's using some SUPA SEKRET ULTRA Japanese vocab I haven't learned yet (or worse still HAVE learned but didn't remember :D)