Guest Author - Inci Yilmazli
The very first thing you would learn in a foreign language no matter what language that is or whether you are actually learning or not, is to learn to count. In some languages it might be difficult to learn counting up to a hundred or thousand but in Chinese it’s easy! When you are done reading this article, you will be able to count up to ten and continue counting up to one hundred.
Here we go!
We will start with the numbers up to ten and the rest will be easy. The pronounciations of the words are given in parentheses.
一 yī (pronounced as ‘e’): one
二 èr (like ‘are’): two
三 sān (like the ‘sun’): three
四 sì (as ‘ts’ as in double ‘z’s in pizza): four
五 wŭ (like ‘wood’ but without ‘d’ at the end): five
六 liù (like ‘leo’): six
七 qī ( like ‘chi’): seven
八 bā (like ‘bar’ without the ‘r’): eight
九 jiŭ (like ‘geo’): nine
十 shí ( like the first part of ‘should’): ten
Now you can count up to ten. Isn’t it easy? Let’s continue to count up to 100. Remember, counting in Chinese is based on the abacus system.
First, let’s count from 11 to 20.
In the abacus, you have one bead in the tens and one bead in the ones for 11. So, for eleven, you say shí yī. It’s like you are adding ten and one and that’s actually how you count. Just like doing mathematics! Let’s continue;
11 (10 + 1) : shí yī
12 ( 10 + 2) : shí èr
13 (10 + 3) : shí sān
14 ( 10 + 4) : shí sì
How are you doing? It’s not too difficult, is it? Now, continue to count up to 20. When you get to 20, stop there because there will be a slight change. Let’s do the same trick for 20. You have two beans in the tens, meaning you have two tens. And this is actually how you say it in Chinese.
20 (10 + 10) : èr shí
Once you have the two tens (èr shí), that’s your word for twenty and you continue to count the same way you do when you count to ten.
20 : èr shí
21 (20 + 1) : èr shí yī
22 (20 + 2) : èr shí èr
23 (20 + 3) : èr shí sān
24 (20 + 4) : èr shí sì
How are you doing now? Continue counting to 30.
When you get to thirty, this time you say…? Can you guess? Yes, that’s right! 30 is sān shí!
The same way you do in the twenties applies here, too. You can do this up to 99.
30 - sān shí, 40 – sì shí, 50 – wŭ shí and so on..until you get to jiŭ shí jiŭ.
When you get to 100, you would probably think that you can say shí shí but unfortunately you can’t. There is another character for hundred which is 百 băi and it’s pronounced just like ‘bye.
Now, congratulate yourself for being able to counting to 100 in Chinese and you can brag about it to your friends!