Counting in Japanese

I was really interested in learning the Okinawa-style of karate taught to the character of Daniel in the The Karate Kid movie (wax on, wax off), so at 12 years old I signed up.  I had a great time at those weekly classes learning self defense, and the importance of exercise. Through this training I gained more self-confidence, and even learned a little bit of Japanese!

To tell the truth, the only Japanese I learned was how to count, so on a recent trip to Narita, Japan I discovered just how hard it is to carry on a conversation using only numbers!  With that said, learning another language can be a lot of fun, and could come in handy in the future. Here’s a really easy memory technique to learn how to count in Japanese, or any language you are trying to learn.

To begin with, to learn how to remember anything you must select a mental file or place in your mind to store your information. It can be nothing more than a place in a room that you have numbered, or a location you place on a map. To learn more about how to number mental files, and create your own memory training system, I urge you to watch this video:

I have found the easiest way for me to build my first ten files is to number 10 pieces of furniture in your living room. Do that now, and then come back when you are done.

Assuming that you have 10 pieces of furniture numbered, you have now laid the ground work for your very own memory training system, and are well on your way to learning how to memorize anything.

Counting to 10 in Japanese goes this way:

  1. Ichi
  2. Ni
  3. San
  4. Shi
  5. Go
  6. Roku
  7. Shichi
  8. Hachi
  9. Kyuu
  10. Juu

Now you form a picture for each number (word). Visualize the following:

  1. Ichi — Visualize yourself with poison ivy and you are itching
  2. Ni — You hit your knee on this file
  3. San – Visualize the sun in the sky
  4. Shi — Watch a girl running around in this file (she)
  5. Go — Picture a green light and go
  6. Roku — You visualize a really cool person (me?) rowing a boat — Row-cool = Roku
  7. Shichi — You are watching a girl eating cheese (she-chee)
  8. Hacki — Hot cheese is melting (hot cheese = hachi)
  9. Kyuu — The really cool person is you. Cool U – Kyuu
  10. Juu — You can see someone chewing. Chew – Juu

See how easy that was! You are now using the “loci method” of memory training in learning how to count in Japanese. What makes this memory training system different from others is that you can count forward and backward. If you had used a song or rhyme to memorize, you would be able to do it both ways.

In addition, if you were asked what the number 6 is in Japanese, you simply go to your number 6 memory file and tell them the number 6 is “Roku.” If you were using rote memorization, you would have to start at number one and count to yourself to reach six. It’s not a very fast method.

You can adapt this memorization technique to learning any language. The number “5” for example is in your fifth file. You have the word ‘Go’ in the fifth file for the number 5 in Japanese. You also have the word “five” in English, and the word “cinco” in Spanish, etc. so the same file can be used for the number 5 in any or all languages. The same would be true of the number 7 (seventh file) and so on.

This is the same method I used when I became a memory champion, and you can learn to memorize counting in any language just as easy as I did.

This lesson was shared by Two-time USA Memory Champion and Memory Speaker Ron White.

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