One of the beautiful (or painful, depending on how you look at it) aspects of the Japanese language is its complex system of numbers and counting methods. For starters, there are two commonly used systems of numbers–often referred to as the Sino-Japanese numbers and the native Japanese numbers–that are used in different contexts, as well as a seemingly limitless number of counter words. Confused yet?

So how the heck do you become a master of Japanese numbers? Well, a good way to start is by checking out this handy-dandy infographic put out by Japanese Video Cast! 

Here’s a typical conversation between a student of Japanese and his/her teacher:

Student: “OK, how do you say ‘one’ in Japanese?”

Teacher: “Well, it depends on what you’re counting.”

Student: “Wait–you mean there’s more than one way to say ‘one’!?”

While the basic way to count to ten in Japanese is “ichi, ni, san…,” the game changes as soon as you start trying to count something; i.e., quantify objects. To do so, you must attach a specific “counter” onto the end of a numeric prefix depending on what it is you’re counting–different objects are grouped together by similar qualities. For example, long, thin objects are counted using the counter “-hon,cars are counted using the counter “-dai,” and birds as well as rabbits are counted using the counter “-wa.” Some people find it comparable to the way we say “three cups of coffee” or “two scoops of ice cream” in English. Just trying to learn what objects go with which counters is a chore in itself!

But that’s not all, because some words undergo a kind of phonological assimilation when certain counters are attached, resulting in a completely different pronunciation! Forget “ichihon;” when counting using the counter “-hon,” for instance, you actually have to say “ippon, nihon, sanbon…” and so on.

But practice makes perfect, and we promise that you’ll get the hang of things (eventually). To aid you in your quest, we’d like to share this magnificent infographic from Japanese Video Cast with you all. We’ve broken it up into different sections for ease of viewing, but the full, undivided image can be found here. San, ni, ichi…OK, let’s start counting!

▼ First, the basics: otherwise known as the Sino-Japanese numbers




▼ Also known as the native Japanese numbers


▼ Here we begin looking at some basic counters







Did you find any patterns in these examples?

By the way, my favorite trick for learning new vocabulary is to tape lists or sticky notes of new words onto my bathroom mirror. That way, I’m sure to see them and get a little studying done while brushing my teeth at the very least!

Source: Design Taxi
Images: Japanese Video Cast