Do the Math: How to Count Successfully in Different Languages
It’s a basic question, one we’re accustomed to hearing from an early age.
How many fingers? Toes? Apples?
The problem is: How do you know “how many” there are of anything if you can’t count?
Face it. No counting skills equals no game-playing, no ordering coffee and no traveling with ease. And that’s not a lot of fun, is it?
Fortunately, adding excellent counting skills to your language ability is pretty straightforward. There are lots of ways to do so—in fact, there are almost too many number-learning options to count!
Let’s take a look at why counting is important.
Then let’s add some counting resources to your language program!
Why Should Language Learners Learn to Count?
Numbers play a huge role in daily activities and many times we don’t even realize we’re counting anything.
Think about all the things you count in a day. Miles to work. Hours until you make an important call. Items in your grocery cart as you approach the express checkout.
Fitbit steps, anyone?
Do you see how vitally important it is to know how to count?
Experts agree! We might feel that counting is instinctive but numbers are actually valuable tools that evolved in stages throughout history, according to anthropology professor Caleb Everett. This National Teachers of Mathematics article shows that learning to count begins early and is an essential life skill.
And just like possessing an adequate vocabulary and knowledge of grammar rules, counting is essential for communication.
How to Add Counting Resources to Your Language Program
As I mentioned, there are a multitude of resources for shining up your number skills. Apps, songs and charts are all worthwhile and very useful. How to choose one resource over another? The best advice is to select counting materials that appeal to your learning style and particular interests.
- Do you like singing? YouTube videos teach counting with songs as well as more intensive tutorials. They’re also available in several languages.
- Apps make learning portable so if you download one onto your device you’re prepared to practice counting—wherever and whenever a moment opens up! Another perk is that some apps aren’t language-specific. If you’re working on more than one language at a time, you can choose an app that will deliver several languages in a single app.
- Never discount a basic resource like charts. They work, are clear and concise and make short work of memorizing numbers.
- The biggest resource to your counting program is you! Make it a priority to count everything—steps, stairs, sights, cars—everything!
Make every moment a counting opportunity and practice, practice, practice!
Songs That Help with Learning to Count
You might remember your first counting songs. Whether they involve fingers, toes and maybe even noses, native language learners in many cultures use counting songs.
Songs are an effective way to memorize almost anything. Luckily, YouTube offers lots of number song options in several languages!
Let’s take a listen to one. Or two. Or, you know, ten.
- Spanish: Learn to count from one to 30 with this catchy tune.
- Italian: This adorable counting song is a pleasant earworm that definitely makes counting fun.
- German: Counting to a jazzy tune!
- Japanese: Hum along while learning the intricacies of Japanese counting.
- Mandarin Chinese: Numbers come alive with a band at an insect sock hop!
- Portuguese: Counting is a snap with this lovely guitar melody and simple song.
- Russian: A pleasant tune for learning Russian numbers.
- Arabic: This song features happy hands and toes to teach counting skills.
- French: Worms on a beach sing their way to 100.
- Korean: Learn from one to 10 with a romantic little love song.
How to Count Successfully in Different Languages
Polynumial: This app lays down the counting specifics extremely well. Translate numbers and learn to count in over 50 languages with this one resource!
Marijin: An extensive chart which teaches to count from one to 100 in 20+ languages. A language menu on the left side of the screen displays each available language, which makes changing between languages effortless.
Counting to Ten Song: Count—and sing!—from one to 10 with this fun video featuring some enthusiastic young language pros.
Rocket Languages: This site offers a free audio lesson as well as a chart that can teach learners to count to 1,000,000. That’s a cool million in case you’re stuck on all those zeroes!
Don Quijote: Learn to count to 100 and don’t miss the additional, short and informative history lesson on numbers and counting.
Study.com: This website requires an account but the resources can be accessed for free for a trial period. There are several lessons here on counting in Spanish.
Of Language and Numbers: There is a lot of insider information about the rules of Italian counting here!
Dummies: How to count in Italian, uncomplicated and clear-cut. There are also some excellent examples of common number-related questions.
Guide to Japanese: This guide breaks down the difficulties associated with counting in Japanese. It goes over numbers and the Kanji for each. You will also find instructions on using numbers as dates in a month and spans of time. There’s a lot of material but it’s presented clearly.
Marjin: This guide for counting from zero to 100 can be downloaded into pdf form for studying offline or on the go. Additionally, the numbers are written out so spelling practice requires no additional effort!
Learn German Easily: This teaches counting from one to 999,999 so, really, they get the job done! Audio is available for learning the correct pronunciation so learning to count in German is as easy as eins, zwei, drei! (One, two, three!)
Blog Tutoring: This website offers a detailed chart with counting tips. It provides pronunciation, numbers written in Chinese characters and in-depth explanations about how to count correctly in Chinese.
Ed Helper: Ed Helper is a clear resource that makes sense of the Chinese numeration system, an ancient and somewhat complicated system.
Transparent Language: Count from one to 20 in Portuguese using a chart and a video so you can hear the numbers spoken and see them written.
Learning Russian: This resource focuses on cardinal numbers but also includes a section regarding large and compound numbers.
Dummies: A great place to learn Russian numbers as well as all the counting rules.
Of Languages and Numbers: This page includes rules for counting up to a billion as well as some history and important numbering rules.
The French Experiment: This useful page has written French numbers paired with audio recordings for correct pronunciation.
Quizlet: Flashcards deliver a great amount of information in an organized format. Learn to count from one to 50 and practice your pronunciation with the audio provided for each number.
Life in Korea: If you’re wondering how to count to 100,000, 000 in Korean, refer to this chart. And yes, that is one hundred million! Wow! They also provide the pronunciation for each number as well as the number written in Korean characters.
Take Lessons: The dynamics of the Korean numbering system is explained in easily-understood terms.
Non c’è due senza tre (there’s no two without three).
This old Italian proverb usually refers to unfortunate events coming in threes but it also pretty much sums up the counting experience:
Start at the beginning and build on what you’ve learned. You need two before three and so on.
Proverbs aside, a leading neuropsychologist, Brian Butterworth, theorizes we’re born “hard-wired” to count. That’s great news because it means innate ability + excellent resource = counting success!
You now have everything needed to count in a number of languages. So what are you waiting for?