Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The pervasiveness of irregular numbers

How important are numbers in everyday life? For telling the time - it is 2:30. For shopping - it is £5.45. For location - he lives at number 7. The post code is 765001 etc etc

In English, you need to learn 0-12, the 13-19 have their own pattern, thereafter learn the 10s, and the 21, 22, 33,34,45,46 etc fall into place. Learn 100, 1000, 1million and you are probably done.  French, Spanish also have an esssentially similar pattern. Each have little irregularities whcich you just have to learn, but the others basically follow a pattern and if you don't know what 357 is, but you do know what 3 is, what 100 is what 50 and 7 are, you'll probably work it out. And anyway you can always ask the shop vendor to wrie it down!

The only other language I know my numbers in is Tamashek and again that's fairly regular
dien, sin, sarath, coz, smose, sadix, sa, tam, tarza, marou for 1-10, then
marou dien, marou cin etc for 11, 12 etc. So learn your 10s, what 100 and 1000 are and you are away.

This morning I've been learning how to ask the time in Hindi . So naturally numbers start to become real important.
What time is it? = kitna baj raha hai??
It is two o'clock  = do baje hai.
When do you want to eat lunch? = ap kab dopahar ka khana khana cahate hai?
At one o'clock - ek baje

As I expected you just have to learn 1-10, so 1-10: ek, do, tin, car, pac, chah, sat, ath, nau, das
But regularity thereafter? Oh no, not yet.11-20: gyarah, barah, terah, caudah, pandrah, solah, satrah, atharah, unnis, bis
Lets keep going, 21-30: ikkis, bais, teis, caubis, paccis, chabbis, sattais, atthais, untis, tis
Ok I can see the similarity between 4, 14, 24 and 5, 15, 25 etc. So what might I think 34 is? Cautis? Yes!
So I ought to be set for 31-40. But no, not quite. Just when it loooked semi-promising, it all turns differen again ;(
31-40: ikattis, batttis, taitis, cautis, paitis, chattis, saitis, artis, untalis, calis

And so it goes on,
41-50: iktalis, bayalis, taitalis, cavalis, paitalis, chiyalis, saitalis, artalis, uncas, pacas
51-60: ikyanvan, bavan, tirpan, cauvan, pacpan, chappan, sattavan, attavan, unsath, sath
61-70: iksatath, basath, tirsath, causath, paisath, chiyasath, sarsath, arsath, unhattar, sattar
71-80: ik'hattar, bahattar, tihattar, cauhattar, pac'hattar, chihattar, sat'hattar, athhattar, unyasi, assi
81-90: ikyasi, bayasi, tirasi, cauasi, acasi, chiyasi, sattasi, atthasi, navasi, nabbe
91-100: ikyanve, banve, tiranve, cauranve, pacanv, chiyanve, sattanve, atthanve, innyanve, sau

1000 is hazar
100,000 is lakh
10,000,000 is karor

Then there are more irregularities!
1.5 is derh
2.5 is dhai
and so 150 becomes derh sau, 250 dhai sau, 1500 derh hazar, 2500 dhai hazar, 150,000 derh lakh, 250,000 dhai lakh. Ok that maybe wasn't quite so confusing after the first two.

Oh and of course, Hindi writes numbers differently to us, so no use asking someone to write down the price. 

My conclusion: I shall have to learn these in chunks. If anyone can see any way to help grasp these I'd really appreciate it. Candy, any hints from your experiences here? I'm thinking about learning 21, 31, 41, 51 etc together, what do you think?


  1. That is not easy. I have a brain that is a heatseeking missile for patterns. One thing you can see in your numbers is that the number for 29, 39, is 30-1, and 40-1. See, it is "un-..." each time. That might help. It might help to block your numbers as 30-39 instead of 31-40? But then the number 59 is so related to 60. unsath=59, and 60=sath.

    I would find a children's book if you can. I tried to look for some counting games online but couldn't find something. But I bet there is something out there. It's difficult to see the logic in the numbers...but it's there in some patterns.,,I suggest making visual patterns that you can memorize.

  2. I've contacted a ex work colleague whose family origins are Indian to see if she knows any children's games or rhymes. I'll try lying them out differently. Tx.

  3. Good God! Wish I could help you Sheila.

  4. I'm finding it really hard to read numbers as the separating commas are used differently e.g. 1 crore (10m) becomes 1,00,00,000

    Look out for the Akbar and Birbal books if you want to learn to read the script - they are kids books written in Hindi and other Indian languages, the pictures help the understanding and my daughter assures me they are funny

  5. I myself have no idea, Sheila, but your tackling this stuff makes my job look easy down here south of the Tropic of Cancer.

  6. Oh Steve, I admire what you've done, all you've been through, survived and then packing it all up and heading off. Marvelleous! We are two intrepid explorers of life! I always thought language learning was daunting, probably because it was so terrible at school. But having had the best reason there is to try my hand at French I felt inspired for another one. So in for a penny, in for a pound. It will be interesting to see how far I can get over the next couple of weeks, then onto Oriya!

    If you are interested in reading more about my language learning how about voting in my poll? It is on the left hand side of this blog, just click the + sign, or enter a new topic. You knwo how to click don't you Steve?

  7. Excellent idea Shelia to find a family friend with children. HOW do they memorize these numbers! Just checking in hope your plans are going well!!!

    I love following your adventure Shelia!