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Chinese Lesson – Count from 0 to 10

When we study a new language or travel to a foreign country, one of the first few things that we have to do is learning to count numbers as it is useful in daily life such as buying foods. The way we count numbers, however, is quite different from that in western countries in terms of the pronunciation and how they are represented in gestures. Hopefully, after reading this blog, it will be easier for you to count numbers in China.

InternChina - Zero to Ten in Chinese
InternChina – Zero to Ten in Chinese

Pronunciation

Since Chinese is generally based on pronunciation, it is rather difficult for non-native speakers. Therefore, there will be both phonetic spellings and pronunciation guides for each number.

  • Zero (零): [líng]Ling with an upward inflection.
  • One (一): [yī] Ee with a long “e” sound.
  • Two (二): [èr] Are with a downward inflection for the letter “r”.
  • Three (三): [sān] San without an inflection.
  • Four (四): [sì] Suh. This word is hard to be represented by using English letters; however it is closest to “suh” with a downward inflection.
  • Five (五): [wǔ] Woo with a downward-up inflection.
  • Six (六): [liù] Lee-yoo. When you say this, you partially omit the “y” so that the “ee” blends into the “oo”. It sounds pretty similar to “Leo”. It is pronounced with a downward inflection.
  • Seven (七): [qī] Chee without an inflection.
  • Eight (八): [bā] Bah without an inflection.
  • Nine (九): [jiǔ] Jee-yoh. This is similar to saying 6, where the “ee” blends into the “oh”. This is pronounced with a downward-up inflection.
  • Ten (十): [shí] Shure with an upward inflection.

Gestures

Using one hand to represent the numbers one through ten is helpful when you forget how to say it in Chinese. It is also useful to distinguish numbers with similar pronunciation such as four [sì] and ten [shì]. The representations vary in practice from one region to the other. For example, the gesture for number eight below means seven in some regions such as Guangdong and Hong Kong.

InternChina - One to Ten in Gesture
InternChina – Representing One to Ten using Gesture

More numbers

Double-digit numbers are composed of saying one single-digit and another. For example, 11 would be “Shee-ee (shi-yi)” and 85 would be “Bah-Shee-Woo (ba-shi-wu)”.

Numbers larger than 99 have special words such as hundred (百, [bǎi]) and thousand (千, [qiān]). In addition, there are some special rules regarding when to use zero for larger numbers as well. For instance, you have to say “Lee-yoo-Bai-Ling-Chee (liu-bai-ling-qi)” for 607 but “Lee-yoo-Bai-Chee-Shure (liu-bai-qi-shi)” for 670.

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Sources:
https://www.wikihow.com/Count-to-10-in-Chinese
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_number_gesturesto-10-in-Chinese