Chinglish in numbers!!

14 06 2011

Chinese have a different counting system than Western people: for large numbers, we group them in thousands (1,000), then million (1,000,000), then billion (1,000,000,000).

Chinese (and Japanese too) start grouping from ten thousand (10E4) up, and then every four decimal places, unlike American English where it happens every three decimal places. So then there is a new character for ten thousand (10E4), 100 million (10E8) and 1 trillion (10E12).

The Chinese characters for the numbers are:

0: 〇 (零) líng
1: 一 (壹) yī
2: 二 (Simplified:贰;Traditional:貳) èr
3: 三 (Simplified:叁;Traditional:叄、參) sān
4: 四 (肆) sì
5: 五 (伍) wǔ
6: 六 (Simplified:陆;Traditional:陸) liù
7: 七 (柒) qī
8: 八 (捌) bā
9: 九 (玖) jiǔ
10: 十 (拾) shí
100: 百 (佰) bǎi
1000: 千 (仟) qiān
10,000: Simplified:万;Traditional萬 wàn
100,000,000: Simplified:亿;Traditional億 yì
1,000,000,000,000: 兆 zhào

Parenthesized entries are the complex forms, which are used mainly in notarized, official documents.

Therefore 100 thousand is 10万  and 1 million is 100万. Typically it is quite difficult for Chinese to say numbers in English, because of these system!

Then for different uses Chinese have also other characters for the numbers, a even more complex system for us foreigners!

But the funny part for today is the use of Chinese system mixed in an  English presentation, done by one colleague of mine, a perfect Chinglish in numbers:

..the price of some equipment is in total 20-30 10k $.. 

with the intention to write of course 200-300 thousand $, but keeping a Chinese way of thinking!! 🙂

Extra funny bit, that every foreigner has to learn during the first days in China, is the Chinese number gestures,  so that the way to count to 10 using only 1 hand! Vital when bargaining, therefore a normal piece of Chinese every day life!!!

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