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How do you tackle with numbers in your target language?
I don't mean how you learn to count in a slow childish way like 'one, two, three, etc.", but how do you learn to think and say them without thinking in a fast way.

In other words, have you ever tried to walk fast and count your steps? What happens with your pace, when you are getting, say, even to "thirteen, fifteen, sixteen..." for example. Do you slow down or remain being the same fast and lively?

Or one more example; take a small ball and start tossing it quickly from hand to hand in a ping-pong way, but keep counting. At what number you will cut out?

I have known quite a few people who could read English texts rather good and fast but when but when in the text come numbers, they either stumble or try to say them in their native language.

And I think there is one more difficulty with numbers in the target language - understanding them in normal speech. For example, do you feel that you'll be able to get from a broadcasting the amount of, like, 39675625 of something? Or what if somebody dictates you a telephone number, is it easy and natural to get it from one saying?

I am not talking about oral calculations, though, hoping it is not a problem in your native language, but what will happen if you do it in your target language?
May 22, 2020 9:53 AM
Comments · 14
Numbers are quite an interesting thing in language learning.
In Japanese, for example, numbers contrary to the European way are defined in 4-bit sets. There are "units", "tens" (juu), "hundreds" (hyaku), "thousands" (sen) and "ten-thousands" (man /mʌn/), not saying about "oku" (100,000,000) or "chou" (1,000,000,000,000). Though it seems easy to deal with tens, twenties, thirties, etc,, it made my brain being melding at the beginning to understand in fast speech, that "a hundred man" was actually a million. And a phrase like "the budget is "ten chou five man and six thousand yen" was just a collection of sounds.
I have seen once on youtube a video saying that there is a sort of "the native language gravity" when one learns another language, and it takes a effort and time to get broken from that gravity, like as for a space craft to acquire enough speed to get off from the Earth's orbit.
May 22, 2020
I agree with your observation, Igor. That's probably because of unusual for us, learners, building numbers in English language. We used to saying a number as it is while English native speakers split it into hundreds combined with saying digits one by one.
May 22, 2020
Having different words and a different system must be quite overwhelming. I wonder how Japanese learners of English cope with this. It must be a bit like Roman numerals in that you almost have to solve a riddle before you get to use each number.

The "native language gravity" sounds like an interesting concept. I think that once you've reached a certain level in your target language, you become affected by its gravity as well as your native language gravity.
May 23, 2020
Very interesting topic, Igor. I have to say it took me several years of living in an English speaking country to stop counting in my native language and translating the result. With telephone numbers, I memorise them like a poem but no image pops up in my head so I can tell you my Czech number in Czech and my UK number in English but if I were to switch the languages, I wouldn't be able to tell you either of them immediately.
May 22, 2020
I think you should allow yourself to toss the ball a bit higher because what are you going to do when you get to, say, 137? :) But I get what you're doing. It makes sense. There are two ways we recollect things, one requires effort and the other, which we can develop over time, is effortless. I don't know if distracting yourself with an activity that's happening simultaneously, could speed up the process, but it wouldn't surprise me. In any case, it adds extra challenge. It's like playing football on sand. It should improve the performance.

One thing I'm personally not a big fan of is over-exposing oneself to sequences (the alphabet, counting up to 10, 20..., days of the week...). Whether I'm learning a language myself or teaching others, I try to break the chain to make sure each element has a meaning attached to it. Something as simple as counting in twos or threes should make a difference. Or some easy elementary school maths. It will take a little longer to come up with the right number but I think it might help if recalling the right number at the right time (effortlessly) is what you're after.
May 23, 2020
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