What's new

In Japan too long...


Unswerving cyclist
Mar 14, 2002
1 762
I really like Peter Payne's web site, J-List. Generally an online shop, Peter sends out regular mails with brief J-related articles. Here's his latest, quite interesting:

"You've been in Japan too long when you're speaking English with your gaijin friends, but all references to money are in Japanese." This is a funny phenomenon, but true: even when speaking English, gaijin living in Japan will tend to use Japanese for numbers and yen money amounts. The reason is that the Sino-Japanese numeric system, which came from China, is clunky when converting to the Arabic numeric system used in English. The number system revolves around the unit 10,000 ("man," pronounced "mahn"), rather than 1,000; thus, the number 10,000 is "1 man" (ichi mahn), 20,000 yen is "2 man" (ni mahn), 100,000 is "10 man" (juu mahn) and so on. The conversion from one numeric system to the other is just frustrating enough that most foreigners will be happy to leave their numbers in Japanese, if the person they're talking with understands the words. Thus a gaijin living in Japan is likely to say, "I bought a new cellular phone, but it cost me 2 mahn en" (20,000 yen), or, "My car broke, and it's going to cost 10 mahn en to fix it" (100,000 yen).

More of Peter's articles here

=> JBOX - your friend in Japan


Twirling dragon
Jul 17, 2002
@ichiman yen
That's so true. I also think it's because the words "(ten) thousand" is longer and more difficult to pronounce that "sen" or "man". "one thousand yen" = 4 syllables, but sen yen, only 2 syllables without the fastidious "th".

Indian languages also have a word for 10000 ("lakh" in Hindi if I remember well), so it's not only sino-japanese, but really Asian (withhout the middle-east). I am just wondering if "Urdu" ("Islamic Hindi", that is with a Persian and Arabic influence) uses the Arabic or Indian-Chinese numeric system. (anybody from Pakistan here ?)
Apr 15, 2002
hehe, I do the same with my friends just because it makes more sense. Why go through acrobats only to tell a friend the price of something. Although, if the person is a newbie in Japan I would go through the trouble. So, is this really a "funny phenomenon"?

@ speaking to gaijin friends in Japanese
I have a habit of at times I'll use Japanese terms while wpeaking with my gaijin friends. Hey, sometimes it's just so much faster and easier to express feelings and thoughts in fewer words.

@ Thomas and recommended site
hehe, now I know why you there!