Tuesday, 18 November 2008

60, 70, 80, 90...

Counting in French is pretty confusing for an English speaker. Last night Bonnie's homework was to learn the numbers upwards of sixty in the written form.
Up to sixty nine it is straight forward, but then the French do a funny thing that reminds me of the old English "four score and ten" type of counting. Instead of going to seventy they go to sixty-ten (soixante-dix), sixty-eleven (soixante-onze), sixty-twelve (soixante-douze)... up to sixty-nineteen (soixante-dix-neuf) for 79. Then eighty is four twenties (quatre-vingt), so eighty-one is four twenties and one, or "quatre-vingt-et-un"; and ninety is four twenties and ten, or "quatre-vingt-dix, and ninety-nine is "quatre-vingt-dix-neuf".
When I am reading in my head and there are numbers printed as digits I still read the numbers in English. And in conversation I need to halt when people talk of large numbers because it doesn't come naturally to me to think in French numbers. In French "soixante-seize euros et quatre-vingt-quinze" would not have me immediately think of 76.95 euros. I would hear the "soixante" and think of sixty, but then the "seize" means sixteen, so I have to backtrack and change the sixty to a seventy and add six. And "quatre-vingt" always confuses me because "vingt-quatre" means twenty four. Once I had that sorted out I would think of eighty, but then "quinze" means fifteen so I would have to backtrack again and add fifteen to eighty to make ninety-five! Needless to say I always look at the cash register display to find out how much I need to pay at the supermarket...
If I were to stay in France this is certainly something I would need to practise.

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