The most amazing way to handle large numbers when interpreting

The most amazing way to handle large numbers when interpreting

Like everyone else who learns Japanese, I had trouble when the teacher first introduced 万. Seriously, you want me to count in ten thousands? But I became adjusted to it, especially after living in Japan.

Still, that could not have prepared me for the incredible pain of interpreting numbers thrown out in business meetings. Even when they aren’t important, people will say things like “it’ll cost us two or three million to fix this”. While you are frantically trying to rearrange the commas to make the appropriate number of 万, the conversation has progressed without you and your clients are wondering what incredibly complex word you might be trying to figure out.

This link has the absolutely easier way I have ever heard of to convert numbers. It is beyond brilliant. I think it might have fixed one of my biggest problems to date. Take a few minutes to read through it if you have ever had this kind of problem.

Basically it is as follows:

一         1  one
十         10  ten
百   100  a hundred
千          1,000  a thousand
万          10,000  ten thousand
十万      100,000  a hundred thousand

100万            1,000,000  a million
1000万          10,000,000  ten million
1億         100,000,000  a hundred million

10億         1,000,000,000  a billion
100億       10,000,000,000  ten billion
1000億     100,000,000,000  a hundred billion

1兆      1,000,000,000,000  a trillion
10兆    10,000,000,000,000  ten trillion
100兆  100,000,000,000,000  a hundred trillion

Everyone is generally fine up through 10万=100,000

So, when you get past that, there is an easy trick. For the 万s, subtract two zeros and that is the number of millions you have. For example:

100万 – 00 = 1 million

6300万 – 00 = 63 million

This works until you get up to 億, so they give you an easy way to bridge the gap. You just have to remember 「日本の人口=1億3000万=130m (one hundred and thirty million)」. So if you hear 293 million and remember that phrase, you can easily convert it to 2億9300万 if you remember that phrase.

After that (10億以上) you will take the 億 and subtract one zero to get the number of billions.

50億 – 0 = 5 billion

780億 – 0 = 78 billion


Hizzah! Now you can convert numbers with ease!


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