We have enjoyed a fairly mild December in Japan so far this year. However, starting today, the temperature will finally become 一桁. The 桁 refers to columns or beams; in this case, it indicates the one’s column for numbers, which is a roundabout way of saying that the temperature will be under 10°C starting today. Brrr!
All this talk of cold temperatures reminds me that I don’t know how to do division. I mean, of course I can do division itself, even “long division.” Why do they teach us long division anyway? Why not “short division” so we can get the misery over sooner? But my point is that I did not yet learn how to say mathematical division statements out loud in Japanese.
That changed as of today, when I asked my resident native Japanese speaker for help. After reminding me that she hasn’t had to calculate square roots since high school, she provided the following translations for basic math features, the kind you might perform on a simple calculator (電卓).
Addition and Subtraction
The verb 足す, without conjugation, is used to add numbers together. For subtraction, use 引く, the same verb used to pull on a door handle.
- 1 + 2 = 3: 一足す二は三です。
- 3 – 2 = 1: 三引く二は一です。
Multiplication and Division
Multiplication uses the verb 掛ける, although it is typically written using kana instead of kanji. Use the verb 割る when dividing numbers.
- 2 × 3 = 6: 二かける三は六です。
- 6 ÷ 3 = 2: 六割る三は二です。
Squares and Square Roots
If you search for “square root” in your English-Japanese dictionary, a whole bunch of complicated words show up. However, I’ve been assured that ルート is correct for mundane calculations. To take the square of a number, add の followed by 二乗.
- √9 = 3: ルート九は三です。
- 32 = 9: 三 の二乗は九です。
Decimals, Fractions, and Negatives
When speaking decimals, use 点 for the decimal point.
- 25.03: 二十五点ゼロ三
Fractions appear reversed from their spoken English forms; mention the denominator first. The phrase 分の goes between the two fraction terms. Whole numbers paired with the fraction appear first, followed by と.
- 2/3: 三分の二
- 1-2/3 (that is, “one and two-thirds”): 一と三分の二
Negative numbers are the easiest of all. Simply start them with the English-derived word マイナス.
- -34: マイナス三十四
That should get you through basic calculator arithmetic. Now if you’ll excuse me, I really need to find somewhere warm to get away from these frigid 一桁 temps.
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