Raise your hand if you grew up watching Sesame Street. Ok, now raise your hand if you’re my mom and absorbed Sesame Street by token of your daughters being nuts for it.
If there’s anything we Sesame Streeters have in common it’s the ability to count to ten in Spanish at the drop of a hat. Probably in song.
So given that you have a basic command of Spanish numbers and presumably a solid knowledge of the English ones, let’s try an experiment together.
Today, you get to use both number systems. Yes, you can sing the Spanish ones if you want to. But there are a few ground rules:
1) You must use English for all situations involving dates, phone numbers, or money (e.g. one dollar and thirty-three cents).
2) You must use Spanish when specifying amounts. (“I’d like dos cups of coffee and cuatro peanut butter cookies, please. Yes, to go.”)
3) You can use either if someone asks your age (but you must add one year to your actual age—HAHAHA! Math!).
4) When discussing time, you must use Spanish to say the hours and English for minutes. (e.g. Wow, it’s nueve horas, twenty-three minutes, and I’m already wiped! I guess I’ll have to save this episode of Big Bang Theory for tomorrow.)
At the end of the day, report back in and let me know the exact time your brain exploded. (Please see Rule 4 above.)
And now you understand why I take so much ibuprofen.
Korea (fun fact!) has two number systems, the Sino (Chinese) Korean and the Native Korean. They are used as above, and they make my head hurt. Unlike the experiment above, however, I haven’t internalized either set from childhood, so I am constantly taking off my mittens to count on my fingers whenever numbers are called for. Such performances make it difficult to be taken seriously. Especially since my mittens have little owly faces on them.
It’s actually worse than that, because the Native Korean numbers have cute diminutives that you use for saying amount. So while the number three is seht, in use it sounds like say.
And I’m one year older here than back home. Which almost cancels out the thrill of writing you from the future.
Numbers. I tell you. They’re lame.