How to Count to 20 in Igbo

Numbers can be a difficult thing to learn in any language, but you’re going to need them when you talk to other people. That’s why we’ve written this post to help you learn how to count to 20 in Igbo, which is mainly spoken in Southern Nigeria. Take a read and see how much you know by the end of it!

We use numbers all the time when we’re interacting with other people. They’re an essential part of learning a language, as you’ll need to be able to count, use numbers to tell the time, to buy things, etc.

How to count in different languages

Different languages, though, have different ways of counting. This doesn’t just mean the numbers themselves aren’t the same! If you’re reading this, then you’ll know that English uses a decimal or base-10 system for counting. This means each digit of a number can have a value ranging from 0 to 9 and the overall system is based on tens.

In comparison, Huli, a language of Papua New Guinea, uses a base-15 system. This system is based on fifteens, so if you’re saying ’30’ in Huli, you’re actually saying ‘ngui ki’ which is 15 (ngui) and two (ki).

Igbo used to use a base-20 system, the same as the Maya languages, which are primarily spoken in Mexico. Irish, Welsh, Danish, and even French also have some leftovers of base-20 systems, as these were more common in ancient civilisations. In common with these and most mainstream languages, Igbo has transitioned to a more decimal-based system to make counting easier and to keep things in line internationally.

So, now you know some of the background, let’s get started!

The numbers 0 – 10

Here are the Igbo numbers 0 – 10:

efu0There is more than one way to say ‘zero’ in Igbo, but our native speaking translators say that ‘efu’ is a good one to use in general situations. Some others include: ncha, adigi, okpokoro, and oroghoro.

The numbers 11 – 20

To create the numbers 11 – 20, you’ll need to use ten (iri) + na (in this context, a conjunction like ‘and’) + the other digit from the list above.

The exception is the number 20. Can you work out how it translates?

iri na otu11
iri na abụọ12
iri na atọ13
iri na anọ14
iri na ise15
iri na isii16
iri na asaa17
iri na asatọ18
iri na itoolu19
iri abụọ20

How to practise counting in Igbo

Of course, you can always use the uTalk app to practise your numbers. One of our topics covers the numbers up to 20, and another covers numbers all the way up to ten million!

Here are some other ideas you can use as well:

  • Take a sudoku and replace all the digits with numbers in Igbo (or any other language you’re learning)! This will help you learn the numbers one to nine really well.
  • Try some easy maths puzzles. There are lots of worksheets to help you learn to count to 20 (again, just replace the digits with your new numbers), as well as easy addition and subtraction exercises.
  • Learning with friends? Play games! If there are a few of you, you can try the counting to 20 game. Each person can say up to three numbers per turn. (E.g., the first person could say, “One”, “One, two,” or “One, two, three”.) The aim is, of course, to count to 20, and whoever says 20 wins the game. There are plenty of other counting games you can find online, or you could try a card game like blackjack.

Are you feeling inspired to learn some more Igbo? Ready to get to grips with your numbers? Start learning with uTalk and you’ll get all the audio for the numbers 0-20 (recorded by native Igbo speakers!), as well as for numbers up to ten million! Get started today with 40% off your next subscription!

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