Learning to count in French is good, but if you don’t do anything about it, you forget everything. If you wait for a number to appear in a conversation, you may very quickly get quite annoyed, because you lack training.
If during your learning of French you do not train regularly with numbers, you will regularly stumble in your expression or your understanding. And it’s frustrating!
Mastering numbers in a foreign language requires training. It’s like a daily gymnastics that you have to set up at the beginning of your learning until it’s automated.
In this article, you’ll discover 33 + 3 easy tips for such a training. Of course, you don’t have to do everything. The important thing is to stay alert to all opportunities to train. And if you really train, I guarantee you that counting in French will become almost a natural thing.
If you want to review how you count in French, I invite you to check out the feature article: How to count in French from 0 to 99.
To do alone
1. For beginners, count with your fingers. From 1 to 10 and from 10 to 1. When you master the numbers up to 10, add your toes to go up to 20.
2. Count only the tens: ten, twenty, thirty, etc. Tens are essential to master the rest.
3. To fully understand the French system from France (70 to 99), explain what you are saying. For example: 70 is sixty plus ten; 77 is sixty plus ten plus seven; 80 is 4 times 20; 85 is 4 times 20 plus 5; 99 is 4 times 20 plus 10 plus 9.
4. Count the steps of the stairs you are climbing.
5. Count objects. For example, how many cutlery are there in your kitchen drawer? How many forks and knives? How many teaspoons?
6. Count the amount of your wallet: coin by coin, note after note.
7. On the street, don’t miss an opportunity to read the numbers in French: prices in the shop windows, house numbers, timetables at a bus stop, car license plates.
8. Estimate the number of people in a defined place: in this room / on this square, there are about … people (Dans cette pièce / sur cette place, il y a …. personnes).
9. When you’re in a queue or waiting for someone, count the seconds or minutes that pass.
10. The phone book: practice with the phone numbers. Start by saying phone numbers digit by digit. Then go to the next step, saying the phone numbers in two-digit groups. Continue with groups of three digits. So on until you are able to say a telephone number as if it were a single number: with a 10-digit telephone number, you will have to say a number in the billion range.
Remember that French people give their phone number in groups of two digits. If you want to practice understanding French phone numbers, try this exercise : https://www.lawlessfrench.com/listening/phone-numbers/
To do with other learners
11. With another person, do mental arithmetic. It’s great for your understanding and expression. You can adapt this exercise to all levels. At the beginner level, person A can ask: ‘deux plus trois’? Person B will answer: ‘cinq’. At the advanced level, you will be able to ask: ‘trente-sept plus soixante-dix’.
12. Play reverse numbers: the first person says a number made up of two digits; the second person must then respond by reversing the sequence of digits and saying a new number. For example, if the first person says ‘cinquante-trois’ (53), the second person says ‘trente-cinq’ (35). You can obviously increase the difficulty with numbers of three digits or more (125 -> 521).
13. Play with dice. For example, take throwing two dice in turn; form with the strongest one a ten (10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60) and with the lowest the unit (1, 2, 3, 4, 5); read the number obtained (between 11 and 65); this is your score; after several rounds, the player with the highest score wins.
14. In a group, you can use the snake technique: in turn, each one must say the number that follows as quickly as possible. Count from 1 to 30, from 60 to 79, from 80 to 100, from ten tot ten, count down … It’s real gymnastics.
15. A very academic exercise, but one that works, is the good old-fashioned dictation with numbers. One person dictates numbers in French, the other people write what they understand. But beware, it is not a question of writing the words, but of writing down the numerals forming these numbers. So not ‘vingt’, but 20.
16. Live numbers activity is perfect with a group of learners in a classroom or workshop, or why not at home if you invite friends to a Francophile evening. Prepare on sheets of A4 format the figures (from 0 to 9) in several copies. Place these loose sheets on a table. Ask three people (if you are dealing with numbers from 100 to 999) to compose numbers that you say orally and present them to the rest of the audience who will have to approve or not the correct realization of the requested number. With a large group, you can tackle larger numbers. With seven people presenting the required number, you can train the first million…
17. Play! There are many games that require the use of numbers. A simple internet search can provide you with dozens. Think of lotto, bingo, roulette…
18. Introduce yourself with numbers: what is your age, your date of birth by expressing only numbers, your address with the number of your home and postcode, your phone number.
19. What are your measurements? You can push the details of your personal presentation by giving your measurements: what is your height, your weight, your shoe size, and if you know your collar size, bust size, hip measurement, etc.
20. Tell your life with numbers. In this quantitative biography, you can not only name the major dates of your existence (month with numerals), but also the numbers that are part of your life: how many brothers and sisters you have, how many cousins, what was your first salary, how much cost your first car, etc.
Your daily life
21. Cut your day into hours and tell someone (or yourself) about your day, your timetable by trying to be as precise as possible.
22. Look regularly at the time and say it aloud.
23. When doing fitness exercises, count out loud the number of pushups you do, the number of times you lift weights, and at the same time what weight is it?
24. Make an annual report: How many days have you worked? How many vacation days have you had? What is your monthly, annual salary?
25. Talk about your work with numbers: How many employees in your company? What is your company’s turnover? What are the working hours? How much transportation time do you need to go and work from home?
26. Measure your house: with a meter, measure rooms, furniture, etc.
27. Before and after your shopping: Make a shopping list by naming the quantities. When you return from shopping, take your receipt and name the price for each purchase.
28. When you cook, read aloud, and in French of course, the quantities indicated by the recipe. How many eggs? What weight for flour? How many liters of milk. And only then make your pancakes.
29. To end your day, when you fall asleep, count the sheep.
30. Take a sport that you particularly enjoy and with which you are familiar: state as much quantitative information as possible: how many players, the duration of a match, the length of an event, the world records (how many and when). You can play a guessing game without naming the sport in question.
31. For advanced level learners, do a little geography in French: take the wikipedia.fr page of a country and say aloud all the numbers presented in the article: number of inhabitants, area, maximum altitude, length of rivers, some percentages and other statistics…
32. Do the same with a Wikipedia.fr page of an event or a historical period, and name aloud the dates that are mentioned.
33. Still for advanced learners, take an interest in the history of numerals and numbers. You can find online documentation in French on this subject. There is on YouTube a very good video from Karambolage about « French numbers » which clearly explains the different systems and the origins of the different ways of counting.
Three more tips
I asked Laura from Lawlessfrench if she had any other tips for training to count in French. Here they are :
+ 1. When you come across a number while reading, whether it’s a novel or a newspaper, say it out loud.
+ 2. In advertisements, read prices, phone numbers and other numbers aloud.
+ 3. When shopping, think about prices in French, and try to calculate the total as you add products to your basket.
Merci Laura 😉
What you need to retain
It is not enough to know the basic words and the rules that allow to build numbers in French, it is very important to practice this part of the language regularly to really be able to integrate their understanding and expression.
Consider that mastering of numbers requires daily mental gymnastics. And if you can organize this gymnastics as a game, it will only be fun. Finally, if you need to remember only one thing from this article, it is: make your environment the source of your training. We are constantly surrounded by numbers: say them in French!
How about you? What is your favorite tip? How do you manage to master the numbers in French? Do you have anything else that I shouldn’t have thought of? Tell me everything in the comments!
à bientôt, Jérôme