Somali Numbers

Numbers (tirooyin, in Somali) are absolutely essential to learning a new language! My mission for today is to learn how to count from 1-9999999 in Somali, which (quite fittingly) requires learning exactly 22 vocabulary words!

Here’s how I’ve gone about learning today’s 22 words.

PART ONE: Numbers 1-10

We’ll start with our first ten vocabulary words: the numbers 1-10.

Step 1: Listen to pronunciation (with videos).

First, I watched this video. For me, it took a lot of the stress off about mispronunciations (since the video is so casual, and the guy is also trying to learn). They also used a lot of memory tricks to remember the different words, which is a great method.

Then (because I’m in the habit of trying to hear a few different examples of pronunciation, to avoid accidentally adopting one person’s quirks), I also watched this video. It’s less interactive, but it has good, clear pronunciation examples, and is very visual (which I appreciate).

Step 2: Copy down the words (1-10).

I’ve copied down the words from the videos above, and then cross-checked them against the list here. Here’s what I’ve got:

  1. ków
  2. lába
  3. sáddex
  4. áfar
  5. shán
  6. líx
  7. toddobá
  8. siddéed
  9. sagáal
  10. toban

Now, I’ve noticed that certain places use the accent marks, and others don’t. I believe it’s an extra marker for enunciation (and seeing as how I’m such a novice, I can use all the help with enunciation/pronunciation that I can get)! That said, however, I don’t actually believe they’re mandatory, and the accents are omitted.

Step 3: Create (and complete) practice exercises.

I’m a big fan of creating my own practice exercises while studying a language. This way, I practice once while creating the exercise, and then again while completing it! Here, I’ve created three practice exercises using the numbers 1-10, and then provided my answers below — if I’ve made any mistakes in answering my own exercises (ha), please let me know!

Exercises:

Exercise #1: Complete the mathematics problems in Somali.

  1. shán + ków =
  2. toban – líx =
  3. siddéed / lába =
  4. sáddex + áfar =
  5. sagáal / sáddex =

Exercise #2: Decide whether the following are true or false.

  1. toddobá > toban
  2. áfar > líx
  3. ków < lába
  4. shán < sagáal
  5. siddéed > sáddex

Exercise #3: Answer the following questions in Somali.

  1. How many wheels are on most cars?
  2. How many wheels are on a bicycle?
  3. How many countries border Somaliland (including Somalia)?
  4. How many legs does a spider have?
  5. How many legs does an insect have?

Answers:

Exercise #1

  1. líx
  2. áfar
  3. áfar
  4. toddobá
  5. sáddex

Exercise #2

  1. false
  2. false
  3. true
  4. true
  5. true

Exercise #3

  1. áfar
  2. lába
  3. sáddex (Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia)
  4. siddéed
  5. líx

PART TWO: Numbers 11-9999999

So far, we’ve got the numbers 1-10, and therefore ten vocabulary words. Let’s continue with the list of the rest of the vocabulary we’ll need, and then we’ll talk about how to combine these words to express any number we want!

Step 4: Copy down the rest of the words.

  • 11 = koób iyo toban (koób is irregular, so we’re counting it as a vocabulary word)
  • 20 = labaátan
  • 30 = sóddon
  • 40 = afártan
  • 50 = kónton
  • 60 = líxdan
  • 70 = toddobaátan
  • 80 = siddeétan
  • 90 = sagaáshan
  • 100 = boqól
  • 1000 = kún
  • 1000000 = malyúun

Ta-da, twelve more words, so a grand total of TWENTY-TWO words for today!

Step 5: Learn how these words combine.

Here are the general rules for Somali numbers:

  • The units digit comes before the tens digit (ie. you’d say “four and twenty” in Somali, instead of “twenty-four”).
  • “Ków” becomes “koób” before “iyo.”
  • Larger numbers are constructed quite similarly to English (Somali for “five hundred and seventy four” would translate directly as “five hundred and four and seventy”). The difference is in the ones-tens word order, but the rest is the same.

I’ve really enjoyed playing around with the number generator on languagesandnumbers.com. You can type in a number (in numerals), and it’ll pop out how it’d be written in the Somali language. It helped me to try a few different numbers, and see how they’re constructed.

Step 6: More practice!

I’ve invented some more practice exercises for myself (and for you, if you’re interested)! Again, the exercises are first, followed by the answers.

Exercises:

Exercise #1: Write out the following numbers in Somali (ie. in words).

  1. 11
  2. 17
  3. 34
  4. 68
  5. 331
  6. 579
  7. 34,623
  8. 67,903
  9. 5,486,922
  10. 8,407,315

Exercise #2: Complete the following math problems.

  1. siddeéd iyo toban + sagaál iyo labaátan =
  2. shán iyo sóddon + labá iyo toddobaátan =
  3. shán boqól iyo líx iyo sagaáshan + sáddex boqól iyo siddeéd iyo labaátan =
  4. sagaál boqól iyo labá iyo afártan + kún iyo shán boqól iyo sáddex =
  5. kún iyo boqól iyo líx + áfar kún iyo sagaál boqól iyo kónton =
  6. sáddex boqól iyo labá iyo afártan kún iyo sagaál boqól iyo shán + labá boqól iyo áfar iyo kónton kún iyo boqól iyo labá iyo sagaáshan =

Exercise #3: Answer the following questions in Somali. You might need to do some quick research.

  1. How many countries are there in Africa?
  2. When (year) did Muse Bihi Abdi become president of Somaliland?
  3. How many regions are there in Somaliland?
  4. What is the population of Hargeisa?
  5. What is the distance (kilometres) between Hargeisa and Jigjiga?
  6. What is the distance (kilometres) between Zeila and Berbera?
  7. What is the distance (kilometres) between Galkayo and Mogadishu?
  8. What is the distance (kilometres) between Bosaso and Borama?
  9. How many days are in a Gregorian year?
  10. How many days are in an Islamic year?

Answers:

Exercise #1

  1. koób iyo toban
  2. toddobá iyo toban
  3. áfar iyo sóddon
  4. siddeéd iyo líxdan
  5. sáddex boqól iyo koób iyo sóddon
  6. shán boqól iyo sagaál iyo toddobaátan
  7. áfar iyo sóddon kún iyo líx boqól iyo sáddex iyo labaátan
  8. toddobá iyo líxdan kún iyo sagaál boqól iyo sáddex
  9. shán malyúun iyo áfar boqól iyo líx iyo siddeétan kún iyo sagaál boqól iyo labá iyo labaátan
  10. siddeéd malyúun iyo áfar boqól iyo toddobá kún iyo sáddex boqól iyo shán iyo toban

Exercise #2

  1. toddobá iyo afártan
  2. boqól iyo toddobá
  3. sagáal boqól iyo áfar iyo labaátan
  4. lába kún iyo áfar boqól iyo shán iyo afártan
  5. líx kún iyo líx iyo kónton
  6. shán boqól iyo toddobá iyo sagaáshan kún iyo toddobá iyo sagaáshan

Exercise #3 (some of these answers might vary slightly depending on your source — for the distance questions, I’m using the approximate driving distance)

  1. áfar iyo kónton
  2. labá kún iyo toddobá iyo toban
  3. líx
  4. malyúun iyo labá boqól kún (source)
  5. boqól iyo líxdan
  6. toddobá boqól iyo labaátan
  7. kún iyo kónton
  8. sáddex boqól iyo shán iyo líxdan
  9. sáddex boqól iyo áfar iyo kónton

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