How to count in Lingala from 0 to millions: a powerful step-by-step guide

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While Lingala numbers exist, most speakers use French numbers, inherited from the formers rulers’ language. Most people are able to count up to ten at most and don’t know how to count in Lingala. Then, a lot of them struggle to count beyond. A few people don’t even know that it is possible to calculate further than billions without saying a word in French!

In this article, we explain the importance of numbers in our day-to-day life and show you how to count in Lingala. You will also discover an interesting way of writing an ordinal number in Lingala.

1.   Importance of counting

Our own lives are ruled by numbers. We use numbers not only in the basic mathematical operations like summation, subtraction, multiplication or division, but also in or daily life. Indeed, how do you survive in our modern society without being numerate? How do you do your daily businesses, measure, trade, or other important activities? Either school, work, leisure, we use numbers for date, time, phone numbers, password …

In the absence of numbers, nothing can be measured or quantified. This would lead to compare things or concepts to each other’s using a qualitative approach and analogies like “a few” or “some.”, “more “ or “less”. Which would not only be tedious, but also inaccurate. Without numbers, people would be struggling to precisely differentiate and recall quantities.

colourful- with a yellow background How to count in lingala

2.   How to count in Lingala: cardinal number

2.1.   Unit

Counting up to 9 in Lingala is straight forward thanks to specific words.

NumeralCardinal
0Libungutúlu
1Mókó
2Míbalé
3Mísató
4Mínei
5Mítáno
6Motóba
7Sámbó
8Mwámbe
9Libwá
10 first cardinal numbers

2.2.   Tens

2.2.1.       From 11 to 19

From 10, Lingala number naming system is regular. It uses consistent rules to combine ten with the basic unit to indicate quantities. Which make counting very easy to learn.

When counting from 11 to 19, we use zómi and the word ná (with) and then one of the unit numbers.

NumeralCardinal
10Zómi
11Zómi ná mókó
12Zómi ná míbalé
13Zómi ná mísató
14Zómi ná mínei
15Zómi ná mítáno
16Zómi ná motóba
17Zómi ná sámbó
18Zómi ná mwámbe
19Zómi ná libwá
10 first 2 digit cardinal numbers

In contrast to Lingala, French and English use irregular counting in the first set of tens.

NumeralFrench CardinalEnglish Cardinal
10DixTen
11OnzeEleven
12DouzeTwelve
13TreizeThirteen
14QuatorzeForteen
15QuinzeFifteen
16SeizeSixteen
17Dix septSeventeen
18Dix huitEighteen
19Dix neufNineteen
10 first 2 digit cardinal numbers French and English

2.2.2.       From 20 to 99

When we reach 20, instead of using the word zómi, we replace it with ntúkú. The tens are formed by putting ntúkú before their multiplier digit as in the table below.

NumeralCardinal
20Ntúkú míbalé
30Ntúkú mísató
40Ntúkú mínei
50Ntúkú mítáno
60Ntúkú motóba
70Ntúkú sámbó
80Ntúkú mwámbe
90Ntúkú libwá
10 units cardinal numbers

To write compound numbers, the rule is the same as for between 10 and 19. We use ntúkú and the word ná (with) and then one of the unit numbers. This rule is applicable until 99.

NumeralCardinal
21Ntúkú míbalé ná mókó
99Ntúkú libwá ná libwá

French has some exceptions in counting the tens, which make it harder to learn for beginners.

NumeralFrench CardinalTranscription
70Soixante dix60 and 10
80Quatre vingt4 X 20
90Quatre vingt dix4 X 20 and 10
10 units cardinal numbers French

2.3.   Hundreds

2.3.1.       Simple numbers

Hundreds are formed by setting the multiplier digit after the word nkámá. As the tens, the exception is for one hundred itself.

NumeralCardinal
100Nkámá
200Nkámá míbalé
300Nkámá mísató
400Nkámá mínei
500Nkámá mítáno
600Nkámá motóba
700Nkámá sámbó
800Nkámá mwámbe
900Nkámá libwá
100 cardinal numbers

2.3.2.        Compound numbers

You still need to use the word nkámá and add likewise the unit or tens with the word ná.

NumeralCardinal
106Nkámá ná motóba
116Nkámá ná zómi ná motóba
136Nkámá ná ntúkú mísató mínei
206Nkámá míbalé ná motóba
216Nkámá míbalé ná zómi ná motóba
236Nkámá míbalé ná ntúkú mísató mínei
999Nkámá libwá  ná  ntúkú libwá ná libwá

2.4.   Thousands

2.4.1.       Simple numbers

Starting from 1000 thousands are formed by setting the multiplier digit after the word nkóto. As the tens and hundreds, the exception is for one thousand itself.

NumeralCardinal
1,000Nkóto
2,000Nkóto míbalé
3,000Nkóto mísató
4,000Nkóto mínei
5,000Nkóto mítáno
6,000Nkóto motóba
7,000Nkóto sámbó,
8,000Nkóto mwámbe
9,000Nkóto libwá
1000 cardinal numbers

2.4.2.       Compound numbers

As seen previously each group of numbers is linked to the others with .

NumeralCardinal
1,036Nkóto ná ntúkú mísató mínei
1, 216Nkóto ná  nkámá míbalé ná zómi ná motóba
4,036Nkóto mínei ná ntúkú mísató mínei
4, 216Nkóto mínei nkámá míbalé ná zómi ná motóba
9,999Nkóto libwá ná nkámá libwá  ná  ntúkú libwá ná libwá

2.5.   Ten Thousands

2.5.1.       Simple numbers

Lingala has a particular word for the ten thousand. Indeed, ten thousands are formed by setting the multiplier digit after the word Mokoko. As the tens, hundreds, and thousands, the exception is for ten thousand itself.

From multiplier digit 2, mokoko has to be put into plural: mikoko.

2.5.2.       Compound numbers

As seen previously, each group of numbers is linked to the others with .

NumeralCardinal
1,0000Mokoko
2,0000Mikoko míbalé
3,0000Mikoko mísató
4,0000Mikoko mínei
5,0000Mikoko mítáno
6,0000Mikoko motóba
7,0000Mikoko sámbó
8,0000Mikoko mwámbe
9,0000Mikoko libwá
10000 cardinal numbers
NumeralCardinal
1, 0216Mokoko ná nkámá míbalé ná zómi ná motóba
14,036Mokoko ná ntúkú mísató mínei
40,216 Mikoko mínei ná nkámá míbalé ná zómi ná motóba
44,216Mikoko mínei ná nkóto mínei nkámá míbalé ná zómi ná motóba
99,999Mikoko libwá ná Nkóto libwá ná nkámá libwá  ná  ntúkú libwá ná libwá

2.6.   Hundreds of thousand

2.6.1.       Simple numbers

Lingala has a particular word for the hundreds of thousands. Indeed, hundreds of thousands are formed by setting the multiplier digit after the word Elúndu. As the tens, hundreds, and other thousands, the exception is for hundred thousand itself.

From multiplier digit 2, Elúndu has to be put into plural: Bilúndu.

NumeralCardinal
1,00000Elúndu
2,00000Bilúndu míbalé
3,00000Bilúndu mísató
4,00000Bilúndu mínei
5,00000Bilúndu mítáno
6,00000Bilúndu motóba
7,00000Bilúndu sámbó
8,00000Bilúndu mwámbe
9,00000Bilúndu libwá
100000 cardinal numbers

2.6.2.       Compound numbers

As seen previously, each group of numbers is linked to the others with .

NumeralCardinal
1, 00216Elúndu ná nkámá míbalé ná zómi ná motóba
14,0036Elúndu ná Mikoko mínei ná ntúkú mísató mínei
400216 Bilúndu mínei ná nkámá míbalé ná zómi ná motóba
440216Bilúndu mínei ná Mikoko mínei ná nkámá míbalé ná zómi ná motóba
999999Bilúndu libwá ná Mikoko libwá ná nkóto libwá ná nkámá libwá ná  ntúkú libwá ná libwá

2.7.   Millions

2.7.1.       Simple numbers

Lingala has different words to say millions. Millions are formed by setting the multiplier digit after the word Efúku, épúná, or makiasi. The same rules apply than for thousands

From multiplier digit 2, you need to put in plural. Efúku becomes bifúku and , épúná becomes bipúná. Only makiasi stay the same.

NumeralCardinal EfúkuCardinal épúnáCardinal makiasi
1,000000EfúkuÉpúnáMakiasi
2,000000Bifúku míbaléBipúná míbaléMakiasi míbalé
3,000000Bifúku mísatóBipúná mísatóMakiasi mísató
Millions cardinal numbers

2.7.2.       Tens and hundreds of millions

Coming soon. You already know how to count until millions!

A quick and practical guide to count in Lingala.

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3.   How to count ordinal number in Lingala

Ordinal numbers indicate the order of a collection of things within a list, defining the position of something in a series. Ordinal numbers are used as adjectives, nouns, and pronouns.

Lingala creates ordinal numbers by adding the word ya before the number. The exception is for first created by connecting the word moko is the word liboso or just using the word yambo.

There is no way to shorten the ordinal number in Lingala like in French 1er or English 1st for first. We have suggested a simple way to do that by adding “ya” superscripted after the number.

NumeralCardinalOrdinalAbbreviation suggested
1MókóYa libosó, yambo1ya
2MíbaléYa míbalé2ya
3MísatóYa mísató3ya
4MíneiYa mínei4ya
5MítánoYa mítáno5ya
6MotóbaYa motóba6ya
7Sámbó, nsámbóYa sámbó,7ya
8MwámbeYa mwámbe8ya
9LibwáYa libwá9ya
99Ntúkú libwá ná libwá Ya Ntúkú libwá ná libwá99ya
1000NkótoYa  Nkóto1000ya
Ordinal numbers

As you see, counting in Lingala may seem at first intimidating. In contrast to some western languages, like French or English, Lingala numbers have regular number naming, which makes them straightforward to understand.

Some study even showed that learning to count in more regular languages should be easier for children than learning to count in less regular languages. So you can now start teaching your child how to count in Lingala!

We also suggested a new way and simple of writing an ordinal number in Lingala. We hope you will enjoy using it!

As every new skills, there is a learning curve. Once, you get the mechanisms, it will become easy as ABC!

We have a converter to help you to learn to how count in Lingala. You can find it here.

Sources:

There are few sources on how to count in Lingala, especially in English. I was fortunate enough to rely on the exhaustive work done by Gampoko DUMA DI BULA in his book” Dictionnaire étymologique lingala – français / français – lingala”.

Did you know that it was possible to count so far in Lingala? If no, are you ready to learn? We would be delighted to see your progress in the comment section!

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