Numbers are very important in Madagascar – especially when buying things – but also complicated even for Malagasy people. In Antananarivo (Tana), many shopkeepers will use French numbers because they’re considered “more clear” than Malagasy numbers – and, in doubt, either write a number using Arabic numerals on paper, or use a cell phone calculator to show you the number (again, using Arabic numerals).
Here are some basic numbers in Malagasy:
|iray||one||Pronounced “ray” (as in “stingray”).|
So far so good? Well, the next series of numbers is additive, functioning more or less as “number plus ten”.
|iraika amby folo||eleven||Pronounced “ee-rye-kuh ahm-bee fooloo”|
|roa amby folo||twelve|
|telo amby folo||thirteen|
|efatra amby folo||fourteen|
|dimy amby folo||fifteen|
|enina amby folo||sixteen|
|fito amby folo||seventeen|
|valo amby folo||eighteen|
|sivy amby folo||nineteen|
|roa polo||twenty||Literally “two tens”, but with the “f” changing to a “p”, which cues you that you’re moving into larger numbers.|
The next set of numbers (through 99) follows a combination of the above two schemes. For example:
|iraika amby roa polo||twenty-one||Literally “one plus two tens”.|
|roa amby roa polo||twenty-two|
|telo amby telo polo||thirty-three|
|efatra amby telo polo||thirty-four|
|dimy amby efa-polo||forty-five||Efa-polo is a contraction of “efatra-polo”. Both are correct, but “efa-polo” is the one you almost always hear.|
|enina amby efa-polo||forty-six|
|fito amby dimampolo||fifty-seven|
|valo amby dimampolo||fifty-eight|
|sivy amby enimpolo||sixty-nine|
|iraika amby fitopolo||seventy-one|
|iraika amby valopolo||eighty-one|
|sivi-folo||ninety||The “y” turns to an “i” when it becomes an interior vowel. The pronunciation is the same, though!
The “p” turning back into an “f” is one of those special exceptions here.
|sivy amby sivi-folo||ninety-nine|
A note on punctuation: when writing the larger number at the end of a compound number, you will see people using hyphens, spaces, and no spaces. This inconsistency is normal and these do not affect pronunciation!