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Yes, there are examples where the syllable discrepancy is a bit larger between English and Japanese, but I think you're right -- perhaps the syllable difference is not too big of a deal. Now that I think more about it, perhaps the actual advantage may be in the rhythmic nature of the mnemonic. By modifying syllable numbers for various products, the entire recitation gets a kind of rhythmic flow. (watch the video to see what I mean)

All I can say is that in my personal experience learning the multiplication tables in both languages around the same time, it was dramatically easier in Japanese. Perhaps the small reduction in syllables caused that, and perhaps the "rhythmification" was more responsible.

I do recall seeing a study somewhere that showed people who spoke Chinese were able to remember more numbers, ostensibly because each digit takes less syllables to speak in Chinese so the total syllables to remember in one's head is smaller.

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