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Specifically, I am trying to say something like "a semester's length is counted in months" in order to imply how short it is as compared to, say, your whole life. When I tried to look this up in my online dictionary, I could not find anything. There was an entry for "count in" but it was definitely a separate meaning ("count me in!")

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「counter word」で数える is how you can translate "is counted in [counter word]". –  Earthliŋ Feb 7 '13 at 21:23
    
@user1205935 If you'd add this to your answer, I would be more than glad to accept it. –  atlantiza Feb 8 '13 at 3:03
    
Edited. If you really just want to translate "a semester is counted in months" like a grammar explanation, the straight translation works fine. But if you want to imply that it is short compared to your lifespan (which is counted in years), you should consider the two answers that were given originally. –  Earthliŋ Feb 8 '13 at 3:23
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2 Answers 2

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There is also 何ヶ月, as in

学期の長さは何ヶ月という長さだ。

which I think fits even better for your purpose. 数ヶ月 is more a specific length in time, although you choose not to specify the length. 何ヶ月 means that you are counting in months, but have no real estimate of how many months.

何 works for "counting in" with other counters, e.g.

何時間も待ってた。
I waited for hours.

cf. 数時間待ってた。
I waited for several hours.

海老煎餅大好きだ。何枚も何枚も食べちゃった。
I love (Japanese) prawn crackers. I couldn't stop eating.

ビザは何日間って問題じゃなくて、何週間もかかっちゃった。
Getting my visa wasn't a matter of days, but a matter of weeks.

Edit: Since you seemed to be asking something different, the way for translating "is counted in" is で数える, as in

魚は「尾」で数えられます。
You can count fish with the counter word 尾.

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学期の長さは何か月だ is a question, not a statement. Compare it with your other examples, where 何 is used with も or as a quote. If you use 何, an answer to the OP would be 学期の長さは何か月という長さだ by using 何か月 as a quote. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Feb 7 '13 at 13:37
    
I tried to avoid it, but I guess then it's just wrong. Thank you for the comment. –  Earthliŋ Feb 7 '13 at 20:21
    
@TsuyoshiIto I guess we both answered the wrong question, though...? –  Earthliŋ Feb 7 '13 at 20:22
    
I agree that …の長さは…という長さだ is awkward. 学期は何か月という長さだ might be better, but I do not like this for some reason. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Feb 7 '13 at 20:32
    
Yes, it seems that both of us answered the question different from what the OP wanted to ask. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Feb 7 '13 at 20:33
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If it just means “One semester is a few months long,” it can be 学期の長さは数か月だ. “A few months” in English is probably two or three months, but 数か月 in Japanese can be somewhat longer. See question “Why use 数年 in あれから10数年?” for more about this usage of 数.

A related expression, 月単位の時間, has a similar meaning, but it refers to the abstract notion of time directly. For example:

この作品の完成には月単位の時間がかかる。 It takes months to finish this work.

However, in your case, 学期の長さは月単位の時間だ is probably not incorrect, but it sounds awkward, probably because 長さ and 時間 refer to the same thing.

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Is an 大文字 acceptable in ヶ月? –  istrasci Feb 7 '13 at 15:22
    
@istrasci: Yes, both か月 and ヶ月 are used. Even the notation ヵ月 exists. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Feb 7 '13 at 15:23
    
Yes, I knew of the latter also. Just was unsure of the first. Thanks! –  istrasci Feb 7 '13 at 15:25
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@atlantiza: That is a completely different question from what you posted as a question. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Feb 7 '13 at 17:07
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@TsuyoshiIto It is the same as what I originally asked just with different words. I'm sorry if I created any misunderstanding. –  atlantiza Feb 7 '13 at 17:14
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