Jen’s got a wicked sense of humour. We do laugh at the same things (I guess that’s one of the reasons we’re a couple), but I swear my ability to laugh at the world around me has developed under Jen’s influence. Was it her idea to teach the children Japanese or mine?
Jen: We’ve been learning Japanese. Do you want to hear some?
All four of them: Okay/all right/Japanese?/Why?
Jen: Okay … so … first of all, this is how you say ‘Have you got the time, please?’
Carol: Hon-da-pan-a-so-neek. You must also make sure you tap your wrist as you say it, so that the person you’re asking knows you’re asking for the time, and not something else that sounds like Hon-da-pan-a-so-neek.
Jen nods as the kids repeat this, each tapping their wrists as they do.
Jen: If you want to know where the toilets are, you need to say toy-o-taaaaa. Like that, with the emphasis on the aaaaaa.
They repeat it, dutifully.
Carol: And if you want to say ‘sorry’, it’s mit-soob-eesh-i.
All four of them: Mit-soob-eeshi-i.
Jen: And ‘thank you’ is min-olt-aaaa.
All four of them: Min-olt-aaaa. That’s so cool. We can speak Japanese!
Erica (puzzled) They sound a bit like cars …
Jen: We’ll keep updating you as we learn more.
And then it was forgotten. We moved on to something else, probably Max’s teacher’s despair at my inability to get him to school on time (during one particularly good period, she sent me a ‘Well done’ postcard home.) Or Erica’s boyfriend, Jim. The one she’d never met (she was 10). Or perhaps the phone rang, and Ella answered it. We’d know if it was a call centre because she’d put on an accent and say ‘Hallo?’ over and over again.
So, it was some time later that the kids asked us for another Japanese lesson.
Jen: Oh yeah!
She is laughing now. The kids are puzzled.
Carol: Tell them.
Ella: Tell us what?
Jen: Do you remember the words we taught you?
All four of them (quite proud, as a matter of fact) Yeah!
Jen: Say them out loud.
All four of them: (tapping their wrists) Hon-da-pan-a-so-neek.
Jen: Now say it quicker.
All four of them: Honda Panasonic.
The penny is dropping. They try out one or two more.
Erica: Mitsubishi. I told you they sounded like cars.
Max: You were tricking us!
We laugh, because it’s funny.
Ella: Oh my god!
Ella: We’ve told our friends. We’ve been giving them lessons!
They are not happy. Oh no, they are so not happy.
But we thought it was hilarious.