Not having a language in common with one's mother-in-law might sound like the perfect arrangement to many married men. However believe it or not, I would actually like to be able to communicate a little with my wife's mother- otherwise how is she going to know what a swell guy I am? And us being in Japan, how much nagging could she do?
She calls about once a week and when I answer the phone, invariably when my wife is not home,the ensuing exchanges would be comical if they weren't so pathetic.
Me: Wife...........not here...............go...Out...........not.... here........
Then the mother in law laughs and talks some more, followed by more stammering from me, with a couple of "sabaii diis" thrown in for good measure.
Not anymore! I have learned an new expression and have been dying to use it for weeks. But now she never seems to call....
The great new ready-to-go expression is รอ เดี๋ยว นะ ครับ (raw diaw na krap) "Please wait a moment". I had it written in my notebeook and waited for weeks for my mother-in-law, or frankly, anybody from Thailand, to call. Weeks went by and of course nobody called. Finally last week a call comes through and I race to the phone forbidding my wife from answering it. Only, I can't remember my great new expression. I frantically throw everything on my desk around looking for my notebook but by the time it turns up the phone has stopped ringing. Evil eye from the wife. Ten minutes later the phone rings again and I leap to it with book in hand, pick up the phone and proudly and loudly pronounce "รอ เดี๋ยว นะ ครับ" and hand the phone to my wife with a grin as big as the one on a cat that has just eaten a field rat.
Laughter on the phone is a good sign but when I ask my wife what her mother had to say about my new Thai ability, she said that she couldn't understand me........
Quick anodynes from my wife about how her mother is old and therefore a little deaf were no help in consoling my crushed spirit.
I suppose my pronunciation needs work.
Anyway, that harsh lesson aside, since that day, the expression รอ เดี๋ยว นะ ครับ has not left my mind once and I'm sure I'll never forget it. So the point I am trying to make with this long-winded story is, that once you use a new expression or vocabulary in a real world situation, it will stick in your head a lot faster than if you just try to memorize it from a book without using it. And if you make a mistake and people don't understand you, who cares. It probably endeared me to my mother-in-law anyway. Or that's what I choose to believe.