As I write this, my son (whom I shall refer to as Son) just informed me that he has decided to learn Spanish and is starting his quest by watching one of his movies on DVD in Spanish.
A few observations here:
- He figured out how to change the language on the DVD player.
- He’s only five years old (forgot that important point…).
- He already speaks three languages reasonably well: English, German, and Polish.
- I forgot to tell him that learning a foreign language is hard.
We do speak both English and Polish in our home because my wife is from Poland (and we both learned the other’s language). He does OK with German because he goes to the local German Kindergarten and plays with the neighborhood children a lot. So none of this is really surprising, and in a way, one more language probably isn’t a big deal for him (and I somehow suspect that French will be next, assuming we get enough movies with French language tracks).
But to him, learning a foreign language isn’t a big deal. He’s already the by-product of a dual language home and lives in a country that speaks a different language. But there’s one more important factor at play here:
I promised myself that I will NEVER tell him that something is too hard for him.
Did you ever hear statements like this?
“You’ll never make it to the Major Leagues as a pitcher / National Football League as a quarterback, so why try?”
I think differently. Right now, there are 30 Major League Baseball teams and each of them needs at least five starting pitchers, a couple of middle relievers, and a closer. Let’s say that’s nine pitchers per team. Multiply that times 30 and you have 270 pitchers.
Same thing in the NFL. Each team needs at least a starting and backup quarterback, so that’s at least 60 quarterbacks at any given time.
So instead of “don’t bother, it’s almost impossible”, I take a different approach. I tell my children, “Hey, somebody has to do it; why shouldn’t it be you?”.
And so what if he doesn’t make it to the NFL or never poses for the cover of a media guide for a baseball team? Just going out and doing his best, trying to excel, and applying discipline to a goal will serve him later in life. And eventually he will take these traits and apply them to an area where he does succeed.
But if he never learns how to be disciplined and work, I can almost guarantee failure.
So please; don’t discourage your children from doing something just because the odds seem almost impossible. Let them turn their childhood dreams into hard work that teaches them lifetime habits that can bring success to their lives.
And you never know; it could be your son (or even mine) who wins the Cy Young award 25 years from now. After all, somebody has to win it; why not Son?
Never say never.