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My middle son gave me an interesting gift last Christmas: a course in conversational Norwegian. It was a set of CDs.

Why Norwegian? My work group is partnered with a Norwegian branch of my company. The team is split between the United States and Norway.

Virtually every college-educated European speaks English well – better than many Americans. Our Norwegian team contains non-Norwegians (mainly from other European countries). English is the language they understand in common.

Although I do not need to speak Norwegian, My son thought it might be worthwhile to speak with the Norwegian members of the team in their native language. When I thought about it, I agreed. I have made several business trips to Norway over the last few years, and I speak with Norwegian team members daily via telecoms and Lync.

Besides my one-way commute is 45 minutes. The lessons on the CD were 30 minutes long. It seemed a good way of breaking up the commute’s monotony.

I repeated what was said, while commuting. Learning in my fifties takes longer than when I was younger. I had to repeat each lesson several times to master each lesson’s vocabulary. No one was grading me. If I had to repeat a lesson three or four times, so what? Sure enough, after completing the sixteen lessons I could speak to and understand my Norwegian colleagues in Norwegian. Not as well as they spoke English, but well enough to exchange pleasantries.

Some Americans told me the Norwegians preferred speaking English with us. I found most Norwegians enjoyed – or at least were amused by – my efforts.

Always Learning Something

Although the gift was unexpected, I was not surprised. My middle son is always learning something. After starting his career he joined Toastmasters to learn how to speak better. He takes violin lessons and photography classes on weekends. He is learning Greek through an audio course like the one he gave me. He even paid for classes for his kid brother as a Christmas present.

He believes you have to improve yourself throughout life. You should work continuously to improve the talents God lent you, not bury them.

He said he learned that from me, watching me as he grew up. It was one reason he gave me the language lessons. He thought I would appreciate them.

Looking back I realized what he meant. I was always learning. I earned an MBA, part-time, when he was a child. I slowly mastered model-making when he was older. In his teen years he watched me teach myself how to be a freelance writer.

He watched me, learned from it, and put it into practice as he grew older. In a sense, he is wiser than me. He watched something I did unconsciously and made it deliberate policy in his life.

Can parents receive a greater reward than realizing they have raised a child wiser than they are? I don’t think so. I learned something valuable from him: the importance of improving yourself. Det er bra (It is good).

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By Mark N. Lardas. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines

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