Two weeks into her Spanish-language immersion kindergarten class, Clara already knows at least three songs, ten separate color words, how to say she needs to go to the bathroom, how to count to thirteen, and the days of the week. Her pronunciation, while still quirky, already has more in common with a native speaker than you’d think: For instance, she says “d” in the Spanish way, with the tongue far forward between the teeth. And she’s been teaching us the songs, and saying “Un applauso!” when we get them right — after which everybody claps, once.

It’s amazing to me how quickly her young mind is able to absorb this language. Sure, we all learn a language more quickly when we’re constantly surrounded by it — and by people who are attentively helping us to learn it. But there’s something about the speed with which a five-year-old can pick up a language that is astonishing to me.