The two-year old brain might fall short when it comes to tasks such as patiently waiting in lines or twirling spaghetti around a fork, but that same brain is uniquely gifted when it comes to acquiring language.

Unlike adults, who have to work around a cerebral obstacle course to learn a second language, young children can take in foreign words without a problem. It’s all a blank slate anyway, what’s the difference between hearing the word coincidence or itadakimas?

Language was just one magical aspect of having Mina and Io in town this past week. Io would speak Japanese to Hugh; Hugh would speak his version of Japanese: a-ka-daka-maka-haka. Then Io would repeat that back until, voila!, they had their own language: Japanglish.

Also, Thomas the Train, Spiderman, and Lightning McQueen cross international borders. Io, while watching Thomas did note that “the voices are all wrong,” shaking his head at the pitiful American child who had to live with Alec Baldwin’s voice.

But Hugh showed him what’s what. Later, they raced their battery operated trains against one another, Hugh boasting Thomas the Train, (a.k.a. Amtrak), while Io raced his battery-operated shinkansen (bullet train). Guess which was faster?

Yes, the shinkansen whizzed past the clunky blue Thomas, but five minutes later, when Hugh’s train reached the finish line, he jumped up and down and said, “I win! I win!”

Good to know that no matter what language he speaks, Hugh is a true American.

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