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Dec 19, 2011
The Early Years
Dr. Shinichi Suzuki who developed the world-renowned Suzuki Method of music, based his teaching technique on a remarkably simple principle. He made the observation that babies everywhere learned to communicate in their mother tongue almost effortlessly. Having stumbled upon this obvious yet revealing discovery, he established that children could be taught to play music (and for that matter a number of other skills) in the same manner, if the “Mother Tongue Approach” were applied properly.
What is the Mother Tongue Approach to learning?
The method is based on the fact that babies learn their mother tongue, simply by being in a certain environment. Think about how a child learns to speak. She constantly hears the language being spoken. She is exposed to household conversations, real world interactions, variations in tones and pitches and to the human voices speaking the mother tongue almost all the time. In no time, she begins to understand words, sentences and the nuances of the language. She begins to repeat words, form sentences and is on her way to talking fluently.
Babies pick up their mother tongue and the seemingly daunting challenge of “intelligible speech” mostly by listening, imitating and repeating.
Mother Tongue Approach to Music
The Suzuki Mother Tongue approach employs a very similar process to teach children music. Some of the components of this method include listening, memory, vocabulary, repetition, parental involvement and a nurturing environment. The approach also emphasis a step-by-step mastery of the skill leading to natural, effortless progress in acquiring the skill. These are the factors that help a child learn her mother tongue and the very same factors that can help her master music, literature, math, art, dance and much more.
Suzuki music students are asked to listen to recordings as often as they can. Parents participate in the learning process, and are not mere spectators. Repetition is key to learning a piece — both repeated listening and diligent practice. My daughter’s piano teacher encourages us to play the recordings for her in the car and at home every opportunity we get — even when it seems like she’s not paying attention. Apparently, even when kids don’t appear to be listening, they’re absorbing a lot of what they hear at a sub-conscious level.
Putting The Method to Work
It’s never too early to start reading, singing or talking to your child, studies tell us. Parents and educators can borrow the Mother Tongue Approach to teaching and apply it in a number of ways. The important thing to remember is the emphasis on listening and repetition.
Children need to be taught to read, however, listening is a skill they’re born with. We can put this powerful skill to work even before birth if we choose.