Understanding Suzuki Philosophy: The Mother Tongue Approach

Renowned Japanese violinist and teacher Dr. Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998), studied how children learn for over fifty years.

In his travels to Germany from Japan, Dr. Suzuki was encouraged by each child’s ability to assimilate their “mother tongue”. German children learned to speak German fluently just as Japanese children absorbed the dialect of their parents. Children in all parts of the world learned their native languages effortlessly and with great joy.

This led Dr. Suzuki to analyze and share “Mother Tongue Learning” aiming to apply these same characteristics of learning to the study of music and later to all subjects.

He saw a great opportunity to enrich children’s lives through music when developing this teaching approach. His primary goal was not only to teach young people to play musical instruments but rather, he recognized the unique contribution music can make in the total learning process.

His goals for all children included development of the whole child, unfolding the natural potential to learn and becoming a good and happy person.

The Mother Tongue Approach:

  • Emphasizes the importance of the parents in the child’s process of learning.
  • Includes much listening and repetition. The child looks to their parent as their model and first teacher.
  • Includes much praise and performance. The child has unlimited opportunity for feedback from their parent.
  • No word or step is discarded, and there is praise at each step
  • Learning accelerates with practice

This is a non-stressful and pressure-free approach to learning that allows the child to feel the satisfaction of their success when they are ready.

Adults do not question a child’s ability to walk because he stumbles to take his first steps. 

Adults must wait for readiness. The parent trusts in the ability of the child.

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