On the Most Important Point of the
Suzuki Method's System of Instruction
Address Delivered at International Suzuki Teachers' Conference
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
July 27-31, 1981
Dr. Shinichi Suzuki
Why do children throughout the world grow
up with the extremely fine ability to speak their own native languages? What exactly is needed to promote the ability to speak, when teaching a child its mother tongue? Herein lies an important point, and I would like these questions to be the primary focus of study at this Conference.
For this reason, I would like to begin by presenting my thoughts on what I call the "Rule of Ability." I would like you to discuss this rule which centers around the point that ability is not an inborn quality, and then its relationship to my "Suzuki Theory," which states that ability is a physiological or cerebro-physiological factor which is gained through the wonderous workings of life itself.
The Suzuki Method of teaching is based on, and indeed built upon, the "Rule of Ability."
I would like to bring forth two factors involved in the teaching of a mother tongue which brings about greater ability:
1. A child is raised from birth hearing the mother tongue every day. If the child does not hear it, the ability to speak does not develop.
2. Ability is developed through the daily use of already remembered words, which augment the learning of additional words. And, through daily practice in speaking these and words learned at an earlier time, the ability is further nurtured and strengthened. Thus, in addition to the development of the ability, the child's ability to augment such words is accelerated so that every child grows to have superior ability.
The Suzuki Method of teaching puts these two educational factors into practice. Furthermore, this principle for nurturing ability applies not only to teaching music, but to all other types of education.
For example, in its application to the teaching of music, the Suzuki Method of teaching takes students capable of playing five musical compositions and has them repeat these five pieces daily, along with the recorder or taped accompaniment. In this way their ability is rapidly nurtured. If this is continually and actively pursued at home, their ability will grow so well that the next, the sixth piece, will be learned very rapidly. When the next piece, the seventh, is assigned as homework, the learning of this new piece will be even faster, provided that this piece is practiced diligently along with the repeated practice, especially with taped accompaniment, of the previous pieces.
This is exactly the same as learning your mother tongue. And when this teaching method is understood and put into practice in the home, no matter who the child is, the ability will grow splendidly and the process of learning the piece will be surprisingly rapid. This is, alas, the Suzuki Method.
Nevertheless, no matter how much we talk about implementing various teaching methods, they are not as easily put into practice. Thus, we thought up an easy approach called the Lottery Concert System. We found that the children were delighted, and when we tried it out on a nation-wide basis, we found that the results were excellent. I urge you to try this system in every country.
The details of the Lottery Concert System are as follows: Cards are made up with names of all pieces which the student has learned to play, and placed in a box at lesson time so that the cards cannot be seen. The student then takes a card from the box and plays the piece that is on the card. If it is played well, another card is selected and that piece is played, and then another. It becomes a test as well as a game, by showing how well the student has practiced at home, with the accompaniment of records or tapes, and how well the student can play pieces learned at an earlier time.
Once again, this is what we call the Lottery Concert System.
We found that even at home, the children will gladly practice this way. The teacher should always do this at the time of lessons, and after that, conduct the lesson for the piece assigned as homework. The children love it.
Right now, we are in the process of encouraging the children to pick up the habit of dividing the daily home practice period into two parts. The first part should be devoted to the enjoyable practice of playing already learned pieces, and the second part devoted to the practice of the piece assigned as homework.
This is also the Suzuki Method of instruction.
If no use were made of words already learned and only new words are learned, wouldn't the speech of all the children in the world become similar to the speech of a retarded child without ability?
The general system for music instruction today calls for practicing only the composition assigned as homework and regards pieces already learned as being finished, and thus, they are not played. This system is absolutely wrong, and to the extent that not practicing words already learned affects language ability, so this system inhibits a high degree of music ability. Thus, I call such a teaching method the "Retarded Child Teaching Method".
Somehow, let us attempt to put an end to such mistaken educational methods, let us change to a teaching method which nurtures every child, and let us seriously study this matter from now on.