The language learning connection

Dr. Suzuki’s philosophy is based primarily on his observation that nearly all children learn to speak their native language fluently. No matter what country or region they are from, they learn not only the words and syntax of that language but perfect inflection and accent as well--the inflection and accent spoken by all those around them.

Similarly, if children have beautifully performed music in their environment from very early on, they will learn the vocabulary and syntax of that music as well as beautiful tone and expressive musical inflection. Hence the importance of daily listening to a very high quality recording of the study pieces as well as exposure to many, many other superb performances.

Dr. Suzuki called this practice of teaching children by permeating their environment with examples of what is to be learned the “Mother Tongue Approach” to learning. His “Talent Education” School in Matsumoto, Japan, proves this to be true with music, and in his research (as described in Nurtured By Love), Dr. Suzuki found the method successful in other areas of learning as well.

Very young children can learn the language of music especially well. As brain scientist Daniel J. Levitin noted in his book This Is Your Brain on Music (2006), “The close proximity of music and speech processing in the frontal and temporal lobes, and their partial overlap, suggests that those neural circuits that become recruited for music and language may start out life undifferentiated...With increasing experience and exposure, the developing infant eventually creates dedicated music pathways and dedicated language pathways. The pathways may share some common resources...” (pp. 127-128)

This recently researched phenomenon in the brain may explain both why very young children can learn music very well and why music study has also been shown to increase language ability (amongst other abilities).

“...we all have an innate capacity to learn any of the world’s musics...The brain undergoes a period of rapid development after birth, continuing for the first years of life. During this time, new neural connections are forming more rapidly than at any other time in our lives, and during our midchildhood years, the brain starts to prune these connections, retaining only the most important and most often used ones. This becomes the basis for our understanding of music, and ultimately the basis for what we like in music, what music moves us, and how it moves us...basic structural elements are incorporated into the very wiring of our brains when we listen to music early in our lives.” Daniel J. Levitin, This Is Your Brain on Music (2006), p. 109.