The Mother Tongue approach was developed by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki in Japan in the 1940's. As a violinist and educator, he recognized and applied the principles of language development to the teaching of music.
Ages 4 to 8 are ideal for beginning Suzuki lessons. In the same way a child learns to speak when they are ready, this seems to be the optimum time to begin learning a musical instrument.
The role of the parent determines the success of the Suzuki program. Providing models of sight and sound awakens the growth of desire to play. Routines, interest, and encouragement help a child to develop the discipline required when learning to play an instrument.
Listening to a great deal of music is fundamental to the Suzuki Method. Just as listening to a new language helps in learning to speak it, much repetitive listening is done before beginning to learn a piece of music. This also helps the student develop a discriminating ear.
Small steps are essential in the early stages. Typically, progress is slow in the early stages, and accelerates as the student advances. Mastery of each small step is emphasized through the use of repetition. Ultimately, this leads to a high level of competence.
Reading music is introduced once technique is well established, similar to the way children learn to speak before they read.
Performance in positive settings is encouraged. This provides an opportunity to build self-esteem and share the joy of music.