I stayed with friends in Mataura and their tiny daughter pulled out a tiny violin and started to play. I really thought she was too young to be forced to do a hard thing like learn the violin, but she really played well and she also seemed to enjoy it. This was the first time I had come across the Suzuki Method developed by Japanese violinist, Shinichi Suzuki. He believes that any child can learn to play the violin, in fact, he believed any child can learn to do anything. It’s easier if you start early, and some will be higher achievers, but everyone can learn.
His idea is based on the fact that every Japanese child learns to speak Japanese. Most of us would say, “I could never learn Japanese – it’s too hard!” and yet every child does, just as nearly every child in New Zealand learns to speak English. Some speak it better, but they all manage it pretty well, even though a language is a very hard thing. We also expect every child to read – which is actually a very hard skill – but we believe that they can all do it. Suzuki extends that idea to everything.
Do we think it is too hard for our child to do physics or maths or music or any other topic? Fiddlesticks, says Suzuki – except he would say it in Japanese. It is possible for every child to learn anything – unless there is some genuine intellectual difficulty – it’s even possible for adults. It’s a fascinating idea. Now I’ll need to find another excuse for not learning Japanese.