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Awesome Parallels Between AJATT and the Suzuki Music Method

Thus spake Erick P., and incredibly handsome young man from Brazil [edited for typos]:


Before anything else, I wanna thank you for the incredibly useful, entertaining and inspiring fountain of knowledge that is AJATT. I’m dead serious, it’s just life-saving.

I’m from Brazil and have been living the past few days in what you could call “All ‘All Japanese All The Time’ All The Time”. I can’t seem to stop reading the blog! Really, thank you for all the help with my learning Japanese!

And, as I’m a big enthusiast of meta-learning as well, I stumbled upon something that I think might really interest you. I was going to post this as a comment on one of your AJATT posts, but it became too big and I don’t wanna flood the blog…
But I find this content extremely interesting for all your meta-learners out there and I think it should be shared. I did a search for “Suzuki” on AJATT and found no entries. If you do not yet know about this, you’ll certainly love it!

Have you heard of the famous Suzuki Method for teaching music? It’s cited in that Scientific American article from a post of yours (from 2007, “The Expert Mind”). The resemblance with some language learning techniques is incredible! In fact, Suzuki devised his method based on his observations about language learning. Gotta love it, man!

I recommend a brief read on the Wiki, but I’m gonna paste some highlights that really link this music learning method to language learning methods put forward by you and others:

“The central belief of Suzuki, based on his language acquisition theories, is that all people are capable of learning from their environment.”

Immersion theory:

“Saturation in the musical community, including attendance at local concerts of classical music, exposure to and friendship with other music students, and listening to music performed by “artists” (professional classical musicians of high caliber) in the home every day (starting before birth if possible).”


“Suzuki pointed out that great artists (such as Mozart) were surrounded with excellent performances from birth, and that the advent of recording technology made this aspect of their environment possible to achieve for large numbers of “ordinary” people whose parents were not themselves great musicians & music teachers like Mozart’s father
was. So-called “traditional” (that is, not Suzuki trained) music educators have used this technique since the earliest days of recording technology; the difference in the Suzuki method is the scale on which Suzuki systematically insisted on daily listening in the home, from before birth if possible, and his focus on using recordings of beginner’s repertoire alongside recordings of advanced repertoire.”

Input Before Output (sort of):

“In the beginning, learning music by ear is emphasized over reading musical notation. This follows Suzuki’s observation that in language acquisition, a child learns to speak before learning to read. Related to this, memorization of all solo repertoire is expected, even after a student begins to use sheet music as a tool to learn new pieces.”

Forget about grammar, it comes naturally:

“Traditional etudes and technical studies are not used in the beginning stages, which focus almost exclusively on a set of performance pieces.”


“Another innovation of Suzuki was to deliberately leave out the large amount of technical instructions & exercises found in many beginners’ music books of his day. He favored a focus on song-playing over technical exercise, and asked teachers to allow students to make music from the beginning, helping to motivate young children with short, attractive songs which can themselves be used as technique building exercises. Each song in the common repertoire is carefully chosen to introduce some new or higher level of technique than the previous selection.”

SRS theory (maybe?):

“Retaining and reviewing every piece of music ever learned on a regular basis, in order to raise technical and musical ability”

You must enjoy it:

“Frequent public performance, so that performing is natural and enjoyable.”

Sentence Mining:

“extensive listening to and copying of recordings”

And finally, something I think relates to the Principle of Anticipation, from the Pimsleur language learning Method (which I actually like a lot, for it shares many of the said principles):

“Review pieces, along with “preview” parts of music a student is yet to learn, are often used in creative ways to take the place of the more traditional etude books.”

Well, that’s it, Khatz. I hope you liked the parallels…
Thanks again, man, for all the AJATT experience!

Best regards,

Erick P.

But wait! Not so fast! As it turns out, Erick P. up there ↑ wasn’t the first to notice and write about the commonality between Suzuki and AJATT. J. Wibble, a self-described bipolar aspie Open University student and part-time hermit pianist, wrote about the AJATT-Suzuki rhyme back in 2011 at his blog, Toaster in the Shower [emphases and paragraph splits added]:

Achievement is, for the most part, predicated on time dedicated to the task. There are exceptions, and it’s only fair to admit that there are some tasks that some people are highly unlikely to ever achieve, no matter how much time they dedicate to it. Let’s assume that we’re talking about a relatively unremarkable individual, who has neither obvious talent (more on that later) nor any specific learning difficulties. To achieve something – let’s consider a tangible example, such as an LRSM in piano performance – they have to not only want it enough, but to put in the hours and be honest about how many hours they are putting in.

Khatzumoto over at AJATT (All Japanese, All The Time) is quite frank about this – he achieved fluency in spoken and written Japanese, a lofty goal if ever there was one, in approximately 18 months. He did this by essentially dispensing with English, and conducting all possible life activities in Japanese. This guy took ‘immersion’ literally, and did something that many people (including many native Japanese speakers) believe to be an impossible task.

Then he created a site to show people how to do it, and it’s pretty straightforward – most of the site is pep talks and details of how to create the immersion environment, and recommendations of what resources (books, websites, software etc.) to use and which to absolutely avoid. He does not pretend that it could be done quickly or without effort, but states that time can be used as a sort of currency to buy these skills.

Khatzumoto theorises that Japanese, in itself, is not difficult. Many people would disagree, but his logic is much like that of Shinichi Suzuki, and people like to put him down too. If you tell yourself it’s hard, it will be hard. If you tell yourself you can’t do it, you won’t. Most importantly, you have to put the hours in, and passive hours are as crucial as active hours – exposure to the object of your goal (beautiful music, fluent Japanese) takes place constantly, to the point that it becomes ingrained in your mind and you pretty much have no option but to absorb it. The underlying philosophy of the Suzuki method is that talent can be created, given the right environment and support, and Khatzumoto shows that’s not limited to 2-year-olds with 1/32 size violins.

If you keep at it, you will change, and that’s not hippiecack; it’s cold, hard science. Just remember that if they keep at it, you will change too, and be on the lookout for anyone trying to change you – not just your partner, but your friends and family and anyone else who might have a personal investment of any type in your success or failure. Adults have enough baggage as it is; you don’t need anyone in your life who adds to it. Surrounding yourself with positive people makes it all the easier to believe in yourself, and you have to believe to change anything.

  8 comments for “Awesome Parallels Between AJATT and the Suzuki Music Method

  1. Dakota
    July 29, 2012 at 23:51


    What a very odd coincidence. I just happen to be an aspie who plays piano and studies (acquires) Japanese as well.

    • Saram96
      July 30, 2012 at 18:40


    • ライトニング
      July 31, 2012 at 03:49

      Try less output before you end up making a bad habit. I am speaking from experience. Luckily it’s been fixed though. 😛

  2. Sholum
    July 30, 2012 at 10:13

    I started learning to play the violin when I was about ten years old. Young enough to still be pliable, but old enough that I could later examine how I learned best. I have to say that I did better when we practiced real pieces and played real performances than any of the theory (which I only learned because I had to be able to read the sheet music).
    I could still dust off that knowledge and play in a local orchestra if I wanted to (and I plan to soon). That’s how well learning through actual use ingrains things in your head. It even helps with related things as well. I started learning to play piano and it only took two hours or so for me to get accustomed to the keys since I already knew what it should sound like (wish I had some pieces to practice at the time, but I was an idiot and didn’t prepare anything). Of course, I’m still a beginner, but I had a greater advantage compared to someone who’d never played an instrument before. Kind of like the Heisig method if you ask me.
    Now, I’m learning Japanese. The words and kanji I remember best are the ones I see while reading manga (I need the context). Even using Anki and the ‘lazy kanji mod’ deck (which is the only way I managed to get through them all), I still can’t quite get it worked in until I’ve actually used it for real. 
    I have several albums of Japanese music that I like (this is actually quite the feat. I don’t like most of the music I’ve found) running in shuffle on my mp3 player that I listen to when I’m working, doing SRS reps, or any other time I don’t really need my ears for other things. Even then, I can always deal with one ear if possible. Listening to the sounds all the time really helps you to pick them out better. I have other audio sources, but they’re not as reliable (the occasional video or something like that).
    Anyway, I hope that in the future, I can make similar comments about my Japanese skills as I can my music skills. Like that I can dust it off if I go too long without using it and that it helps jump start me into other languages if I decide to learn another (highly likely).

  3. July 31, 2012 at 21:42

    Thanks for a very interesting post. I did a little reading, and it seems that these are the language factors that the Suzuki method is predicated upon:
    Step-by-step mastery
    Parental Involvement
    ( )
    It’s likely that if you apply these factors (with some minor tweaks to the verbiage) to almost any significant endeavor, including sports and work, you will have success. As with learning Japanese, it’s just a matter of perseverance and time.

  4. Ian Worthington
    October 13, 2012 at 18:35

    “in the home every day (starting before birth if possible).” Almost stopped reading.

  5. know1
    May 3, 2015 at 09:20

    Anyone familiar with any resources (books, blogs etc.) that apply AJATT-like approach to learning music? I’d be very interested in learning a musical instrument in a way I learned L2. Apart from listening to lots of music you’d like to play, what would the method be? Playing by ear? What’s the SRS equivalent for music?

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