Non English speaking student

Mia Theodoratus said: Oct 10, 2013
Mia TheodoratusHarp
Brooklyn, NY
3 posts

so I have my first totally Suzuki harp student and she is 7 and only speaks French. I have googled key phrases in French and have been doing a lot of physical interaction, but I could use a couple pointers.

Mia Theodoratus

Mia Theodoratus
Suzuki Harp

Robin Alfieri said: Nov 2, 2013
Robin Alfieri
Suzuki Association Member
Maynard, MA
4 posts

I had a student who came from Korea and spoke very little English when we began lessons together. In fact, her father asked me if it would be a problem. At first, I could see when she really understood nothing…you know the blank look.

I found enthusiasm carries in every language. Also, I use a lot of demonstration in my teaching and she understood what I meant after I would show her by playing for her. If she can hear it in the music and see what I did, she was pretty easily able to replicate what I was looking for.

For me, it did help that my student had a tiny bit of English (my only language, sadly). Both she and her mother, who had absolutely no English at all, are now quite fluent. I won’t say there are never misunderstandings, but going into our third year of lessons, language is much less of a barrier. Additionally, my student was about 11 when we began lessons together, so she was quite a bit older than yours. I’m not sure if that makes a huge difference, but it definitely could!

I’d say integrating my student into group lessons was more difficult than private lessons were for us, but every student is different! Group was a struggle. She didn’t have the review skills she needed. I was lucky that my colleague worked well with me to make her as comfortable as possible. Now she is fully involved in our program and enjoys lessons immensely.

Jennifer Visick said: Jan 29, 2014
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

I know someone who claims that the only words you ever need in a music lesson are “Yes” and “No”. Personally I would find “My turn” and “your turn” and “Please” and “thank you” and “stop” and “go” and “Practice this… every day/every other day/once a week/3 days in a row” and “good thinking!” to be helpful additions to the short list of phrases.

(Possibly knowing when the student says that they need to use the restroom is also on the shortlist, especially for younger students!)

But the idea that you can teach purely by example (and by pointing out which of your examples is “yes” and which is “no”) is valid. In fact it might make for better teaching. One of my teacher trainers once gave an assignment to create a lesson plan with as little talking as possible.

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