watching this video triggered some not so brand new comparisson I hold in my synapses:
This awesome dude explains music theory. He explains the most basic building blocks, how they add up to the next level (#1f4a9;) then suggests to practise permutating all possible permutations of the blocks we have just learned. More on that in a bit.
During my first year in university I was attending Tibetan and Chinese language courses. In the Tibetan class we first learned the alphabet. Then we learned what syllables (Tibetan writing is heavily syllable based) can be written with this alphabet. Only after that did we learn simple sentences, like “the Lama is wondering where he put that holy grail again”.
Forgive me my cynicism, but the absence of an alphabet in Chinese language made it so much more accessible. For the first 15 minutes or so of our lecture I don’t remember hearing a single word that was not Chinese. We witnessed 我学中文 being written on the blackboard. Our textbook started with “Mama, Papa, Sister, Brother, this is, that is,…” Needles to say, Chinese was much easier to learn.
As a teenager I got more fascinated with my fathers guitar, than when I was younger. In order to learn it I picked up a songbook, which had shapes of guitar chords printed on top of the melody lines of well known songs. In the beginning it took ages for me to put my fingers in the right places, but after some practicing I didn’t need the pictures anymore. The chord names became enough.
Two different approaches of learning/teaching have been described now. First two examples of a systematic approach, using some basis that can be agreed on to be The Basic Building Blocks. And two of an approach that holds cultural experience to be more important than the systems that have been used to describe them.
Personally, I find it important to use both. As they both have their strengths and weaknesses.