Language Lab

Language Lab

Modern language labs are known by many names, digital language lab, foreign language lab, English, language lab, multimedia language lab, language media center and multimedia learning center to name but a few. A language laboratory is a dedicated space for foreign language learning where students access audio or audio-visual materials. They allow a teacher to listen to and manage student audio, which is delivered to individual students through headsets or in isolated ‘sound booths.’ Language labs were common in schools and universities in the United States in the two decades following World War II.[1] They have now largely been replaced by self access language learning centers, which may be called ‘language labs.

The ‘traditional’ language laboratory consisted of a teacher console networked to multiple stations for individual students. The teacher console typically included a tape recorder to play the instructional recording, a headset and system of switches to enable the teacher to monitor either the audio being played or an individual student, and a microphone for communicating with students. Each student station generally included a student tape recorder, headset, and microphone. The tape recorder both enabled recording of students’ spoken responses and allowed them to record instructional content for later independent study.

All but the most simple or first generation laboratories allow the teacher to remotely control the tape transport controls of the student booths (record, stop, rewind etc.) from the master desk. This allows for easy distribution of the master programme material, which is often copied at high speed onto the student positions for later use by the students at their own pace.

The language laboratory is very useful for assessing students’ speech. It provides students with the technical tools to get the best samples of pronunciation of the language. The electronic devices used in the laboratory will stimulate the eyes and ears of the learner to acquire the language quickly and easily. The laboratory’s collection is designed to assist learners in the acquisition and maintenance of aural comprehension, oral and written proficiency, and cultural awareness. The language laboratory offers broadcasting, television programmes, web-assisted materials and videotaped off-air recordings in the target language. In short, a learner can get the experience of having interaction with native speakers through the laboratory. Hence, the language laboratory has become the need of the hour in any language learning process for communication.

Modern language labs in general offer the following

  • Text, images, audio and video can easily be integrated to teaching and learning languages; language teachers can alter materials to fit their requirements and curriculum;
  • Students can record their own voice and play back the recordings, interact with each other and the teacher, and store their results and recordings;
  • Language teachers can intervene and control the learners’ computers via the teacher’s console, track of learners’ work, etc.;
  • Self-access for independent learning which includes access to resources outside class.

The purpose of a language lab is to involve students to actively participate in language learning exercises and get more practice time than otherwise possible in a traditional classroom environment. Main benefit of a language lab is that it increases the time each student can spent actively speaking and practicing during the class.

Common components and equipment in a modern language lab:

  • Teacher has a computer with appropriate language lab software for conducting language exercises
  • Teacher and students wear language learning headsets that block outside sounds and disturbances
  • Students have a media player/recorder or student software for listening to audio and recording speech
  • Teacher and student positions are connected via LAN (local area network) if they are using a desktop language lab software, like Sanako Study 1200, and via Internet if they are using modern browser based online language labs like Sanako Connect.

Kinds of Language Laboratory

The language laboratory assists educators in delivering foreign language instruction, and has been through many developmental stages over the years.

Four kinds of laboratories are being focused on here:

  1. Conventional Laboratory

This is the primitive form of the language laboratory. The conventional lab has a tape recorder and a few audiocassettes of the target language to teach the learners. The teacher plays the tape and the learners listen to it and learn the pronunciation. As it is used in a normal classroom setup, it is prone to distractions and this type of laboratory is no longer common.

  1. Lingua Phone Laboratory

This is again a conventional type of lab, with a little modernization. Learners are given a headset to listen to the audiocassettes being played. Here distractions are minimized and a certain amount of clarity in listening is possible.

There is also a modernized lingua phone laboratory available today, which uses an electronic device that has two functions. It works as a cassette player with all the features of a normal cassette player on the left side, and as a repeater on the right side that helps one to record one’s voice and play it back for comparison.

  1. Computer Assisted Language Laboratory (CALL)

CALL uses the computer to teach language. The language course materials are already fed into the computer and are displayed according to the features available in the system. Nowadays, there are also laboratories with computers with a connection to the Internet. These are called Web Assisted Language Laboratories (WALL). The development of CALL has been gradual, and this development has been categorized into three distinct phases: Behavioristic CALL, Communicative CALL and Integrative CALL (Barson & Debski, 1996). Though the development of CALL has been gradual, its acceptance has come slowly and unevenly.

  1. Multimedia Hi-Tech Language Laboratory

There is a lot of software available on the market that can be used in the multimedia language laboratory, for example:

Renet

Aristoclass

Hiclass

Globarina

Console OCL-908W

Histudio MHi Tech

Online Software

The Importance of Language Lab

The significance of the language laboratory has been much felt in the field of communication. We live in a multilingual and multicultural world, which is being shrunk to the size of a village by the advancement of science and technology. The language laboratory exists to help one to use technology effectively to communicate. It is not merely for learning a single language, but can be used for teaching a number of languages efficiently. Nine important aspects of Language Lab is given below:

  1. It is a tool designed for teaching any language.
  2. It helps one to learn pronunciation, accent, stress and all other aspects of the phonetics of a language.
  3. Effective communicative training programmes for the general public, private and corporate sectors, junior and senior level officers can be given through the lab.
  4. Experts can utilize the laboratory for creating and editing scientific and technical materials for teaching language.
  5. Short-term and long-term coaching classes for international examinations like IELTS, TOEFL and other competitive examinations can be organized.
  6. Online courses and paperless examinations can be conducted through the language laboratory.

As the ability to communicate effectively has become the prerequisite for anyone who ventures into a new profession, the need for developing such a skill is a much-felt phenomenon today. Both governmental and private institutions focus their attention on students developing their communicative skills.