In and teachers as users are adopting their teaching

In the world of
technology, where the world is becoming a global village and English being the
global language, one need to communicate effectively. Effective communication
is also necessary as many students aspires to go abroad for higher studies or
for better job prospects, where they need to communicate on a daily basis.  Recent times have witnessed a phenomenal
growth in Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) in India, and more IT companies
are making huge money out of it, and they require candidates who can
communicate well in English. Hence, the need for effective communication skills
has been felt more than before. The All India Council of Technical Education
(AICTE) has also given recognition to the ever growing importance of English
language communication and soft skills development and therefore the subject
has been included in the curriculum.

Researches have focused
on the benefits of emerging technologies and teachers as users are adopting
their teaching process as well as the institutes to create a technology
enhanced user-friendly classroom atmosphere. Walker and White assert that
educational institutions nowadays feel the pressure to invest in technology and
bring it to the educational settings since the effectiveness of foreign
language teaching relies heavily on a foreign language learning environment
(Walker & White, 2013; Yugiu & Rongjie, 2011). For facilitating better
English learning environment and setting, language laboratories are used for
English students of non-native countries so that they can feel the atmosphere of
the target language.

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Today, technical
institutions and engineering colleges across India have introduced a course on
technical communication in their B.Tech and MCA courses where students are
taught how to write business letters, memos, précis etc. along with these there
are practical course on language laboratories. The course gives stress on the
practical aspects of technical communication, where various skills of
communication are imparted to the learners through workshops, practical
sessions and through pair and team works. The aim of language laboratory course
is to bring in an overall development of the communicative competence of the
students and prepare them for their professional life.

Language
Laboratory:  A Literature Review

The history of language
laboratory goes back to 1880s after the tin foil phonograph was invented by
Edison but it reached its peak in 1960s when Behaviourism was the most
influential theory guiding educational practice (Peterson, 1974; Levy, 1997). Warschauer
and Healey (1998) assert that it is more appropriate to call the language labs
as Integrated Computer Assisted language Learning (CALL)environment after
1990s, however Walker & White (2013), gave the new term as Technology
Enhanced language Learning (TELL) since computers are not only component for
language labs’ tablets, Kinect games, software programs are also in the
spotlight.

Various studies on
language lab have found that students generally have a positive attitude
towards computer technology in the language classroom and such technology has a
positive effect on language learning environment. Yau and Cheng’s study (2012)
on students’ confidence showed that integrating technological component in
their course enhanced students’ confidence in language learning. Oz (2015) too
stated that Turkish EFL students’ have positive attitudes towards Foreign
language Learning and integrating CALL-applications into language learning
process. In a study by Yarar (2005) on teaching English grammar through CALL,
the result showed that using CALL in teaching English grammar has been
effective.

The content that can be
used in the language labs are not just audio, but videos, flash based
materials, internet etc. moreover they are much more engaging for both teacher
and student and much quicker in speed and variety of the delivery of media from
teacher to student, student to teacher or student to student. Furthermore,
developments in language labs are now apparent as access moves from a fixed
network and related Microsoft operating systems to the online & browsers.
Students can now access and work from these new cloud labs from their own
devices at any times and anywhere. Students can interrogate record audio and
video files and be marked and assessed by their teachers remotely.

 

 

Language
laboratories: Types

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

Few kinds of laboratories are being focused here

Traditional/Conventional
laboratory

 

This is the earliest form of language laboratory. It
makes use of a recorder and cassette tapes to help language learners. The tape
usually contains texts or stories read aloud by a native language speaker.
There are also listening and speaking exercises that follow in each chapter.
The teacher plays back the tape and the learners listen to it and learn the
material.

Here, the teacher’s console is located in front of the
array of booths; distribution switches enable the teacher to determine which
students will hear which source.

Lingua Phone Laboratory

 

A lingua-phone laboratory is like conventional
laboratory, with a little modernization. The students are given headphones to
listen to the audiocassettes that are played back. As regards to the conventional
laboratory, the distractions in this laboratory are less so there is certain
amount of clarity in listening There is also a modernized lingua phone
laboratory available today, which uses an electronic device that 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 replay it for comparison.

Computer Assisted Language
Laboratory (CALL)

 

There are two brands of this laboratory: Computer
Assisted Language Laboratory (CALL) and Web Assisted Language Laboratory
(WALL).

CALL uses the computer to teach language. This is one of
the most modern speech laboratories available today. The entire course module
is already stored in the computer.  The language course resources are
already downloaded on the computer and are presented to students according to
the features available in the system.

The development of CALL has been gradual, and this
development has been categorized into three distinct phases: Behaviouristic
CALL, Communicative CALL and Integrative CALL. They can also practice different
types of exercises to avoid boredom. Most of all, they can listen to different
speakers when practicing the language. In fact, they can also learn grammar and
other language skills with this modern laboratory.

Compared with CALL, WALL is almost the same as CALL with
one difference that is, in WALL system, computers are connected to the
internet. In WALL, the teacher as well as students can browse any resources
from the internet during the teaching learning process (Wilson & Thayalan,
2007). There are many other kinds of language laboratories like The Dial Access
Lab, Mobile Lab, and Wireless Lab etc.

Mobile Lab

 

This is basically a console on wheels with storage spaces
for headsets. It is best used within a single building where it can be moved
from one room to another. While the advantage of the mobile lab is that any
classroom may be turned into a lab, the drawback is that the equipment is heavy
and hampers free movement. It requires time and energy to set up.

The Dial Access Lab

 

It needs more spaces than the Conventional Lab. It also
needs more technicians at any given time. It is basically a broadcast
operation. Depending on the size of operation, any number of students can
access a particular tape at any given time. Usually, a number of rooms are used
to provide space for the different programs mounted; video and /or computer
interface may be added again, depending on the size of the operation, the student
needs a minimum of equipment, namely, an activated headset, a dial or
touch-tone selector, and controls for a remote selector.

Wireless Lab

 

The wires connecting the sources to student headsets are
replaced by radio transmission in a wireless laboratory. The console contains a
small transmitter that serves this purpose. Monitoring and intercom are NOT
possible with this lab. It combines well with the Mobile Lab, though the
important functions of monitoring and intercom are forfeited.

Remote Controlled Lab

 

This arrangement enables students to control specific
tape decks located elsewhere at remote locations. The actual equipment
installation is similar to that of a conventional laboratory room. The
electronics are relatively more complex. Here, the student can; start, stop,
backtrack, and rewind at will, without actually including combinations e.g.
Listen, Respond, and Record.

Both library operations are available. The student is
freed from handling tapes. Maintenance problems are reduced as students cannot
damage tape decks. Semi-automatic operation of the lab, without much
supervision, is possible. Remote decks may be permanently loaded with the
current tape enabling students to go to certain booths and immediately work in
library mode.

Activities of language laboratory

Language laboratories are designed to teach the students
through innovative methods of learning. In the laboratory the learners are provided
with Conversation practice, Group Discussion, Interview sessions, Power Point
presentations, Debates and Role play. Through various interactive sessions,
handouts, workshops, self-assessment sheets, peer assessment sheets and teacher
assessment, students are thoroughly prepared for the various aspects of their
social and professional lives.

 

Language laboratory: A Necessity

Using a language
lab has many benefits:

Acoustics: English Lab provides an opportunity to all learners to hear the
instructions. Each learner can listen to the lesson material at a level set by
the Instructor and also receive guidance from the teacher. Individual headsets
give the students the accurate and correct pronunciation.

Developing
Listening Skills: We know that listening skill is very
important aspect in language learning. Language lab helps learners to
develop good listening skills. Learners hear the correct language patterns all
the time through their headsets. The students might be attentive towards the
sounds in the lab more careful than the theory classes.

Privacy and
Effective Learning: Individual headsets provide learners with a
psychological privacy. They promote not only speaking ability but also
effective learning. It encourages the students to speak so that the mute and
shy people including other students get benefit from it. They can practice the
sounds according British pronunciation which help them to speak with correct
pronunciation. The shy learners can get more benefits from the lab. Students
can be supervised individually by the monitor so that their doubts can be
clarified easily.  In theory classes, the students usually stop speaking
when teacher communicates with an individual learner but in a lab they will
continue working without interruption. The students can improve their language
skills effectively by listening to the material in the lab.

Attention and
Concentration: Since the language lab allows the learner to listen
to the program individually, each individual learner’s attention may be focused
on the program material being studied. The attention and concentration to
students by lab make them to learn more things in the lab.

Oral Testing: The students can test their voice by producing the sounds. The
testing will make the students to speak without fear and to bring the students
on one path which focus on learning English.

Record /
Comparing: The learners have the ability to record their own
voices along with the master stimulus. Each learner can be working
interactively on different segments within the same program or be working with
completely different program material.

Role Playing
Exercises: Using the random pairing/random-grouping feature
that all advanced modern language learning systems incorporate, instructors can
generate a variety of exercises structured around role-playing. Learners can be
grouped together in small numbers and hold conversational practice with each
other

Teacher
Monitoring: Since the instructor is not concentrating on
producing the next question or drill, he/she can concentrate more on the
student responses. The instructor has more time to produce materials and
oversee class activities due to the automatic, rather than manually, controlled
instructor console features

 

Role of English
Language Teachers

Some years ago,
the role of an English teacher is to teach English lessons and explain the
lessons in regional language but in the modern age, English language teachers
have expected to play different roles:

As an English teacher, he/she has to teach the
lessons and grammar with full of examples.
As a communication skills consultant, English
teacher works out and plans for improvement of students communication
skills by introducing new activities like group discussion, debates,
situational dialogues or other activities.
As a soft skills trainer, he must train the students
to empower them.

Though we have
had students who are quite experienced with computers, we have also had some
students who had seldom used a computer; lacked basic knowledge such as how to
operate a mouse or open a folder; and lacked the vocabulary, reading, and
listening skills to follow instructions for using the computer. We know that
most of the students have the communication problem. Sometimes they do not have
adequate language proficiency. Communication and soft skills and ability to
learn on their own are very important for those who join the company. Teachers
of English have a responsibility to help the students in overcoming their fears
about communicating and to assist students in developing more positive
perceptions of communication activities. I present here some of the important
points to the learners to overcome their communication problems.

1. Try to know
about your communication nervousness.

2. Accept your
mistakes and if you have fear and nervousness when you are asked to speak in
front of an audience.

3. Keep the
point in your mind that speech anxiety is a natural emotion.

4. Write your
mistakes and find out all these where you are committing errors.

5. Take steps to
develop your confidence level.

6. Share your
communication problems with your teacher.

7. Have an
outline plan of your presentation.

8. Take steps to
improve your English and your pronunciation.

9. Utilize the
lab for your communication improvement.

10. Try to
participate in all kinds of topics actively so that you can acquire language.

11. The teacher
should identify the areas in which students have communication problems
and training should be individualized.

 

Conclusion

 

The language
laboratory is a very helpful tool for practicing and assessing one’s speech in
any language. It provides a facility which allows the student to listen to
model pronunciation, repeat and record the same, listen to their performance
and compare with the model, and do self-assessment. Since the language
laboratory gives every learner of any language freedom to learn at their own
pace, it is flexible and does not necessarily require a teacher all the time.
At the same time, it is possible for teachers to provide assistance
individually and collectively. The language laboratory allows every participant
his or her privacy to speak and listen.