Learn a language in a laboratory

MIND YOUR LANGUAGE

Learn a language in a laboratory

The advancement of science and technology has brought about a sea change in the way we now communicate, learn and teach. The quintessential classroom is now a transformed space of teaching-learning aids. One such expansion is the development of laboratories in the teaching of diverse subjects such as English and French. Needless to say, even the language has been bitten by the electronics bug!

There are four basic parts to understanding a language thoroughly.

*Listening
*Speaking
*Reading
*Writing

Then there are sub-skills such as note-making and note-taking, report- writing, letter writing, persuasive skills. The purpose of a langauge laboratory is to fill the loop holes in the old system that only focus on writing skills.

Common misconceptions

Here’s a list of common myths that students have come to believe:

*English classes only involve lessons and grammar.  
*There is nothing new to be learnt in English.  
*English hour means “story hour”.
*English class does not cover literature.

All of these inferences were made after speaking to students in high schools and colleges who have not been exposed to a language lab.

Purpose & productivity

In an era of fast-moving communicative tools, there is much emphasis on an individual’s speaking skills and the language lab does just that.  A language laboratory contains special equipment to help students learn a language, whether native or foreign, by listening to tapes and CDs, watching videos, and recording test clips for future assessment. It serves as an audio or audio-visual installation space, used as an aid in teaching or picking up a language.

The lab creates an artificial language atmosphere for students so that they are encouraged to listen and speak in the Target Language (TL).  Here, lessons and exercises are recorded on a cassette or computer, allowing students to understand and grasp a new language.

The laboratory allows for experimentation through several speaking and writing drills. Itincludes sessions like word games, quizzes, extempore speaking, debates, skits, etc.  It can be a fulfilling experience for teachers as well.  

One way of ensuring a language penetrates deep and stays with a student is by focusing on practical learning methods. By introducing a language laboratory and making it mandatory, it is easy to polish one’s communciation skills among students, irrespective of the language they choose to pick up. 

Where it all began

Ever wondered why the student falls short when it comes to using a language to speak?

This common problem occurs when language learning is limited to just reading and writing. But within the four walls of a language laboratory, students are exposed to a plethora of areas like exercises on listening  speaking, reading, comprehension and writing.
 
Curriculum and methodology can be customised to suit the need of the schools.  Now, if you’re wondering how a language lab can help evaluate a student’s competency in a language, here’s a proposal for how scores can be calculated.

There could be two parts: nEnglish Language & Literature (theory)

*English Language & Literature (Practical) comprising of 50 marks each.

Part – A: English Language and Literature (Theory) -50 Marks
Here, students are given a question paper for a duration of two hours. The maximum marks for the examination will be 50.  Questions could be of the conventional type. Questions on both literature and  grammar will be included.

Part – B:  Total marks alloted to this section could be 50.

*Practical Record/Observation Book: 10 marks
*Practical Examination: 20 Marks
*Assignment or Project Work: 10 marks
*Internal Assessment: 10 marks
*Tests: 5 marks
*Attendance:  5 marks.

Another factor that could improve the way students learn and absorb a language is the number of hours dedicated to this subject in a week.

Presently, English is taught for five or six periods a week for about 40 or 45 minutes a class at the PU and UG level. Instead, schools may keep aside three  hours for theory and two  hours of language laboratory activities a week.

(The writer is Lecturer & Head, Dept. of English, Acharya Institute of Graduate
Studies)   

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