What is a Language Laboratory?
The Language Laboratories are becoming items better and better valued within educational institutions since the functions and possibilities they offer are much higher than the ones in the traditional teaching-learning system
Moreover it is necessary to distinguish between language laboratory, language method and control software. A method in a procedural that guides teachers when, in turn, control software is a computer program that is used to control students' computers and to know what they are doing at all times. Instead, a language lab goes beyond, a language lab can integrate the method we want to use allowing further development of a large number of different activities in the classroom, the communication between teachers and students, using multimedia material, etc. taking into account at the same time the functions of control software.
Language immersion, attention to diversity, teamwork promotion, etc. are just some of the outstanding features of the language laboratories. According Juana Gil Fernandez (Head of the Laboratory of Phonetics. Council for Scientific Research) a language lab “allows the teacher, if desired, to transcend everyday teaching of a language to enter fully in the investigation of cognitive process of acquiring and learning foreign languages in general [...]”.
Digital language laboratories are much more than a tool for training and listening discursive language, they are places to study and experiment with real samples of languages, learn languages and exercise in their use. So they are configured using multimedia technology, communications and flexible and open organizational models with any necessary tool to process philological materials.
All this and much more is what you get with language laboratories, a complete tool to put in the service of teachers and students the latest technology for teaching.
Ana Fernández-Pampillón Cesteros. Associate Dean of Technologies Applied to Philology (2007-2014), Faculty of Philology, UCM.
Which are the components of a modern language laboratory?
A modern Language Lab consists of various elements that form a multifunctional environment that uses the latest technology for education. Among the components of language laboratories we find:
Furniture. Language laboratories should have a specific and robust furniture that is capable of securely hold all the elements that are part of that laboratory.
Computers. The computers are a very important part in the language lab.
Technology. A language laboratory has a specific technology that enables the interconnection, interaction and communication between the different positions that make up the lab.
Headset. They should be designed to facilitate communication between the people who use the lab for the different activities that take place in it can be carried out successfully.
Why should you use a language laboratory?
A language lab creates a learning environment much more effective than traditional classrooms enhancing the capabilities of students and allowing a high degree of immersion and attention to diversity.
A language laboratory encourages the participation and integration of the students in the different exercises and this is reflected, for example, in the time it takes to students to speak in another language during class. In a traditional class of 45 minutes the percentage of time spent by students to speak in the language they are studying is 2.2% while in a language laboratory classroom the percentage of time spent reaches nearly 24%. It is also necessary to note that these figures might be higher depending on the exercises taking place in the class.
Given these figures it is obvious that language laboratories offer a number of advantages over traditional teaching systems, allow several students to talk and interact at the same time, you can record all these interventions, send different exercises to different groups of students, work with media, etc.
In addition, the use of the language lab allows students to have access to the information quickly and easily developing many types of classroom exercises, personalizing the learning process, encouraging creativity, innovation and training . Language laboratories also favor a high degree of skill development, team and collaborative work eliminating socio-temporal barriers since information is not found in a particular and specific place and at the same time, they foster digital literacy responding to new educational and social needs.
Benefits and advantages of using a language laboratory
Language laboratories have a number of distinctive features that make them the ideal item to turn the instruction time achieving high rates of participation, interaction, etc. These features include the following:
- The school will have a tool that facilitates communication, interactivity, etc. in a classroom, using the computing resources of the center.
- It accelerates language learning through a complete linguisstic immersion.
- It is a technology specially designed for education that promotes high motivation of students since they work with special equipment for language learning. There is a greater involvement of students in a participatory environment.
- In addition, the technology of a language laboratory offers great advantages to both teachers and students. Both can access the new information and communication technologies quickly and easily. They have a classroom where they have at their disposal the latest technology for language learning.
- The teacher is not just a supervisor, but performs all the tasks of the teacher of languages, and his/her work is enhanced and facilitated by technology and besides this, he/she acts a supervisor, energizing and motivating.
- It is a system that allows a high degree of attention to diversity and of personalization of the processes of teaching and learning
- Language laboratories foster the interactive communication in the classroom and the use of ICT
The final result that is achieved with language laboratories is very positive for the learning process of students. Their learning speed significantly accelerates because students are more interested in the study by using latest technology and learn quickly, effectively and optimize efficiently the time spent on the process.
Besides this, immersion and work in groups are encouraged, there are also more interaction among students, lifelong learning, creativity, customization of the processes of teaching and learning, skill development, etc.
A language lab implies that both students and teachers actively participate in the different activities that take place during class thus achieving much higher involvement than in traditional learning environments.