What is it with Languages?
Language is present in all areas of our lives and indispensable, it serves as a means of identification and communication among various groups. It is a great tool for the bond between people of different cultures and beliefs. It is beautiful and interesting as well.
According to Ethnologue catalogue of world languages, there are 6909 living languages in the world and with the world becoming a global village, so many people are learning new languages. It is obvious people learn the language(s) for different reasons, it could be for an open career opportunity or great employment prospect, to establish a cross cultural friendship or to fit into the global changing world.
This is the reason nations of the world are seen offering languages as a course in their institutions of learning. In Nigeria for instance, there are Language Schools, departments like Linguistics and Foreign Languages where foreign languages are taught.
What is Language Teaching?
Language education involves teaching and learning of a language. Language can be indigenous like Hausa or foreign like Chinese, French or English Language. Most people learn foreign languages because they believe the indigenous language (Mother Tongue) is the language of their immediate environment that can be learned without formal education.
Language teaching can take place in a specific language school or in a general school as a subject in junior schools or as a course in higher institutions. And to ensure effective learning of these foreign languages, the language laboratory is important to ensure effective mastery and imparting of the language.
What Is a Language Laboratory?
According to Wikipedia, “the language laboratory is an audio or audio-visual installation used as an aid in modern language teaching. It was founded in 1972 in New York City with the purpose of providing language training and translation services to government agencies and private businesses”. It can be found in language schools and various institutions of learning. Those in Sciences enjoy laboratories with the availability of laboratories like Physics Laboratory, Chemistry Laboratory. While laboratories for learning Languages like English or French, for example, do not exist and if they do, they are in most cases not properly equipped.
Roles of Language Laboratory
According to Thayalan and Wilson (2007), the language laboratory is very useful for assessing students’ speech. It provides students with the technical tools to get the best samples of the pronunciation of the language (Target language).
- Language lab gives room for students to learn and speak without distracting each other in the class size.
- It gives room for individual learning and provides learners with resources to use in learning.
- It makes learning the phonetic aspect of a language easy.
- It also gives the opportunity to learners to converse with native speakers of the languages learned.
- It helps learners develop good listening skills to aid their communication process.
- It is a good motivational device for students and increases aspiration level.
- Language laboratory, when used in language learning, helps students remember what they see and practice. For instance, a blind student can easily identify Samuel from Steven by their voices.
- Children also learn faster by what they see and hear therefore we can boldly say language laboratory facilitate faster, interesting and engaging learning of a language.
Problems Associated with Language Laboratories.
It is surprising that in spite of the benefits of using language laboratories in teaching of languages, this tool is still noticeably absent in schools and institutions but for the following reasons
- Low/ inadequate fund for Language Laboratory in schools. In Nigeria, the language laboratory has hindered the effective teaching and learning of Languages in schools. The cost of settling up a language laboratory is high and for some schools to manage and set up the cost of maintaining also serves as a problem.
- Another problem is the issue of size, most language laboratories in Nigerian schools, can’t take up to the number of students a traditional classroom can take at once because of the class size is so large compare to what a standard language laboratory can take.
- It is often a problem to get skilled and qualified people to maintain equipment in the language laboratories.
It could be said that the non-inclusion of language laboratory in language learning in Nigerian schools has made students lose interest in learning foreign languages and contribute to their failure in subjects like English and French, teaching without extra spice (resources) alone makes it boring and uninteresting. However, great steps should be taken to integrate it into schools so as to improve academic performance and interest of students.
Written by Busayo Tomoh