Computer technology created a paradigm shift in the language lab concept in the early 1990's. Multimedia Language Labs have started replacing the conventional language labs. These labs provide various types of content inputs such as texts, audio, video, animation, graphics and interactivity. They can provide a realistic picture of the features of the different varieties of English. If second language learners get holistic and comprehensible input in the form of spoken and written discourses rather than fragmentary input in the form of isolated sounds, words and sentences, they would be better equipped to acquire the knowledge of English. Hence multimedia labs have much significance in the context of the emerging constructivist paradigm as envisaged in the National Curriculum Framework 2005.

A digital language lab consists of a network of computers and appropriate software. These software-only labs have no connections between the computers other than a single, standard, network cable. Multimedia is a computer-based system that uses various types of content such as text, audio, video, animation, graphics and interactivity.

Technologies used in the language lab to create a new learning experience are:

  1.  Teacher console with functions to control students nodes (a computer used as a server)
  2. Students' console (computers used by students)
  3. Digital multimedia language lab software for connecting the nodes with the teacher console.
  4. Headphone sets and microphones
  5. Multimedia packages such as for pronunciation, reading, study skills etc...
  6. Internet access

Interactive Teacher Console:

The teacher console acts as a control board for the teacher to monitor the activities of students while they practise the lessons. The main function of the teacher console is to design classes, sessions and lessons. Once the students log into the Language Lab they could access the pre-recorded lessons at the teacher console. The teacher could interact with students individually from the teacher console without disturbing others.

Student Console:

The student console acts as a control board for the students for listening, repeating and comparing the lessons allotted in the class by the teacher at the student console. The other major aspects are the logging in and out of the Language Lab, sound and volume controls. Students are able to access the pre-recorded lessons at the teacher console while logging in into the Language Lab. Student can interact with the teacher from the student console without disturbing others.

Each student chamber or console has a computer with intranet and Internet connection, a CD and DVD reader, and headset for listening and recording. The cutting-edge software on each computer is especially designed for language learning. The student can listen over again to a pronunciation model and try to replicate it. With this two-track recorder, students can do an exercise a number of times, recording their voice and listening to the original, using the listen-again function for a phrase or part of the text. Using the compare and correct function, students can also self-correct their exercises. The software can also be used as a digital video recorder or just as an audio-visual player. Students can communicate with each other and with the instructor one-to-one and one-to-many to encourage collaborative learning. They can also use digital audio files (video and text) to record their voice and compare it with the original

The language lab allows the student to listen to different pronunciations of English repeat and record the same and compare with the model and do self assessment. In short, a learner can get the experience of having interaction with different varieties of English through the laboratory. One has to hear the best samples of spoken language to acquire a sensibility for the sounds and rhythm of a language. Since the 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 to students individually and collectively.

Some highlights of the language laboratory:

  • It is a tool for learning any language
  • It helps in developing the oral communication skills of the learners
  • It helps one to learn the articulatory features of spoken language such as accent, stress, pause, tone, rhythm etc.
  • Multimedia language labs allow every student to listen, speak, read, write and acquire the language.
  • Online courses and paperless examinations can be conducted through the language laboratory. Short term and long term classes for international examinations and other competitive examinations can be organized using language labs.

Clarity Software installed by RIESI, Bengaluru will have the following functions:

  1. Teacher can broadcast screen and voice to student computer
  2. Students demo software to teacher and other students
  3. Teacher can remote monitor and control students, desktops
  4. Play all kinds of DVD / VCD media files to students computers
  5. Teacher can record screen and then playback to students
  6. Teacher can remote restart, turn off and shutdown students computers
  7. Teacher can send files or folders to students
  8. Teacher can sent messages to students
  9. Teacher can remote run student program
  10. Teacher can limit student visiting website
  11. Limit student using certain application
  12. Paperless examination
  13. Teacher can send back the answer paper with their marks to all the students
  14. Restricts students on using any USB storage drive
  15. Student’s screen can captured by the Teacher
  16. Voice speed adjustment so as the tone remains unchanged for students to follow the content
  17. Dual Track Segment Recording for Audio and Video

Content Software:

Sky Pronunciation:

Sky pronunciation has been designed to help the learners to improve pronunciation skills in English. It will also help them to improve their listening and comprehension skills too.

As a learners they will hear lots of words in the language that you are learning but which they don’t notice. This is also true for pronunciation. Learners may not hear certain sounds, particularly if these sounds are different or don’t exist in their language. They may be able to understand what has been said, but they don’t know what has been actually spoken. Therefore when learners come to say the words themselves, they may say them wrongly. This is where Sky pronunciation suite can help. It is comprehensive suite, which includes five programs: The phonemic Alphabet in English, similar sounds, Word and phrasal stress, stress and rhythms and putting it all in context, rhythms from Rain land. 

Active Reading:

Tackles reading and vocabulary skills, with each unit leading on to listening, speaking and project work. The course covers everything that a student could reasonably expect of a basic reading programme.

Study Skills:

Authentic articles, timed essays, lectures, a dialogue on finding accommodation, web based research.  These are just some of the features of this very thorough course in academic English. This software has been adopted by the British council worldwide.

Business Writing:

It is a comprehensive course on business writing including emails, letters and reports, clear writing, linking ideas, formatting and proofreading. Extensive writing activities as well as podcasts and downloads are also a part of it.

The Sky pronunciation suite in the Digital Multimedia language laboratory consisting of the Phonemic Alphabet in English, Similar sounds and words transcriptions in to phonemic scripts and so on.

The assessment procedure has the following items for the participants to respond.

  • Phonemic transcription of words has to be written in to English script.
  • Words with similar sounds and minimal pairs (it & eat) are read out and the participants have to identify the sounds.
  • Words with two, three syllable are read out and the participants after listening to them     have to mark the stress of the appropriate syllable in each word.
  • The Active Reading suite consists of different levels (From Elementary to Advanced) of reading texts. The participant can listen and internalize the prosodic features (stress, pause, intonation rhythm etc) of International English. They can playback the recorded version and compare it with the original International English version. This Active reading helps participants in acquiring the supra segmental features of English language.