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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 3. 1967.

New language laboratory

page 10

New language laboratory

Victoria's newly installed language laboratory is already operating at full capacity. It is in use from 9am till 8pm daily, though all classes do not fill the twenty booths available. The response has been much greater than anticipated and if enrolments in modern languages continue to rise at the present rate, an additional laboratory will soon be necessary.

Over one thousand students, or a fifth of the total enrolment number, are studying languages this year. There are 653 students of French using the laboratory. 100 in the German Department. 179 in the Italian. 69 in the Russian, and over 45 in the Maori Studies department.

This does not include those doing Reading Knowledge as they are not given laboratory instruction. The Department of University Extension uses the laboratory for classes but their numbers are also omitted here. Eventually, the External Affairs Department will be running courses here for staff taking up positions overseas.

The Director. Dr. Goldstein, has come from Australia, despite less favourable financial returns, to undertake the running of the laboratory. Both the University of New South Wales and Monash have laboratories similar to the one here. Another is soon to be installed at the university of New England.

Instruction is carried out by means of tape-recorders. Each student has a separate booth with his own machine, while the tutor monitors the lesson from the console. Programmed tapes on which a "master voice" is recorded are used. A separate track allows the student to repeat the lesson, and later to play back the whole tape. Thus he can compare his own performance with the correct version.

This method of programmed learning has been studied in the States. A system of linear programming, developed by Skinner, proceeds step by step so that the pupil grasps one lesson before moving on to the next. He is conditioned to this type of instruction by such drilling and receives encouragement according to his performance.

Although the taped programme dominates the pupil, this rigid method aims to condition him to spontaneous replies. The process is known as overlearning. Each exercise is repeated twice—the first time the student gives a thinking response from the indication given him. Secondly he repeats the correct answer, given by the master, concentrating on pronunciation.

The director of a class can monitor each student separately, usually four or five times in an hour for a full class, the student being allotted marks for his performance. The laboratory will be equipped with an additional recorder to help students to correct mistakes. This method, allows immediate correction of mistakes for every student whereas in a classroom many errors can pass unnoticed.

The methods of grammar teaching and basic drill are standardised for all languages, but each department has to draw up its own tapes if none are available. Programming assistance is given by the director of the laboratory. Dr. Goldstein. Literature and comprehension as well as grammar can be taught and tapes for one session can contain a variety of exercises.