The purpose of a language lab is to involve students to actively participate in language learning exercises and get more practice than otherwise possible in a traditional classroom environment. In an average foreign-language class, all students combined speak only 23.50% of the class time (DESI 2006, pg. 48-49). In a 45-minute long class, 23.50% equals approximately 10 ½ minutes. As this number is the speaking time of all students put together, the time each student gets to practice speaking becomes insignificant to add any value.
Modern language labs are known by various names: digital language lab, multimedia lab, communication skills lab. Modern language labs in general offer the following and therefore are sought after:
- Text, images, audio and video can easily be integrated; teachers can alter materials to fit their requirements
- Learners can record their own voice and play back the recordings, interact with each other and the teacher, and store results
- Teachers can intervene and control the learners’ computers via the teacher’s console, track of learners’ work, etc.