The language laboratory – one of the most outstanding technological advances of this century – is playing an important role in the education of Havering schoolchildren.
And at Hornchurch Grammar School – which contains one of Havering’s three labs – teachers are confident who are still learning by the ordinary class method.
They say they will learn faster and more accurately. And pronunciation will be much better.
And for teachers who want to make progress in their subject a lab is an absolute must – this is the opinion of Mr. Walter Hinchey, head of the modern languages department at Hornchurch Grammar.
In fact it was the attractions of this school’s laboratory which proved irresistible to Mr. Hinchey.
“At my old school there was no lab,” he told me “so I looked round for a school which had one. I think any language teacher who is interested in forging ahead needs a lab.”
The laboratory at Hornchurch Grammar School was installed about a year ago. It cost £3.800 and has 32 booths.
There are two others in Havering Technical College and Romford Technical School.
Havering Education Committee at their last meeting turned down a plan to build another one at Romford County High School at a cost of £3.750 because the majority of members thought there were more urgent educational priorities.
Basically the lab works like this. The teacher prepares a sound-proofed room. Alternatively the school can buy tapes that have been already prepared.
The exercise on a tape might consist of a series of questions in a foreign language from the teacher, followed by a silence for the pupil’s answer. Then the teacher would come in again with the correct version of the answer.
This tape is then played into the teacher’s recording equipment at the front of the class and from this the tape is simultaneously re-recorded on tapes in each pupil’s booth.
The rest is up to the pupils. They can play the tape back as many times as they like depending on how good they are at the language.
Shirkers are easily identified – from time to time the teacher switches on and listens in.
Dr. Blanka Holzer, an Austrian, who is head of the school’s German department, said: “We find that with a language laboratory pronunciation is infinitely superior to anything we could get in classroom teaching.
“Pupils are forced to think in the language. Because the gap for the pupil’s reply is so short, they have to have the presence of mind to speak with spontaneity.”
And Mr. Hinchey added: “In an ordinary lesson not using a lab the procedure is to go through an exercise once. Those who understand are happy. Those who don’t have no hope of understanding it.
“But, using a lab, a pupil can go through an exercise as often as he wants and at his own speed. Therefore, the faster pupils can forge ahead and the slower ones can take it steady and make sure they get a firm grasp of the exercise.”
Image Caption: Before playing a tape into the recording equipment, which will re-record the tape in each individual booth, Mr. Hinchey goes over a grammatical point with the class.
Image Caption: Fifteen-year-old Stephen Warren, of Cecil-avenue, Hornchurch, thinks the lab is a great asset in learning the language. He hopes to do French at university.
Image Caption: The lab contains 32 booths and is in use all day. Here some of the pupils are going over an exercise. Some of them could wind up as interpreters at the UN.