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1.1                      Background to the Study

The benefits of language laboratory cannot be over emphasized without defining language and its importance. In order to use a language laboratory, students must be conversant with the term ‘language’ and its usefulness in learning. Language is the method of human communication either spoken or written consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way. It is also the development, acquisition, maintenance and the use of complex systems of communication (Atolagbe, 2008; Flora, 2009). Osisanwo (2012) defined language as the human vocal noise or the arbitrary graphic representation of this noise used systematically and conventionally by members of a speech community for purposes of communication. Human language is the most useful tool of communication to mankind (Atolagbe, 2008).  Okoh (2006) averred any definition of language must first consider it as a means of communication. It is not debatable that language has so many uses and importance as it cuts across all fields of study or occupation such as the language of publishing, language of medicine, language of business etc. Language learning is not similar to learning other subjects. It is not confined to writing an examination and getting a degree or award, the four skills have to be practiced, to acquire a sensibility for the sounds and rhythm of a language, a person must hear the best samples of a spoken language.

Language is a compulsory subject to be taken seriously at any level of education, However, the federal government has seen to it that not just English language but other languages such as Spanish, French etc. can be learned through various means. Although, there is still one major issue the government has failed to address and this is the issue of the poorly equipped language laboratories. Government should as a matter of urgency direct her attention to the provision of language laboratories in primary and secondary schools, the ministry of education should consider allocating funds as well as the maintenance of language labs. The need for having a language lab is being widely recognized by the English language Academia, schools and colleges across the country are opening up to the idea of establishing language labs for the future benefits of their learners. If all these problems can be solved only then can we think of implementing language lab in our curriculum. In the current digital age where we are all connected regardless of geographical distance ,advancement of technology has made it possible for students/non native speakers to learn languages correctly through audio and visual aids .As we live in a multilingual and multicultural world, Language laboratories can greatly help students learn languages of their choice at their own pace as it is a student- centered approach to learning ,they can record and assess their performance to make sure they are paying attention to all aspects of phonetics such as stress , pronunciation, accents etc.

One way language students are effectively practicing and improving their skills is by using language labs, the use of audiovisual tools opens the dimension or bridges the gap between the theoretical aspect of English and the practical aspect; the labs are designed to provide the learners with a strong platform for practical training in the language. Thayalan and Wilson (2007) opined that language laboratories are required by language learners to have a good command of the language for communicative purposes with the clarity and accuracy being vital for efficient and effective communication. language labs provide a facility which allows students listen to model pronunciations ,repeat and record sounds, listen to their performance and compare with the model and do self-assessments .This teaching technology has been going on for decades, in 1950’s ‘tape decks’ were used before it metamorphosed into computers with digital language today. In the 1950s up until 1990s they were taped based system using reel to reel or latterly cassettes, it allowed the teacher to manage and listen to students audio through hard wired analogue tape deck based systems with sound booths in fixed locations.

The language laboratory plays an important role in the learning of a language, a good English language laboratory when established and used by the institute can perform wonders for the learners, the learners develop a certain interest as it encourages and facilitates the understanding of the concepts of the language. It is a technical aid with a number of advanced features that at the long run increase students’ competence and proficiency in the language. Mambo (2007) described language laboratory as one of the foundation of language instruction, Language students often use the laboratories to do independent works such as listening and re-listening to audio recording, testing themselves on grammatical rules as well practicing vocabulary. The curriculum of the present day education system does not have or have poorly equipped language laboratories rendering the practical study of the language handicapped, scientific advancements have produced a number of gadgets to assist in the learning process such as multimedia control, wireless headsets, microphones, interactive response pads, etc. As strong communication skills are essential in almost all the professional careers, language lab can help in acquiring this important skill. The first language lab was at the University of Grenoble in 1908.

The position Nigeria accords to her language teaching in her national policy on education, 1998 edition is that language (foreign and Nigerian) are grouped under ‘A’ as a core subject made compulsory for both junior and secondary schools, this is more reason why language laboratories in Nigeria should not be neglected because of the countless advantages it renders, take for example the tertiary institutions, we have inadequate language laboratories , the most appalling is that they are either poorly equipped or out of use hindering the students from exploring .Unlike Nigeria , developed countries  now teach languages through computer programs , In 1999 British broadcasting corporation (BBC) London mounted a door-to-door campaign on language teaching they captioned RADIO ENGLISH DIRECT(RED),with that program they were able to reach every nook and crannies of the third world countries in order to improve language teaching. Gifts of language learning materials such as cassette tapes, disks, and radio (that neither use battery nor electricity), were given to schools. Similar efforts were also noticed on the part of French Government who sees language as a political weapon by wanting the world population to French literate. Nigeria should tow the lines of these developed countries in improving language teaching and learning.

1.2                      Statement of Problem

Language laboratories are very helpful in creating a favorable atmosphere for language learning and helping learners acquire necessary language skills useful to them in sharpening their study at present and streamlining their research and innovative activities in their further studies in the future but it is disheartening and worrisome that English proficiency is very poor especially in communicative aspects (listening and speaking skills).

This problem evolved from either the lack of language laboratories for the students to effectively practice their communication skills or poorly equipped language laboratories. Despite the fact that the ministry of education put much attention on the spoken skills specifically, level of understanding of students is still very low and some of them find it difficult to produce correct utterances.

However, the low proficiency of students in Oral English can be linked to the poor state of language laboratory in schools. Some schools do not have language laboratory and yet in some schools, language laboratory is poorly equipped. Under this condition, students will find it difficult to perform creditably well in Oral English because they are not taught with  relevant equipments needed to enhance their communicative skills as well to improve their performance in Oral English.

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