CCAS to alter language labs

Students may see a dramatic change in the format of the language lab in coming years, officials announced this week, including new activities and more extensive support than the current lab provides.

Columbian College of Arts and Sciences officials said they are unsure when the proposed Center for Language, Learning and Teaching will open, but they have set up a task force to research the benefits of the program.

“We want to make language learning and teaching the best it can be here at GW, capitalizing on CCAS’s great strengths in languages and the humanities and the international context,” William Frawley, dean of CCAS, wrote in an e-mail.

Approximately 95 percent of the 2,397 foreign language students used the lab, located in Phillips Hall Room 211, this semester, said lab assistant Nikodimos Fikru. Open 80 hours per week, the 47 lab terminals log in an average of 170 students per day.

Faculty members said the lab, where students can use multimedia technology to supplement classroom work, is important in facilitating language learning.

“Language labs, in general, are crucial in language studies,” said Young-Key Kim-Renaud, chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures. “It’s very important for people to understand the structure of languages, but the practice part is so essential in language learning that you can’t dismiss the practice environment.”

But faculty members said the resources in the current lab are inadequate, citing the need for vast improvements.

“The language lab is pretty ineffective,” said Richard Robin, chair of the Department of German and Slavic Languages and Literature. “We don’t have the latest technology, very few people use it (from this department) and there is not much on the server. We need to create a more dynamic learning center as a magnet for language teaching.”

Frawley said the proposed center should help remedy the problems.

“The center will have a wider range of activities … and different kinds of staffing,” he said. “For instance, we might want to have a faculty director of the center and have ways to allow faculty fellows from inside and outside GW to spend time in the center pursuing projects in language learning and teaching.”

Faculty members said they are excited about the plans to restructure and that they feel the center will be a valuable supplement to the classroom.

“I think (the center) will be excellent in technology resources, and it will offer people resources (to practice) conversations,” said Elizabeth Fisher, chair of the Department of Classical and Semitic Languages and Literatures.

Students also said they are looking forward to improved resources.

“I think any improvements to the current system would be great,” freshman Shannon Esty said.

CCAS is taking steps to put together a task force, which will include representatives from all language departments, along with interested faculty members from other GW schools, to determine how to organize and finance the center.

“I expect the task force to work over the next year or so to determine the right structure … to identify its activities and ways to seek and promote faculty involvement, and to set out the right administrative organization,” Frawley said. “The task force will also work to identify sources of funds.”

CCAS officials said until the task force has completed its investigation, the language lab will continue to provide regular services in its current location.

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