English Vinglish – Crossing the language barriers with technologically-powered labs

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Vivek Agarwal

India is the second largest English speaking populace in the world, a credit earned by a mere 12.16 percent of the population. This includes both native speakers and second- language speakers of English. These are only speakers who cannot read or write necessarily, thus lowering the percent- age of skilled users of English. Despite being largest English-speaking population, it is considered as a pain point and phobia for Indians, especially from tier- 2 cities to rural India. At the same time it is has become an important and on- demand employability skill. English language proficiency enriches the employment prospects largely, and also brings in personality, responsibility with personal, social and corporate etiquettes.

The challenge is to bring English to every child of India empowering the entire generation with complete proficiency in the English language, but there are not enough good teachers that can impart the skills to the learners.

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The emergence of English language labs is helping address this language barrier that we have across the country. These labs have come out as a hope to many who are just lagging behind be- cause of the language. Labs have come up with multiple benefits to teachers and students at the institutional level, and are also helping at the corporate level. Recently, the CSR wing of Ambuja Cement, Ambuja Foundation, has adopted the solution English Edge to impart language training to the foundation’s employees using the techno- logically-empowered portable language lab. Similarly, many corporate, private institutions, and the government are eyeing on these labs with the hope to bring in a better future for India.

There are many private players like Liqvid, Sanako, Words Worth, Clarity, etc, offering their innovative solutions to impart English learning using tech tools to make it far more reachable, interactive, and learned. It is notable that the CBSE and ICSE are promoting enhancement of listening and speaking skills in the schools making it necessary to implement English language labs throughout our country. The other boards, too, will follow suit.

Sometimes, choosing inappropriate solutions, which is not apt for the institution’s learning environment, can leave no effect. Therefore, it is imperative to choose the right solution according to the individual learning environment. Here are some tips…

Choosing the right English labs for your institution

English language lab is a very crucial tool to an institution and should be chosen with diligence. Its purpose is enhancement of skills of the students to the requisite levels of proficiency. The ideal solution should have the following features:

• To provide a right blend of teacher and technology partnership in the classroom to facilitate a very conducive learning environment for the learner
• It should be content based with a dashboard for the teacher to con- trol and monitor each student’s activity
• The teachers should have flexibility to use the readymade content as well as create his/her own exercises and tests
• To reduce the total cost of owner-ship of a lab, it should use the best of technology, yet work with comfort on thin and thick clients
• Products should be backed by proper continual academic as well as technical support commencing with an in depth training of the trainers post installation
• Learner material should be available to facilitate participatory learning by students such as work books
• Pedagogy precedes technology: It is Feature imperative that the buyers ensure that the technology is meeting the learning objectives and is not an end in itself.
• The involvement of the faculty, who are the key stakeholders, in effective deployment of any technology solution. The managements must ensure that the faculty is fully trained and on-board with any technology
• Pilots and trials are a must.

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