Quiz: Lang Lab - 1/2 (ELT-2)
December 2019
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Attempt below given question with the help of this article on The History of Language Laboratories
The History of Language Laboratories - Origin and Establishment-- Kenji Kitao


Technology has improved a great deal recently in Japan and is
becoming more widespread. Videotape recorders and personal computers
are not rare for daily use.

Language laboratories have also greatly improved and are rapidly
becoming more complex and expensive. Each student commonly has a tape
recorder as well as headphones and a microphone in his booth. There
is also visual equipment such as videotape recorders, overhead
projectors, opaque projectors, and slide and movie projectors.

Videotapes are being replaced by videodisks, and videodisk
players interfaced with a computer to allow branching will be on the
market soon. Computers are also used for administration and
evaluation. Language laboratories are well developed and Japanese
language laboratory equipment is highly established internationally.
However, its effectiveness has been questioned by American delegates
who observed language laboratories in Japan (McAndrew, 1975).

I discussed how to make language laboratories more effective in
"Administration of a Language Laboratory in College" (Kitao, 1980),
analyzing studies of language laboratories conducted in the United
States. In order to use language laboratories effectively, (1)
equipment, (2) teachers, (3) teaching materials, (4) programs, and (5)
evaluations have to be considered carefully. The most important
factor is that language laboratories be used as frequently as possible.
I explained organization, equipment, personnel, routine work, etc.,
and how these can be used to make the language laboratory function

Since writing that paper, I have become interested in how today's
language laboratories were developed. I have studied history of
American language laboratories, because they have contributed the most
to language laboratory development (Freudenstein, 1972; Amano, 1967).

The history of the American language laboratory can be divided
into five periods, (1) the beginning period, before World War II, (2)
the establishing period, until 1958 when the National Defense
Education Act (NDEA), which supplied large amounts of money for
education, was passed, (3) the developing period, until the end of the
1960's, (4) the diminishing period, until the end of the 1970's, and
(5) the revival period, until today.

In this paper, I will discuss the first two periods. I hope to
find some hints about the future development and improvement of
language laboratories. My major resources are NALLD Journal,
published by the National Association of Learning Laboratory Directors
and The Modern Language Journal, which has been an old journal on
foreign language instruction.

Origin of Language Laboratories

Language laboratories have become practical use since around 1950.
Edison's tin foil phonograph, invented in 1877, is the origin of our
deluxe language laboratories with all their complex equipment.

The first purpose of the phonograph was the preservation and
reproduction of sound. People could hardly hear sounds from this
phonograph, and sounds were not clear. They could use the tin cylinder
only several times (Peterson, 1974).

The quality of this phonograph was often criticized not good, but
this was the only method to preserve sounds then. It was used to
preserve African, Indian, and Polynesian languages which were
extinguishing (Peterson, 1974).

In 1884, Drs. Zintgraff and Chavanne of Germany recorded a
language of an unknown tribe in Congo using this phonograph. It was
used to record languages, songs, and folklores of Passamaquoddy
Indians in New England, and to record a language of natives in Hawaii.
Professor Money traveled thirty thousand miles to record American and
Mexican Indians. Dr. A. L. Krober recorded a language and customs of
Mojave Indian at the end of the nineteenth century (Peterson,

Several kinds of phonographs were produced besides Edison's in
the 1880's. Therefore, we do not know which phonograph was actually
used in the above studies. Alexander Graham Bell produced a
phonograph called Graphophone which uses a card board cylinder with
wax for a record. This record could be used longer than Edison's. In
1887, Emile Berliner made Gramophone which used a round flat record.
This is the ancestor of the today's record player. In the same year,
Edison, who became free from developing incandescent light, improved
his phonograph and made "Perfected Phonograph." Its quality was good
enough to preserve foreign languages, and his aim was achieved. (Edison,

In 1889, plastic records were sold. North American Phonograph
sold waxed cylinders (records) for phonographs and graphophones since
1890. These records were used with jukeboxes to listen to the music,
and they were not for personal use.

J. Walter Fewkes argued that Edison's phonographs were useful for
not only for Indian languages but also for foreign languages. For
non-native speaker teachers, they argued that records by native
speakers were effective and useful for even teachers who could speak
that foreign language well. (Peterson, 1974)

Edison's phonograph was used in a foreign language class for the
first time at College of Milwaukee in 1891. It was experimented in
French and other foreign language classes, and the significances
discovered were that as machines never tire, students could listen to
the records as many times as they want. and that if a teacher recorded
once, he could play it whenever and whatever times he wanted. (Peterson,

Until 1890s, records used soft brown wax, and they could not be
copied or even could not be used again and again. Edison used special
wax to make records usable for a long time, and he succeeded to copy
150 records out of one record. ( 8 ) In 1894, flat round records were
sold as well as cylinders with wax. In 1900, it became easy to record
directly flat round records with wax, and this became the origin of
today's records.

In the same year, Dr. John E. Gardner of University of California
taught Chinese in San Francisco and at the University of Pennsylvania,
and he used a wax cylinder in the latter class, and there was no problem
with pronunciation or pitch. (Peterson, 1974) Phonographs had
quality of being used in foreign language instruction in the nineteenth
century, it could preserve language and play it, and it was highly
evaluated that once something was recorded, it did not get tired, and
students could listen to the recordings again and again.

Applications of Phonographs to Foreign Language Instruction

Rafael Diez de la Cortina thought the method of teaching a foreign
language using a phonograph for the first time, and he had established
a foreign language school in New York in 1882. He experimented
recording a great deal in the middle and end of the 1880s. The National
Phonographic Company was established in 1900, and its guide wrote that
Cortina was the first person who used a phonograph for foreign language
instruction. However, The Phonogram, an academic journal was started,
and Cortina method was not reported until 1893.

According to Cortina's advertisement, he made materials for self
study and class use. He published several books on French and Spanish.
The first one was Spanish in Twenty Lessons. He thought that any
material was useful if it was used with the phonograph even special
material was used more effectively.

Cortina gave correspondence courses in which he sent materials
and cylinders (records) to South America and Mexico, and students made
recordings and sent them back to New York, and they were evaluated.
This was not only evaluation but included some teachers' instruction,
and it was considered to be the first established language laboratories.
by 1897 thousand cylinders were sold. It was good advertisement then
that lessons to produce sound without tireness. Both French and
Spanish cylinders were sold a dollar per cylinder. Cortina made them
at his school, but since 1896, they were made at Edison's National
Phonographic Company. Cortina Phone, the trade mark, was set in 1908,
and flat round records were made since 1913. Cortina's courses were
used in and out of classes and overseas correspondence courses.
English was used until around 1920, but only the target language was
used with the influence of the Direct Method. (Peterson, 1974)

After Cortina, Dr. Richard S. Rosenthal thought to use
phonographs for foreign language instruction. He became famous
internationally with Meisterschaft System, and he published French and
Spanish courses. He moved to Chicago in 1893, and he published
Resenthal Method of Practical Linguistry to Physician's German
Vademcum. The latter was very popular and continued to be sold well
for the first ten years of the twentieth century.

He thought that it was important to use eyes and ears at the same
time and sold ten books, a cylinder, and ten earphones for thirty
dollars. He emphasized grammar, which was different from the Direct
Method. He published Langage Phone Method, and it became the trade
mark of his materials. He made flat round records in 1914, but it did
not change much since then. (Rosenthal, 1941)

The third school to use phonographs for foreign language
instruction is International Correspondence Schools of Scranton in
Pennsylvania, and they use it for correspondence courses for coal
miners. Thomas J. Foster founded it in 1891. They started
correspondence courses of French, German, and Spanish with a similar
method Cortina and Rosenthal. They had only correspondence courses
and sent machines and cylinders to learners and made corrections.
(Peterson, 1974)

Assuming from these three schools, the original use of language
laboratories was established by the end of the nineteenth century or
the beginning of the twentieth century. They played the model
recordings, students recorded their voices and their evaluations and
corrections by the teachers, and they used textbooks with recordings.
These were the principles of the use of the language laboratories. In
the 1920s, these three methods were very popular, and they used
phonographs correcting pronunciations, pattern practice, and
repeating exercises.

Development of Machines

Foreign language records became popular and many exaggerated
claims were made for them. They claimed that the new method of
learning foreign languages was found. This had the effect of
understanding the new method and casting doubt on language
laboratories as a whole, and this effect is still being felt.
(Freudenstein, 1972)

Equipment was greatly developed after 1920. First, television
developed very fast after 1920. J. L. Baird experiment it in the
public in Britain in 1926, and in the following year, it was experiment
in the public at the Bell Telephone Laboratory, and they started
experimental telecasting in 1929 in Britain. They started
telecasting in Germany and France in 1935 and in the United States in
the following year. However, because of World War II, its development
was delayed. Television as we know it today appeared after World War

As for movies invented in 1894, Eugene Lauste, a French man,
invented talkie in 1910, and it became practical, and "Don Fan", the
first talkie was shown in 1926.

Radios invented in 1895 was often used in foreign language
instruction in the 1920s.

The origin of tape recorders was made around this time. Oberin
Smith argued to use wires to preserve sounds in 1888. Valdemar Poulsen
of Denmark invented a magnetic recorder with piano wires in 1898. It
was called telegraphone. However, both of them had more problems than
advantage, and they were not noticed much. (Freudenstein, 1972) Fritz
Pfleumer obtained a patent of using a paper tape with iron powders on
and use magnet to record sounds, which is the principle of recording
we use today in 1928. In 1934, Bell Company made an endless tape with
magnet for the experiment. At the beginning of World War II, "sound
mirror", a tape recorder with the wire for a minute.

As I have explained, equipment in language laboratories such as
tape recorders, movies, and television were developed in 1920s. They
were developed greatly until World War II. Radios were constantly
used and they were used in foreign language instruction. Recording
industry became very popular in the 1920s.

Use of Language Laboratories at School

Clark who used records at Yale University for a long time
published four principles of using records. (Freudenstein, 1972)

1) Records always play the same model.
2) Machines never get tired.
3) Machines cannot be replaced with teachers.
4) Native speakers of the target language should be used for

These four principles are valid even today's use of language
laboratories, and 3) and $) were new at that time.

We do not know how language laboratories were used at schools in
the 1920s. Two examples of Mississippi State College of Women and Ohio
State University are introduced.

The former school recognized language laboratories not only
desirable but also essential for basic language classes. They met
four times (including one language laboratory) for three credits.
They used language laboratories for verb exercises, pronunciation,
phonetics, songs, games, explanations of grammar, conversation,
memorization, etc. which teachers wanted to do but could not have
enough time in the classrooms.

Language laboratories were administered by student assistants.
There were twenty-four students, and an assistant was supervised by
the teacher. They met once a week, and the teacher made all plans.
Faculties checked whether assistants were good teachers or not rather
than their work or results. Students studied hard in a small class
with an assistant rather than a teacher. They often practiced
pronunciation with records, but records were used for songs, dramas,
poems, and fables. They studied not only pronounce sounds correctly
but also to write pronunciation symbols. They reported how to use
language laboratories in detail, but interestingly more alive classes
which are outside boundary of language laboratories such as stunt night.
They had a kind of a club with advanced students. (Pierson, 1927)
Ohio State University actively reported their language

laboratories. They were not experimental but very practical and
useful for teaching. The main purpose was taking the burden of drills
from teachers and put responsibility on students.

Language laboratories were established in 1924 or 1925 and used
for language classes, phonetics, educational principles, and public
speaking. The facilities were poor, and there was a table for sixteen
students with a phonograph with earphones. Students were supervised
their studies with time cards. It was open until eleven o'clock for
students to do homework. (Waltz, 1930) The records were for eight
minutes and could be used twenty-five to hundred times. After that,
they were sharpened and used for another one-hundred times. They were
about seventy-five cents. (Waltz, 1931)

Advantages of language laboratories were thought to be 1)
possible to listen to many native speakers, 2) not to hear other
students' bad pronunciation, 3) to listen to the records many times
and practice, 4) to lighten the teachers' drills, 5) to prepare for
the class enjoyably, 6) able to test listening and speaking, and 7)
able to change lessons with replacing cylinders. (Waltz, 1930)

In both colleges, language laboratories were used extensions of
classes; the former with self study and the latter for class
administration. These styles of use are very similar with today's use
of language laboratories in the United States.

In those days, the equipment was not good and quality of records
were poor and could not listen many times. However, the problems
language laboratories were already very clear then. 1) Students did
not have enough time in the quarter system. 2) Students needed to
study reading most. 3) Students could not repeat correctly by
themselves. 4) Students cheated with the time cards. 5) Students
studied without records since pauses were too long. 6) They heard
noises in the earphones. 7) Students without language laboratories
increased the grades better. (Schneck, 1930)

A study of effectiveness of language laboratories was conducted
already at the University of Iowa in 1930. The method of research had
some problems and found to be very difficult for this type of study.
(Waltz, 1932)

Froidenshutein thought that around 1930 was the birth of language
laboratories, and some publications on them appear around this time.
They were established then. (Freudenstein, 1972)

Establishment of Language Laboratories

Amano (1967) has already reported the development of language
laboratories after World War II till NDEA in 1957 in detail.

Green Mountain Junior College tried to practice the method of the
Specialized Army Training Program (SATP) in the classroom for the first
time and showed the today's principles of language laboratories. They
are 1) individualized instruction for each student ability, 2)
intensive instruction, 3) training listening with the model speeches
with records, 4) developing expressions with repetitions, 5) use of
self-made materials with commercial materials, 6) arrangement of
materials with difficulty levels, 7) instruction by teachers and
assistants throughout the class hours, 8) evaluations of levels of
proficiency, 9) increasing motivation, and 10) recording the foreign
language at the beginning and end of the lesson. (Amano, 1967) They
are necessary ideas for even today's language laboratories.

Birmingham Souther College in Alabama used a portable phonograph
and records and evaluated them highly with the words "It will relive
the language because it gives life to the language." in 1943.
(Whitehouse, 1945)

Johnson argued the following in 1946. We need essentially
audio-visual materials to achieve linguistic and cultural goals.
That should be carefully planed, it is very important in the process
of learning. Students can develop listening ability with having many
opportunities to listen to that language. Adequate use of records is
effective for training not only listening but also for speaking.
(Johnson, 1946) These arguments were supported by people who wanted
to develop language laboratories.

In 1946, colleges which had language laboratories were Texas,
Northwestern, Cornel, Yale, Georgetown, and Florida, but high schools
had interests and New York City suggested to city schools to have them
in the same year. (Amano, 1967) Louisiana University started language
laboratory class in 1946, and Wayne University did it in 1948. (Ebelke,

In 1948, the north central states junior colleges had surveys,
and collected responses from 28 colleges. Nine of them had a recording
machine, five of them reported that it was effective for improving
students' pronunciation. (Ornstein & Johnston, 1949) Language
laboratories had more variety since 1948, and the name, language
laboratory, became the recognized technical term by 1955. (Amano,

Various recording machines and television were developed after
World War II. Records were still important, but during the war, tape
recorders with various tapes and wires were developed. (King, ?????)
A tape recorder with wires was used in a German classes to record
students' voice and criticize it in 1946, and Scherer predicted that
it would be used widely in high schools and colleges. (Scherer, 1947)
Magnetic tapes were mass produced in 1946. (King,

Until around 1950, recording machines were sold as machines for
short hand or for replaying programs at broadcasting companies.
Dunkel mentioned that recording machines could be reformed for foreign
language teaching. (Dunkel, 1947)

Around 1950, tape recorders became popular, new teaching methods
using language laboratories were made. Principles of using them were
already understood, and techniques were waited for. (Freudenstein,
1972) In 1950s, tape recorders with two tracks were made and students
could listen and record at the same time. (Freudenstein, 1972) Since
1955, the University of Delaware started a research of using visual
aids in language laboratories. (Kirch, 1969)

During the war, development of television was stopped, but in 1948,
color TV was invented. In 1951, telecasting of black and white TV was
done between the East and West Coasts, and in 1954, color TV was
telecast. In 1953, the first educational TV program was telecast in
Houston. (Krymitz, 1971) The record shows that TV was used in a German
class in 1955. (Formanek, Clausing, & Wood, 1974)

Video tape was experimented in 1951 for the first time, and in
1952, the results of research was published. In 1953 multiple track
color video was succeeded. Appex Company announced the revolving
technique which is used commonly today in 1956, which was good enough
for broadcasting.

We can consider that equipment was made before NDEA, but the
survey from 1957 to 1958 showed that only 240 colleges and 54 high
schools had language laboratories then. (Amano, 1967)

American language laboratories were established before NDEA, and
how to use them were well considered, but they were very few in number,
and they had to wait for NDEA, an extensive national support for


Language laboratories with deluxe computers go back to the
phonograph invented by Edison. Phonographs could preserve sound and
play them at the beginning, but it made possible to record sounds and
copy them easily, and sounds could be preserved longer.

Phonographs were used in foreign language instruction, because
once recorded, they did not get tired, and students could listen to
the recordings many times. The correspondence, which students
recorded their voices, and they were evaluated by the teachers, and
development of special materials were done already in the nineteenth

Facilities and equipment were developed greatly after 1920.
First records industry developed, and their exaggerating
advertisement were noticed. Television developed greatly since 1920,
and after World War II, today's television was established. Video
tapes were established the origin of today's video tape recorders by
NDEA. Movies became practical with sound by 1920. Radios were used
often for foreign language instruction by 1920. Tape recorders, which
are the center of language laboratories, were developed wired ones by
1920s. During World War II, they used tapes and developed fast after
the war. It was used by many people by NDEA.

Language laboratories have been used in schools gradually since
1910. The principles that machines could not take place of teachers
and recording should be done by native speakers were published before
1920. In the 1920s, language laboratories were used at Mississippi
Women's College and Ohio State University, and it was introduced that
students would use language laboratories under the teacher's
supervision or by themselves as a part of the class or the extension
of the class. In both cases, using language laboratories as a part
of the class, and taking the burden of the teachers was important.
Drills for pronunciation was the center, and songs, games and
developing new learning was tried.

Demerits of language laboratories became clear. They did not
have enough time for language laboratory. There were courses which
language laboratories would not contribute much. Students would not
repeat correctly. There were students who did not use sounds. We
need to consider these problems even today for administering language
laboratories, and without these considerations, we cannot expect the
effectiveness of language laboratories.

After World War II, language laboratories were spread gradually.
There were some new trends with them. They became in use for other
purposes besides foreign language instruction. Students' recording
became more important. Visual materials were used with them.
However, they were not used in many schools, and they had to wait for
financial assistance of NDEA.

It was published by this time that importance of the use of
language laboratories and the teaching methods of foreign language
instruction using language laboratories. We need to review that we
were influenced by the development of machines, but we need to make
an effort to use more powerful machines.


This paper was originally published in Japanese, as "Gogaku Laboratory
no Rekishi--Tanjo to Teichaku--" (1984) in Dhoshisha Studies in
English, 35, pp. 86-103.


Amano, K. (1967). Language laboratory soron [A general introduction
of language laboratories] (pp. 1-40) in Gendai eigo kyoiku koza Vol.
11: Shikaku kyoshitsu [Lectures on modern English education, Vol. 11:
Visual classrooms]. Tokyo: Kenkyusha.

Dunkel, H. B. (1947). If you're buying a recording machine. The Modern
Language Journal, 31(5), ?????

Ebelke, J. F. (1948). An experiment with recording and playback
machines in academic foreign language teaching. The Modern Language
Journal, 32(8), ?????

Edison, A. T. (June, 1888). The perfect phonograph. The North American
Review, ??????

Formanek, M., Clausing, G., & Wood, C. (1974). The contribution of
television in media aided language programs. NALLD Journal, 8(2),

Freudenstein, R. (1972). Unterrichtsmittel sprachlabor. translated by
J. Otomasa. Language laboratory. Tokyo: Nankodo.

Johnson, L. B. (1946). Use of audio-visual aids in foreign language
teaching. The Modern Language JOurnal, 30(7), ?????

King, w. H. (1967). A few facts about tape and tape recording (pp.
346-350). In M. R. Donoghue (ed.) Foreign language and the school: A
book of readings. Dubugue, Iowa: W M.C. Brown.

Kirch, M. S. (1969). Visuals in the language laboratory. NALLD Journal,
4(2), 32-35.

Kitao, K. (1979). Daigaku ni okeru LL no unei [Administration of a
language laboratory in college]. Essays of Commercial & Cultural
Sciences: In Commemoration of the 30th Anniversary 1979, 396-410.

Krymitz, R. (1971). Educational technology--How, when, where. NALLD
Journal, 5(3), 14-22.

McAndrew, A. (1975). Seeing once is better than hearing a thousand
times. NALLD Journal, 10(1), 11-18.

Ornstein, J., & Johnston, S. (1949). The use of audio-visual material
by foreign language classes in junior colleges of the North Central
States. The Modern Language JOurnal, 33(1), ?????

Peterson, P. (1974). Origins of the Language Laboratory. NALLD Journal,
8(4). ?????? LOOK FOR!!!!!!!

Pierson, P. (1927). An experiment with French and Spanish laboratories.
The Modern Language Journal, 12(3), ??????

Rosenthal, R. S. (1941). Spanish self taught: Rosenthal's common sense
method of practical linguistry. Garden City: Garden City Publishing.

Scherer, G. A. C. (1947). Oral work with the wire recorder. The Modern
Language Journal, 31(5), ?????

Schneck, E. H. (1930). Practical difficulties in the use of phonetics
laboratory. The Modern Language Journal, 15(1), ?????

Waltz, R. H. (1930). Laboratory as an aid to modern language teaching.
the Modern Language Journal, 15(1), ?????

Waltz, R. H. (1931). Language laboratory administration. The Modern
Language Journal, 16(3), ?????

Waltz, R. H. (1932). Some results of laboratory training. The Modern
Language Journal, 16(4), ?????

Whitehouse, R. H. (1945). The workshop program? Demonstrating the
value of the language laboratory. The Modern Language Journal,
51. Whose invention marks the first step in the development of language laboratories?
2 points
Clear selection
52. In America, funding by which Act marked an important step in the development of language laboratories?
2 points
Clear selection
53. Who, for the first time, thought of the method of teaching a foreign language using a phonograph?
2 points
Clear selection
54. Who used wax cylinder to teach Chinese in San Francisco?
2 points
Clear selection
55. Who used phonographs for foreign language instruction and published French and Spanish courses?
2 points
Clear selection
56. Who founded third school to use phonographs for foreign languge instruction – ‘International Correspondence Schools of Scranton’ in Pennsylvania in 1891?
2 points
Clear selection
57. In the early phase of language laboratories, phonographs were used for ______ .
2 points
Clear selection
58. Inventions of which of the following items marked an important step in the development of language laboratory in early 20th century?
2 points
Clear selection
59. Which of the following principle/s were published by Clark who used records at Yale University, which, even today, are relevant?
2 points
Clear selection
60. According to R.H. Waltz, which of the following were advantages of language laboratory during early phases of its development?
2 points
Clear selection
61. For what purpose was language lab used in Missipi State College of Women and Ohio State Univeristy in 1924 & 1925?
2 points
62. What sorts of problems were faced with initial versions of language laboratories?
2 points
Clear selection
63. Who showed the path for today’s language laboratories?
2 points
Clear selection
64. In 1953, the first ________was telecast in Houston, USA.
2 points
Clear selection
65. Which of the following basic principles did Green Mountan Junior College’s SATProgram identify for future language laboratories?
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