Dealing With the Language Lab Mandate


Published: December 13, 2007

The vast majority of Fordham College Lincoln Center (FCLC) students have, at some point in their academic careers, been required to grace the fourth floor language lab with their presence. Being forced to sit in tight booths with even tighter headphones on, which any well-groomed FCLC student will tell you can really make for a bad hair day, they sit typing, listening to, and repeating French, German, Spanish or Arabic phrases back to the machines from whence they came.

The only thing worse than being forced to go to the language lab is not finding an available booth in the lab. (CRAIG CALEFATE/The Observer)

Most people would admit that repeating phrases in another language with the assistance of educational audio cassette tapes would be, in some way, beneficial, but shouldn’t university students have the right to decide which method of study best suits them? One could argue that the studying techniques that work for one student might not be as beneficial for another. After all, human beings differ in their retention abilities and their preferences in study methods.

By imposing a policy of mandatory attendance for the language lab, Fordham University is not only treating its students as high-schoolers, but also the language lab requirement is actually detracting from some students’ education by forcing them to adhere to a method of study which might not be particularly beneficial to them. This can result in students becoming frustrated that they are not able to excel in the program, even though the problem lies with the system and not with the students’ ability to learn from an audio cassette tape.

Fordham University’s language department should allow students to choose the language lab as a study tool rather than mandate up to two hours per week of compulsory attendance. It would seem logical that students who find the lab helpful would continue to attend, and those students who do not find it helpful would not be forced to lose precious time each week. It would seem that Fordham University is not only babying its students by holding their hands through the foreign language requirements, but they seem to think that all Fordham students learn in the same way. It is not only embarrassing to be told when and where you must study, but it can also hurt a student’s academic self-esteem when they do not excel at using the audio cassette tapes.

Let’s not forget that each language booth used by a student means there is one less booth available. I recall many instances during my obligatory trips to the language lab when many students would surf the Web and chat with their friends online when they were supposed to be studying a language. As a result, students who find the lab useful are denied a seat; neither the person using his or her study time to message his or her friends nor the student waiting for a free booth in which to actually study are having their best interests served.

Fordham University might not repeal their policy of mandatory language lab attendance; however, what they can do is implement a system where students could schedule time to use the lab, thereby reserving a booth which will be used to make the most of the language lab tools. This would enable the busier students or those students with hectic schedules to be guaranteed a booth in the lab. In this way, those students who truly find the langage lab beneficial will be able to make use of it.