Review of Mango Langauges: An Online Method of Foreign Language Learning
Knowing what curricula/programs to use for language learning has been a difficult thing for me. There is much available to choose from, and I don't really know where to start. I was happy to have the opportunity to try out Mango Languages. We received a one year subscription to the Mango Homeschool Edition.
1 subscription is $18/month or $125/year total
2 subscriptions is $28/month or $175 /year total
3 subscriptions is $38/month or $225/year total
4 subscriptions is $48/month or $275/year total
5 subscriptions is $58/month or $325/year total
Mango Homeschool is an online program, so you will need a PC running Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista SP2, Windows 7, or higher, or a Mac running OS X 10.6 or higher. You will need a microphone to utilize the Voice Comparison tool.
Mango is unique from other language programs that I've seen in that there is a community element to it.
Mango has over 60 languages to choose from including some of the common choices- Spanish and French- to some of the more unusual choices such as Arabic- in different forms. These languages are called "spaces" by Mango and they can be found in an area called "The Commons." You can access The Commons from your dashboard where you can also send and receive mail messages, link to your personal blog, and communicate with other members using the "SayWall."
I signed up for Mandarin Chinese. I have a sister-in-law from Malaysia who speaks it, and I thought "why not?". I signed Kathryne up for French because she had an interest in it. Each member who takes a class has a separate log-in. I couldn't set up a page as the "teacher" and have each child registered under me. This made things a little difficult when I wanted to set up her class and see how she was going to get started.
When we began our lessons, we could jump right in at the beginning or take a placement test. You can also pull up an overview of each unit and take a pre or post test for each chapter to determine where you should start. Because neither of us had prior knowledge of our language, we started at the beginning. There are four units that get progressively more difficult. Each unit has 10 chapters and each chapter has 5 lessons. The lessons are self-paced, so the time to complete one really varies; but I found it was taking me about 30 minutes for a Chinese lesson, and my daughter was taking 15-30 depending on the lesson. (Yes, I'm older; so it's harder!)
After five lessons there is a review test. Because I didn't have a way of seeing Kathryne's progress from my account, I had to just have her tell me her test scores. She didn't like the testing because there was a grade but nothing to indicate what she had missed. The pre and post testing can be taken any time as I mentioned above, but it falls after every five lessons.
In the lesson, you are shown what looks like index cards with a phrase. The narrator explains the phrase and pronounces it in the language. Often, in Chinese especially, the Chinese wording is different than the English wording, and she would explain the literal translation. The words are also written in both English and the studied language. You can listen to the speaker as many times as necessary. Then, if you have your microphone attached, you can speak into it saying the phrase. I didn't see much help in this because the program doesn't tell you if you spoke correctly. Instead, you see a voice comparison, and you determine if your voice matches the speakers. I had a really hard time determining if mine was correct.
Throughout the lesson, there are often grammar notes that help to explain some of the language's grammatical structure. There are conversational as well as grammatical goals at the beginning of each lesson.
One of my concerns was whether or not this would count as a high school credit for Kathryne. That question isn't answered very well on the site. There is no element of writing the language and, as I've mentioned, it's difficult to check your pronunciation; so I would be concerned about trying to count it as a credit. We had some questions answered by the program developers, and it was concluded that we were trying a "beta version" of the program and that the final product would have other features. One of these will be a rating of high school credits to help you determine the credit value of the program.
So here's what we thought:
1. There was a good bit of help on the opening screen to show me how to navigate. After watching some of the videos, I was able to understand how to get started.
2. The program includes a very wide variety of languages.
3. Once I made it through the setup, the actual language units were easy to navigate.
4. I liked that you could take a pre test to determine where you should begin if you had some prior knowledge of the program.
And the rest:
1. I really didn't like the inability to link accounts and see my student's progress and track test scores and make assignments. There was some talk about a way to do this coming in later versions. But, currently, there isn't a way to do this for your students.
2. Although the program was indicated for ages 6 to adult, I didn't think it would be very useful for my younger kids because of the content of the program. The beginning lessons were okay, featuring the basic greetings and pleasantries. But the conversation moves to things like talking about whether or not you can speak a language and asking directions to asking questions about passports and apartments. Also sprinkled throughout are the grammar tips, which are good for my 9th grader, but wouldn't make any sense to my 3rd grader. I can't really imagine using it for younger children.
3. The lack of a good way to check out whether or not your speech was correct was a concern for me. In come languages the inflection of a phrase might not matter. But in some- such as the Chinese I was taking- the inflection makes a big difference, so it would have been nice to have a better way to check that.
4. One other thing that really concerned me was the "community" sort of feel. I don't like the kids to have access to chatting online. And I didn't really see the need for the blogging and chatting and social features in the homeschool program. I see that this could have some value if you were an adult studying a language and wanted to connect with others studying that language. But for students I see too many privacy issues and not really any benefit.
The Vendor does say that some other features are coming to the program. From the Vendor:
What is currently available on the site:
Over 60 different languages
Built-in journals, discussions and wikis
Collaborative learning spaces
eNote messaging /chat rooms
Access to embedded/downloadable content
Support from other community members
Calendars to schedule meetings or study groups
Over the next several months, we'll be introducing other exciting features like:
Enhanced Tracking and Progress Monitoring - including seat time (for students and parents)
Goals and Personal Lesson Plans (both stand-alone and tied into Mango courses)
Resume and Portfolio Builder
My conclusion: I think Mango would be a good program for adults who were studying in order to travel to another country. With the community features and the lack of a way to make assignments and track progress, it wasn't a good fit for us. I am curious to see how the program changes as some of these new elements are introduced. I look forward to seeing it.
You can connect with Mango socially here:
Review of Mango Langauges: An Online Method of Foreign Language Learning Reviewed by Leah Courtney on 8:22:00 AM Rating: