It’s the New Year, but you knew that. You’ve got a ton of resolutions, from losing weight to traveling more. You probably also have a few productivity goals, or at least a hopeful urging to be more productive. And then, of course, there’s the always lofty “learn a language,” which, why not? The bragging rights (don’t lie: it has crossed your mind), the sense of satisfaction and comfort at being able to communicate in a foreign tongue… Learning a foreign language is probably the best thing a traveler can do for herself.
As far as learning a new language goes, though, there’re too many options, so it’s always a grab-bag on whether or not one will actually learn. Mango Passport, a series of downloadable learning software, is one such option.
Used in public libraries and schools and offering a range of languages (French, Spanish, Thai, amongst others), Mango uses what it dubs “Intuitive Language Construction” to teach practical conversation skills in your desired language. Designed to mimic cultural immersion, Mango’s lessons incorporate cultural understanding with grammar, vocabulary and memory-building exercises.
This is fine and dandy, but does it work? The Mango Passport interface is straight-forward and deceptively simple to use. The software jumps right into the desired course, broken up into chapters and subsequent lessons. Each lesson begins with an outline and projected goals, both conversational and grammatical. As the lessons unfold, they seem almost childlike: the narrator guides users through slides featuring words and in some cases, audio. Cycling through the slides is easy, not entirely different from using flashcards. The slides vary from audio comparisons, whereupon users can compare their pronunciation of a word or phrase with that of a recorded native speaker, to color-coded grammar and vocabulary cards, highlighting the reason for a translation or conjugation.
The number of slides seems daunting (upwards of 50 in some cases) but in reality, the lessons do not take much time to complete at all. After a few minutes, some of the phrases actually make sense and become automatic, mostly because of the repetition. You can proceed at your own pace, as Mango picks up from where you left off, but remembering what you previously learned is up to you. Chapters end with a simple review quiz, which don’t really test retention or fluency in as much as serving as a reminder for what you just learned.
Along with the downloadable software, Mango also provides supplemental On The Go lessons for MP3 players. These files include a PDF study guide along with many additional cultural, vocabulary and grammar notes to reinforce the Passport software.
The initial Passport software is available at $150, while On the Go lessons go for $100. There is a bundle pack, offered at $50 less than buying each download individually. Mango doesn’t claim to teach fluency, just improve conversational skills. After completing a series of chapters and reviewing the supplemental package, it’s not a stretch to say casual conversation is achievable in a given language, depending on your goals and ability to commit to memory the language. A trial lesson is available on the company’s site. Mango would serve as a great refresher for those already familiar with a language or the intrepid traveler seeking to pick up more than their fair share of the local tongue.
Mango Passports provided review copies of its propietary software, though all opinions expressed are our own.