Saturday, March 15, 2014

Mango Languages: Mango Homeschool Edition - A Review

As parents, we are often on a quest to find the one product or service that best fits our children. Because I am NOT fluent in any foreign language, I am intrigued by how many foreign language programs are available, and often wonder "Do they really work?" We were recently afforded the opportunity to review the Mango Homeschool Edition from Mango Languages. You may be familiar with Mango Languages from their work through libraries. Mango has been around for more than 6 years and is the #1 language learning program in libraries across the US.

Mango Languages Review

If you've seen Mango's library program, you may be familiar with their approach to language learning. All of Mango's programs focus on teaching conversationally. This means that instead of first learning a lot of vocabulary words, and then learning how the language is put together, you begin with the most common phrases, and then Mango includes grammar and cultural points in each lesson.

Mango Languages Review

This was a whole lot different from any language program I had used previously, but I can appreciate their approach. Our girls both worked on Mango languages during the review. I also tried out the program.

The first point I want to make sure you understand about the Mango Homeschool Edition is that you learn ANY of the 60+ languages available. You choose. If you want to, you can learn more than one language at a time, or you can switch your mind and change to a different language at any time. This was really important to us. Both girls thought they would want to learn Scottish Gaelic. It is REALLY hard to learn Gaelic. So after a sincere effort to try Gaelic, each girl individually asked me if they could switch to a different language. Thankfully, I could say "yes" without having to invest money to change languages.

Arlene switched to Spanish, and Emily switched to Italian. I think this point alone would be enough for me to recommend Mango as a viable option, but it has some other features I want you to learn about as well.

Each subscription to Mango Homeschool Edition is a 'seat in the class.' Thus, each girl needed their own subscription. Because I also wanted to try to learn, I had myself listed on a subscription as well. One major difference between the Homeschool edition and the library edition is this: the library edition ONLY allows you to use the first level (Journey) in each language. In the Homeschool Edition, Arlene can go through three levels (Journey 1, 2, & 3) of Spanish. Several of the languages have embedded/ downloadable files that you can print out for reference or practice when your child is not online in their lesson. Because I wanted to be able to encourage Arlene, I downloaded the Journey 1 file for Spanish, and printed the first several pages. Even though Arlene said her brain is "not wired for learning a foreign language," she WAS able to correct me when I said something wrong from her lesson. I think that means she is learning more than she thought!

There are several parts of how the program works that I thought were well planned (even though my older brain has a hard time switching from the traditional style of language teaching and learning this way.) These seems to help the girls as they worked their way through the lessons.

I have added arrows to many of my screenshots to help point these out.

To start with, let's take a look at Arlene's first Spanish lesson:

First, you obviously need to choose a language! I set up Arlene's 'space' for Mango Passport Spanish  (Latin America.) Yes, that's right, you can choose Spanish (Castilian) if you're planning to visit Spain, or study abroad in Europe. Notice that Arlene's first Journey begins with 'Greetings, Gratitude, & Goodbyes.' Each lesson cover quite a bit, but begins with the most used phrases first.

During the actual lesson the lines of text switch back and forth from Spanish to English as the speakers move through the conversation. This reinforces to the student that they DO already know how the conversation would sound in English, and helps guide them line by line through the new material. Also, if you look at the brown bar at the bottom, you will see the student's progress through the lesson. If you need to stop partway through a lesson, Mango will return them to the part they were working on when they next log in. (This little bar was good for Arlene, it showed her that there WAS an end coming, that she could work as fast or as slow as she needed, and that she WAS progressing.)

On every screen where Mango is talking to your student, there is a lovely "Replay" button in the top right. This was important for me, because it takes a long time for my brain to wrap around foreign pronunciations. This shot also shows you how Mango includes Grammar notes (the parts your teacher used to draw on the chalkboard) during each lesson. Remember, Mango's goal is to make language learning fun. If it can't be fun, at least it's relatively painless.

Mango does a quality job of teaching cultural norms during the course of each lesson. The Mango program will read the screen to you, which I think is particularly  great for younger students who are typically slower at reading English. Remember, there is always the lovely 'replay' button.

Mango is most definitely NOT all listening, it teaches a small part of the lesson, then it reviews it with the student, then it quizzes them. The beginning quiz is just a time for the student to say the word or phrase they have just learned. Later on in the lessons the quizzes ask them to do more, asking the student to choose the correct words from a group of Spanish words to make phrases like "Have a good day" (formally.) This program tries to make sure the student understands both the words and the situations that call for formal or informal replies. (Like the difference between saying "Hi!" to your friend, or saying "Hello, Sir.")

While Mango does not teach you how to write the language (their goal is speaking it,) they do include the correct spellings and punctuation on each screen. See the double question marks by the red arrow? I really, really like the switching of each line back and forth from Spanish to English and back again. Of course, there is always the replay button at your disposal. Why am I spending so much time on the replay button? Because my kids learn best when they hear it over and over again. Mango covers the short conversation, and then the words line by line, with lots of review, however, having a replay button the student can use puts your child in control of their pace.

Now here is a shot of my screen. I come here to check on my students (see the yellow arrow,) to send an eNote to Josh (who is the Mango Homeschool Admin guy with all the answers to my techy questions- see the blue arrow,) or to check the help section. 

I have 3 spaces myself. Each 'space' you have represents a different language you are learning. No, I'm not really learning 3 languages at a time right now. But I want to tell you about the three you see listed below the red arrow. Latin IS for me (more about that in a minute.) Scottish Gaelic was because I wanted to try it out myself when the girls were having problems learning. Gaelic is just a difficult language for a midwesterner to learn. Not impossible, just difficult. Since both of them had gotten a lot further than I was able to manage, I had no qualms about having them switch to a different language. The third language listed is Spanish. I added that to my subscription so that I could learn some and help encourage Arlene. Emily seems to be doing fine with Italian on her own. 

Since I have all of our passwords, I can logout of my account and into Emily's to see how far she has progressed. Mango is working on an enhanced tracking and progress monitoring system which they hope to have available by this summer. I will look forward to that as it will make my job easier, plus they hope to include a 'seat time' tracker option which would be great for parents who live in states where they must record minutes spent on each subject, not just the number of days spent in each class.

Now here is a little more about Mango's Latin. I signed myself up for Latin because I had been learning Latin alongside the girls last year, but had set it aside and wanted to get back to it. Since Latin is considered a 'dead language' because it is not actively, routinely spoken today, it is easy to forget how to speak in Latin.

This language may not be the best one to learn from Mango because it focuses on having you learn enough Latin to READ parts of ancient Latin literature. Thus, your child will not be learning 'hello' and 'goodbye,' but rather the words necessary to read about the Gallic Wars. (Rome's attack on the area of modern day France for those of you who haven't had world history in a few years.)

So you probably don't want your younger students learning Latin through Mango, but it can be a help to your older students. If your older student has spent time in a more traditional approach to learning Latin, this can be used as a reinforcement of what they have learned, or a stretching to learn more.

Latin has the same features I mentioned earlier about Spanish, like the progress bar.

Cultural notes in Latin have a lot about the history of the 'Roman World.'

This part of Latin looks more like what I am used to, where it is explaining to the student subject-verb agreements and noun declensions. I would NOT recommend Mango if you have not had any other introduction to Latin, as I think the process of declining nouns and conjugating verbs to be essential to truly understanding Latin, and I find it easiest to do on a whiteboard.

This replay button was used again and again. MY goal was to HEAR the Latin spoken, so for me, Mango is working to reinforce what I had previously learned.

Josh and Ryan at Mango Homeschool Edition were happy to answer our questions about current and future features. Currently, there are features you can choose which we did not utilize. One of those that many of you may choose to use are the Language Forums and dashboard features. In the Language Forums you can have up to 16 people online working in a study group (like you might want for a co-op class.) I can see how this might also be used by students who live in rural areas to work with someone else who is about the same level in their language but lives in another town or state. On the dashboard you can see a calendar, and add events (like a reminder to go to your language forum meeting on time) or see questions  and answers that other users have posted in your languages.

You may be wondering how this fit into our daily life? Pretty easily. Since it is an online program (as opposed to a scheduled class) the girls could work on their lessons whenever I wasn't using the computer. The girls left a set of headphones on the computer desk so they could hear their lesson, without all the distractions that come from someone else entering or leaving the room. I wanted them to spend at least 30 minutes each day they logged on, or to get to the end of a lesson.  If you use the replay button a lot (like I did,) you might hit 30 minutes before you end the lesson. That was perfectly fine with me because I wanted them to learn the language lessons, not just spend time in the chair. Since Mango would return them to their same spot during the next session, I didn't fear they would always be doing the first part of a lesson and never actually finish it.

Mango Homeschool Edition is for ages 6 to adult. Since younger kids usually learn languages easier than older ones, I would encourage you to NOT wait until High School to start your child with a foreign language. Mango makes it easy to learn a lot in one language, or some of several languages, or a lot in a many languages, you decide! Mango currently has 2 options for payment, either by the month, or the year. With a yearly subscription you will save money over the cost of purchasing 12 individual months. Remember that each student needs their own subscription. One student can use Mango for $18/month or $125/year. Two subscriptions cost $28/mo or $175/yr, three are available for $38/mo or $225/yr. If you have 4 students, the cost is $48/mo or $275/yr, five students would cost $58/mo or $325/yr. If you have a large family, contact Mango for their 6 or more student discount pricing. A parent needs to be the responsible person to set up and pay for the account, but you do NOT need to purchase a subscription for yourself if you have no interest in learning a language. To me, it would be worth it to spend the extra $10/mo or $50/yr to have my own account. I think working through at least a few of the lessons your students are working on will give you a better appreciation for what they are learning, and how much the pacing will vary by student.

Like I said earlier, Mango is NOT your traditional approach to language learning. For most younger students, it will probably work better than traditional textbooks and long vocabulary lists. For older students, you will need to evaluate your student's desires and needs. If they MUST learn to WRITE a language, then Mango may not be for you (although I could see the benefit of getting a month-long subscription to give them a good start on pronunciation and cultural norms.)

The downloadable guide for Spanish Journey 1 is 168 pages. We chose to only print selected pages, but you could print the whole thing (may I suggest black and white as a money saver?) How you use Mango will vary from family to family, but I think it is worth your time to investigate further. The upcoming features should take a solid program and make it even better. Mango does offer a 'free trial' that you can find out more about on their website. If you have a question that doesn't appear to be covered on the website, you can call and talk to them! You can also visit with Mango on Facebook.

Overall, I give Mango a B+. I think the upcoming features will push it to an A-.
I would like our girls to learn a foreign language, but I will want time spent on speaking, reading, and writing. If we stick with Mango, I'll want to supplement with something that will teach them at least the basics of how to write down what they are saying. I think this is important for High School level classes.

If you have Elementary or Middle School aged students, I would recommend Mango as a great homeschool curriculum for language learning. In a sea-full of options, Mango rises to the challenge for younger language learners.

Click to read Crew Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

1 comment: