Are you a foreign-language lover? I’ve been fascinated for years by the idea of learning different languages. Our latest opportunity to enjoy language learning came with our chance to review Mango Languages‘ new series for homeschoolers, Mango Homeschool Edition. It is currently in beta format, as Mango Languages is broadening the scope of what they can offer subscribers; but even in beta, it is an extraordinary program. It is creative, fun and fascinating, and Jackson has absolutely loved it!
I think in the back of my mind there is always the hope that I’ll be jetting off to somewhere fabulous….and able to converse easily with the residents of that country because we’ve studied foreign language in homeschool. France…Israel…Russia…Italy…Greece….the list goes on and on of the places I’d like to see and the people I’d like to chat with (need I say, successfully?) in their native tongues. Perhaps because of this, I’m always excited to introduce foreign language study to our homeschool.
Are you looking for a language learning prorgram that is….
- enjoyable for many age groups?
- affirming and encouraging to the language-learner?
- easy to learn EVEN if the parent can’t speak the new language?
If these sound appealing to you, then Mango Homeschool Edition might be just right for you!
Mango Languages, the parent company of Mango Homeschool Edition, has seven years of virtual (or online) language study production under its belt. They have had language study software available for patrons of U.S. public libraries for several years (although the language offerings are substantially more limited than those in the Mango Homeschool Edition in both numbers and levels of languages offered), and Mango Languages is the #1 foreign language study program in libraries. Eventually, Mango Languages wanted to offer an affordable, high-quality language learning curriculum to homeschoolers—and they have developed an amazing program in Mango Homeschool Edition!
Mango Homeschool Edition currently offers 61 foreign language studies in their course directory (as opposed to the 22 free Mango Language options through my own city’s library system). And, as wonderful as the public libraries’ Mango Languages programs are, those programs only offer about 10% of what you can find in Mango Homeschool Edition. Here, you’ll find all the usual suspects, like French (both European and Canadian), German, Italian, Spanish (Castilian and Latin American), and Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin). But you’ll ALSO find unusual offerings like Bengali, Azerbaijani, Farsi (Persian), Icelandic, Scottish Gaelic, Urdu and dozens of others! The list of options is truly spectacular. And, students of ancient cultures can also study Greek (in its ancient or Koine forms), Hebrew (Biblical or current-day) and Latin.
So, in addition to this astounding list of languages, what else does Mango Homeschool Edition offer?
- Cultural tips and mores
- Grammar lessons interwoven with language study
- Multiple years’ worth of study in many languages
- Unit reviews
- Testing and quizzes (for many languages)
- The chance to study as many languages at a time as desired
- Opportunities to join groups of and interact with other students studying the same languages
- Language learning for ages 6 through adult
How does the program work?
Mango Homeschool Edition is really a groundbreaking online language learning program. It focuses chiefly on the student’s being able to see, hear, and speak the language being learned, via virtual flashcards and an invisible speaker interacting with the student and pronouncing each word or phrase. In addition, if your computer has a working microphone, your student can pronounce words or phrases and see a graph of how closely they are able to mimic the native speaker’s pronunciation with the Mango voice comparison tool. This is one of the tools that makes Mango Homeschool Edition vastly different from all the other language learning programs that are out there by providing one of the benefits of classroom learning; immediate feedback on pronunciation.
The parent is responsible for setting up the child’s account, and has custodial privileges to oversee what the child is learning and how he is proceeding, as well as testing results. Once the account has been set up, the student selects the language he plans to study. Here’s what the language options page, called The Commons, looks like:
Students connect to their lessons each day by clicking on the class they’ve joined, via the blue faces box to the right of the country’s flag. The software keeps a record of what lessons have been completed, and by clicking each day on the blue box, the students are taken to the next lesson in their queues. The lessons are organized into levels called “Journeys,” each of which have 8-10 lessons apiece. Many of the languages also have pdf lesson files that may be downloaded and used for further study.
I mentioned earlier that students have the option of joining fellow language learners in online groups. Many parents might hesitate at offering this to their children, due to the very real dangers of a child’s interaction with others via the Internet. Mango Homeschool Edition, however, is firmly and adamantly committed to keeping children who are using this service safe. They are able to regulate this in two ways, primarily. First, the only people who can access the groups are people who have purchased memberships to Mango Homeschool Edition. The parent’s and children’s (or users’) first and last names are always used when they are accessing the groups and the lessons. Second, each time a message is left in the group, it is date- and time-stamped. Moderators review these regularly, so that if there ever were a time where something inappropriate was written in the groups, the moderators know who said it, and when….and they will follow up accordingly. Both of these safeguards provide the necessary accountability for all users.
How we used Mango Homeschool Edition:
We were given a year’s subscription to Mango Homeschool Edition for Jackson. That subscription enables him, for a full year, to study any (or even all!) of the 61 languages offered.
When we started our language lessons with this program, Jackson was thrilled to have the opportunity to study Hebrew. With Mango Homeschool Edition, one actually has three options of Hebrew study; Yiddish, Biblical Hebrew and current-day Hebrew, the language spoken in Israel today. Jackson selected Biblical Hebrew. However, when we joined the class on The Commons page, we inadvertently selected the current-day Hebrew by mistake. It took us a few lessons to figure this out, as we were happily moving along and learning how to say “Hello!” (shalom), “Good night,” (LYElah tohv) and other introductory phrases. We had downloaded the pdf for Journey 1 of Hebrew, and did some additional writing and created flash cards for the vocabulary we were learning. But one day I realized that we hadn’t learned any phrases I recognized from the Bible. So we checked which language we were enrolled in……and it was NOT Biblical Hebrew.
At least if we ever go to Israel, Jackson and I will be able to interact with native Hebrew speakers….a bit!
So we switched over to Biblical Hebrew, which is organized around passages from the Old Testament, or the Hebrew Bible. At this point, Biblical Hebrew has four Journeys (which is less coursework than most other Mango languages include), covering the following verses from the Bible:
- Genesis 1:1-5, “In the Beginning”
- Genesis 3:1-6, “More subtil than any beast”
- Psalm 23:1-6, “The valley of the shadow”
- Song of Solomon 3:1-5, “Him whom my soul loveth” (and yes, Mom will be either doing this one with Jackson or postponing it indefinitely)
The first journey on Genesis 1 is comprised of 9 lessons plus a review lesson on all the vocabulary and grammar learned in the journey. Because Hebrew is so new to us, we’re taking it a little slower than we’d normally proceed in learning a new language. (About all we knew of Hebrew, pre-Mango, were “Shalom!” and “L’chaim!”) We study Hebrew 4 days per week. We take each lesson twice, and we do review work on our own between those. Because Biblical Hebrew doesn’t have a pdf file, we’re making our own handwritten study tools. And, because Mango Homeschool Edition is more of a conversational language learning curriculum and not as focused on writing, we are not learning how to write in Hebrew. Instead, we focus on learning the language via the English transliteration, or written pronunciation, of each word. We make flash cards for each lesson, and review them daily. Jackson also has started a Biblical Hebrew spiral, and he writes all the Hebrew pronunciations and their English meaning in the spiral. Both of these extra review tools really solidify all that Jackson is learning, and help him to move along easily with the online lessons.
What Jackson thinks about Mango:
“I do like Mango. It is easier and more fun than any language-learning thing I have done up until now. I’m glad to use Mango, because it teaches things well and does not rush into a subject. It does not give you too much to learn all at once, so you can get that in your head before it teaches you any more. It repeats things, so it is helpful if you forget that word, so you can re-learn it. I would really recommend Mango to anyone who wants to have easy language learning, because this is very easy and fun.”
As I mentioned earlier, Mango Homeschool Edition is currently available in beta form. I really believe that if I hadn’t mentioned that to you, you would never know it simply by using the program, because it is pretty advanced already! Some of the things that they’re working on adding to the program (they’re hoping, by the summer) are translating the hours spent in study to an equivalence of high school credits; a visual tracking system for parents to view children’s work; a testing program; and a pre-test so that students who’ve already studied a language can know where they should start. They also plan to add a system of goals and personal lesson plans, as well as a resume and portfolio builder. These are definitely exciting additions, but truly, what they have now is a full and excellent program.
Mango Homeschool Edition is so enjoyable to use and so user-friendly, and it would be a fantastic tool for any student of languages. If you’d like to try this excellent product before you buy it, Mango Homeschool Edition offers a free 14-day trial. Monthly or yearly subscriptions are set up so that they’re affordable even for large families. They’re available at the following prices:
- 1 subscription (or one student) is $18/month or $125/year total
- 2 subscriptions (or two students) are $28/month or $175 /year total
- 3 subscriptions are $38/month or $225/year total
- 4 subscriptions are $48/month or $275/year total
- 5 subscriptions are $58/month or $325/year total
- If you have 6 students or more who’d be studying at the same time, Mango Homeschool Edition will set up group pricing dependent on the total number of students
Subscriptions can be purchased at Mango Homeschool Edition.
I have to say, in closing, that Mango Homeschool Edition is one of the most fascinating and exciting curricula we’ve ever seen or worked with. There is so much available, on so many levels, and the student actually can work towards being able to converse with others in a foreign language. I recommend it highly…and obviously Jackson does too!