I just want to preface this by saying that Mango Languages did NOT pay me for this review. They DID allow me to use one of their courses for the purposes of this review and were kind enough to give a course package away to one of my readers. (more on that below)
I’ve always loved learning new languages, although lately it’s been impossible to find time to take a local class to help me discover a new language and culture. I’ve long been eyeing at-home language courses, but I wasn’t sure how they would stack up to learning the language from a real individual. That’s why I was so excited to take the Mango Passport Language Learning Program for a test run.
Even though I took some Spanish courses almost twenty years ago (wow, that made me feel old), I have long since forgotten all but the most basic of phrases. I’m pretty sure I could order a beer or maybe ask where the discotheque is, but that’s about it. Since Spanish is such an important international language, I decided to try the Mango Spanish course. As a side note, I was surprised that Mango doesn’t offer Arabic, but they do include a Farsi course. This seems very strange to me given how limited Farsi use is, but such is life.
The Spanish course is divided into ten chapters with a total of 63 lessons covering everything from “Hello” to asking for help on the road. From my own personal experience, the methodology is a good one. Long gone are the days of reciting “S-O-C-K-S” and instead, Mango explains the grammatical structure behind the words and phrases so that the user actually understands why they’re saying what they’re saying. Parroting a few words isn’t learning a language, which is why it’s so important to really understand the grammar. Mango also incorporates several cultural lessons, a favorite aspect of any language course. Rather than just review cultural quirks, Mango goes on to explain when and why certain words and phrases are used in a variety of contexts. It may seem simple, but this is a vital skill to have when speaking a foreign language.
The mechanics of each lesson are also very well structured. There is a lot of repetition and encouragement for the user to speak along with the course. Using a headset, I was able to record my attempts at the Spanish phrases and match them to the native speaker. It can be tedious, but repetition and being exposed to the sounds and inflections is key to learning a new language.
By the end of the course, I felt fairly confident that I could get by with a basic knowledge of Spanish and not embarrass myself too badly. I was disappointed to learn that Mango doesn’t offer continuing education, or advanced classes in the languages. I suppose though that this is more than adequate for a traveler whose interest is in getting by in a foreign land and not necessarily having philosophical discussions while in-country.
The basic package is $150 for any of the languages offered, but for $50 more you can get access to the mobile version for use with a smart phone. This is a great idea, especially for people on the go or pressed for time. I found myself reciting my Spanish phrases while on the treadmill after work. The smart phone application also makes it easy for the user to review key phrases while actually traveling.
Overall, I really enjoyed using the Mango Passport program and would recommend it to any traveler. The information and teaching style were both excellent and I honestly felt like I was learning as I went through the course. More than anything, Mango is perfect for the traveler who wants to learn more about the language, people and culture of future travel destinations at their own speed in the privacy of their home.
As I mentioned in the introduction, Mango was good enough to give one of my readers their own copy of the Passport Bundle ($200 value) in the language of their choice.
To enter, you must follow Mango on Twitter and post in the comments section of this post which language you would like to learn. The contest will only last until Friday, April 22, so enter now and I’ll announce the winner on Twitter Saturday, April 23.
Available languages: Chinese (Mandarin), Farsi, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese