Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Mango Languages - TOS Review

I have no language strengths, the girls far exceed my capabilities, so when we were offered the chance to review Mango Languages I though it would be a useful programme. Little did I know how much of an understatement that would be : ) 

Mango are probably best know for the Library lessons available in most US libraries. They have created a new programme specifically for the Homeschool community which aims to create a collective of language learning, where you interact with others working on the same language as well as providing additional languages and levels.

We were given access to the Mango Homeschool Edition for a year. We are using the beta version as Mango Languages are improving the scope of what they offer however the beta format alone is an amazing program - you wouldn't realise its a beta when you are using this programme as its so advanced - but they are looking to add to the programme. They are hoping to have added (by the summer) the ability to translate hours studied to an equivalence of high school credits, visual tracking system for parents to view work, a testing program and a pre-test so that students with previous experience can know where they should start in the programme, personal lesson plans, personal goal setting and a portfolio builder.

The first step was to create our account  - parents are responsible for setting up the child’s account, and you have custodial privileges to oversee what your child is learning, how they are progressing as well as testing results. 

Once the account was set up it was time to choose our course from the current 61 languages offered - these include the 'classic' languages like French, Italian, German and Spanish as well as more exotic languages like Dari, Haitian, Farsi, Yiddish and more. For classical students there are even options to study ancient Greek, Hebrew and Latin. I wanted the girls to study Spanish, Castilian (yep - you can even choose different dialects) then asked them what they would like to use, they opted for Latin as they have already studied some and for Chinese, Mandarin as they thought it would be interesting.

Once you've picked your 'passports' (languages - your subscription has no limits on the number of languages you can learn) you go various 'Journeys' through the language. For example, Spanish has two units - People and Travel . People has 5 chapters, each containing about 10 lessons. During your lesson you learn via virtual flashcards with a narrator asking the questions and a native speaker pronouncing each word or phrase. They introduce a phrase then ask you to say a specific word from that phrase (you can opt to hear the answer immediately or wait until the 15 secs has elapsed) before moving onto the next phrase - they use a number of repetitions but mix the words up so you really have to think about what you are doing. They also ask you to guess how you would say a new phrase based on the previous words you have learnt.

 In addition there are grammar notes throughout the lessons, cultural insights, conversational tips, phonetic spelling on demand and (my favourite aspect) a voice comparison tool - you can use this to check how you/student pronounce words or phrases and see a graph of how closely they mimic the native speaker’s pronunciation - providing immediate feedback on pronunciation and hear (as well as see) exactly where they are going wrong so they can correct it and have a proper accent.

Latin is slightly different - it consists of  learning while translating various works like Gallic Wars, Phaedrus - the frog that burst, Cicero - Pro Archia etc. There are 10 chapters in the Latin programme each containing a number of lessons which again teach you via virtual flashcards, narrator and 'native' speaker for pronunciation.

Each lesson lasts approx 10-15  mins and is simple enough for the girls to log in and do on their own (I've loaded this onto their tablet and set it as the homepage on the Internet so they just add the password and they log into their lessons each day by clicking on the class they joined. The programme keeps a record of which lessons have been completed and takes them automatically to the next lesson in their queues). Many of the languages also have pdf lesson files that may be downloaded and used for further study.

In addition to the language lessons there are additional features like progress assessments, collaborative learning spaces, calendars, groups, blog space, and you can even email people within the system (don't panic - you can opt to get all emails sent to your email as well so you can easily track what you kids are doing and you can link accounts giving you the ability to log into their accounts to oversee everything. The programme also has a number of safeguards in place and moderators). There are Forums you can join, these offer an easy way to answer any questions you have about the languages you are studying. They also provide students the opportunity to quiz other students who have progressed further in their studies and give them the chance to practise talking to others in that language.

The girls have seemed to enjoy using this, once the account is set up it's easy to use and they have retained Spanish and Latin really well - the recommended age is 6 to adult but Rose (5) has joined in and enjoyed herself.  Chinese has been more difficult to learn but Lilly (11) has managed to learn a number of greetings.
I love this programme because it balances out all my weaknesses - both the girls and I have learnt loads and I'm happy to say that I no longer fear language lessons : )

My favourite aspect is the Voice Comparison Tool - it's like having a personal tutor in the comfort of my own home at my convenience - If I want to learn at 2am, it's there ready and waiting for me. I can honestly say this has been a real blessing to add to our homeschool curriculum.

Mango Homeschool Edition offers a free 14-day trial so you can see how it works for you. Monthly or yearly subscriptions are set 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 
Anything over 6 subscriptions is a special group rate that will depend on the number in the group.

Subscriptions can be purchased at Mango Homeschool Edition.

You can see what my crew mates thought over at the TOS Blog

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