It’s another exciting week here at Language Learning At Home!
Today, I’m continuing my reviews of the most popular homeschool language learning apps, focusing on Mango Languages. In case you missed last week, I shared the good, the not-so-good, and the how-tos of using Duolingo—so if you’re interested in using that app for your family, make sure that you read those posts. Later this week, I’ll be reviewing what I don’t like about Mango and sharing my recommendations for use, and at the end of this series, I’ll be providing a detailed comparison of Duolingo and Mango, so please check back for that as well.
In case you’re not familiar with Mango Languages, let me introduce the app to you. Mango Languages is a computer program that is available for FREE through many public libraries or for purchase as a special package for homeschool students. The homeschool package provides access for one teacher and five students for a very reasonable $20/month subscription—which you can pause during the summer in case you don’t do language study then. In addition, some versions of the program include a complementary software known as Mango Premiere, which combines cultural education with language learning in a very unique way (more on that below).
Ready for the review? Okay, but before I jump in, I just want to clarify one thing: I’m not compensated or associated in any way with Mango Languages—I’m just a fellow mom checking out this software and sharing my thoughts.
Now, here’s how I reviewed Mango’s capabilities for homeschool language learning. First, I ran through the app in Spanish, and then, I used it in Hebrew. Since I reviewed Duolingo using a language with a non-Latin alphabet, I wanted to ensure that I did the same with Mango—just to be fair. Using the app in Spanish helped me to judge its construction and logic (from a pedagogical point of view) and using it in Hebrew, of course, gave me that valuable beginner’s perspective.
Overall, I was very impressed with Mango. And honestly, I really didn’t expect that I would like it as much as I did. I’m kind of old-fashioned when it comes to learning languages; I’ve learned them without apps, I’ve taught them without apps, and I am really skeptical of anything that seems to resemble Rosetta Stone (I have a whole post on that planned for later!).
So I was pleasantly surprised to find many things to like about Mango, for example:
- The company has tailored its program to the unique needs of homeschooled students—and the needs of homeschool moms! Here are just a few of the helpful features that it provides in its homeschool package:
- Personalized transcripts for parents to use to provide evidence of academic progress (here’s how one mom is using these)
- Assessments with easily interpreted grading so parents can understand how well their child is performing in the language (especially helpful if you don’t speak it)
- A teacher account for parents to monitor students’ access to the app and track their progress (easy accountability)
- An organized, five-day-a-week curriculum for parents to follow (read: no planning for you!)
- It is pedagogically sound. Unlike Duolingo, which does not include direct grammar instruction, Mango Languages explains (and well!) the logic behind each language. This kind of explicit instruction is essential for language learning —after all, would you expect your child to be able to read and write in English without understanding basic grammar? Probably not. Because of that, I wouldn’t recommend using a language app that doesn’t have explicit instruction as the foundation of your homeschool language learning.
- There are 60+ languages available—including many languages that are particularly popular with homeschoolers. Biblical Hebrew, Latin, and Ancient Greek are all available through Mango, alongside more typical language offerings such as Spanish, French, Mandarin Chinese, and four dialects of Arabic. Mango has also included some purely fun options for your language learning, like Shakespeare and Pirate (which I’ve already marked to do with my older son—he’s pirate obsessed!).
- It is the complete package—it can be used on its own or alongside another curriculum (for most languages). While no language learning software can replace human conversation, I do believe that Mango is comprehensive enough to be used as a primary curriculum for the beginning levels of language learning, with one important caveat: I would only use it as a curriculum for languages that are based on the Latin alphabet (the same one that we use in English). For languages that use other alphabets, I'm just not sure that Mango provides the right level of support for native English speakers (more on that in my next post).
In terms of the organization of its curriculum, Mango is strong. Lessons are organized into logical units, each of which has explicitly stated grammar and vocabulary goals (see below).
Because of its careful organization, it’s also easy to use Mango as a support alongside whatever other resources you may be using at home. If you’re willing to take a look at the unit objectives, you can fairly easily align your child’s Mango practice with whatever you’re learning in your co-op class or tutoring sessions. And unlike Duolingo, Mango lets students choose what they need to practice, so they don’t need to progress through a lengthy, pre-determined pathway before, for example, practicing conjugations of the subjunctive tense--they can just go right to subjunctive practice.
- Has tools to help students practice pronunciation. Mango features a unique Voice Guide, which allows students to record themselves saying a word or phrase and measure it against the pronunciation of a native speaker. This helps ensure that students are following correct patterns of pronunciation in their speech and gets them used to using the sounds that different languages require.
- No social media features means that it’s safe for kids. One of my concerns about Duolingo was that it has unmoderated social features—which many parents are not even aware of! And while Duolingo has tried to protect kids by requiring its users to be older than 13 years of age, I know that there are many kids under that age limit who are using the app. Mango Languages has no such features that I could find, and therefore, is safer and requires less oversight from parents.
- Mango’s app makes it usable on-the-go. We all know the joke about homeschool families, right—that they never actually spend that much time at home? Well, Mango’s app works on your Apple or Android device, so you can use it anytime you have a few spare minutes to learn new material and/or review. Since regular practice is so essential to language learning, any tools that make this easier for students get a thumbs up in my book.
- Mango Premiere helps motivate students by providing rich opportunities for cultural exploration. If you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time, you know how important cultural learning it to me. For our family, it’s the whole reason WHY we study foreign languages—to be able to connect with, understand, and serve people from different cultures. So I love that Mango provides this through Mango Premiere, which reinforces languages skills through the use of authentic texts, like movie and television. Mango Premiere give you two options: students can watch an entire film in the target language (the films do have ratings, so parents can choose the right ones) and/or they can watch clips from those same movies and do grammar and vocabulary exercises to deepen their understanding of them. What I liked about Mango Premiere is that the grammar and vocabulary exercises were exactly like those that I used in my own Spanish classes when I was teaching at the University of Virginia. They supported students by previewing important vocabulary, guiding them through the scene line-by-line, and then providing lots of cultural background to help students understand what they viewed and appreciate its significance. If you’re familiar with the concept of scaffolding in teaching, Mango Premiere was a great example of that—and that’s how I know that these lessons would benefit homeschool language learners.
So that’s a lot to like! Later this week, I’ll provide an honest assessment of what I didn’t like about the app and then I’ll help you evaluate whether or not it’s a good fit for your family.
In the meantime, if you’re using Mango Languages, do you have anything to add that you’re enjoying about it? Please share!