How to Learn a Foreign Language Fast Online

If you’re traveling abroad this summer, chances are pretty good that wherever you’re going, the people there speak English. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun – and improve your chances of making new friends – by learning some essential phrases in the language of the country you’re visiting.

Whether you’re looking to brush up on a language you’ve studied in the past or learn the basics of a completely new tongue, the Library’s Mango Languages online learning center is here to help.

From Arabic to Vietnamese, Mango offers a simple, interactive, speech-oriented program for learning 34 different, non-English languages. (For ESL students, Mango also offers courses in English for speakers of 15 different languages.)

Mango is free to access, either from home or inside the Library, using your Library Card and PIN. However, to get the most out of Mango, you’re going to want a computer equipped with sound and a microphone (built-in or external) that you can speak into.

You can find Mango on the Library’s Databases page under M" and on our Online Learning page.

How does it work? (¿Cómo funciona?)

Unlike the foreign language textbooks you were forced to memorize in middle school – you know, the ones in which you were forever discussing the weather and describing household objects (“It’s raining! The pen is red!”) – Mango is designed to teach you phrases that are the most useful in common situations.

Mango features a user-friendly, voice-interactive display.

Mango works by simulating the way people learn a new language when they’re actually in another country. In addition to teaching basic vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar, Mango also provides information about the culture surrounding the language.

For example, in India and Pakistan, where Urdu is spoken, when greeting someone of your own gender, it is polite to shake his or her hand. Otherwise, a slight nod is all you should offer, unless the other person initiates a handshake. Lowering your gaze is a sign of respect, especially with the elderly.

On top of the language itself, that seems like a lot to remember! Fortunately, Mango walks you through the basics in a way that’s effective and informative without making you feel like you’re back in grade school.

Here’s a video showing how it works.

This video explains the methodology behind Mango:

Mango also features a handy, built-in Translation Tool, which allows you to type a phrase in English or another language and get the translation. For example, if you wanted to thank the KC Library for helping you learn speak Dutch, you would declare: Bedankt, Kansas City Openbare Biliotheek, voor de hulp om te leren Nederlands te spreken!

Just be warned: Once you see how easy it is to get started with Mango – and how many languages there are to learn – you may not want to leave the house.

Then again, as they say in Greece: Δεν υπάρχει καμία χώρα σαν το σπίτι*.

(*Translation: There’s no place like home.)


-- Jason Harper

Postscript: For iPhone users, there is also a Mango mobile app available for free.