Previous Next
Associate Editor Michelle Schusterman reviews Mango Language’s new program aimed at travelers.

Last month, Mango Language announced their newest language learning product, Mango Passport. From the press release:

Created to provide the conversation skills that a traveler needs to successfully communicate and engage with the local population, Mango Passport® also assists the user in gaining an understanding of the new language and culture.

Mango Passport® is designed specifically for use from an individual’s home or office computer or laptop. It differs from other at-home language learning software programs because it goes beyond teaching grammar, vocabulary and conjugation and also provides engaging content, intuitive interactive tools and a comprehensive learning methodology.

Users not only learn individual words and phrases but also how to use them in real-life situations. These types of fundamental conversation skills greatly improve a traveler’s ability to navigate an unfamiliar area and interact with the local population, thereby enhancing the entire travel experience.

I tested out Mango Italian, a language I’m unfamiliar with save for the occasional similarity to Portuguese or Spanish. Along with the full, 10-chapter program on my laptop, I also received accompanying mp3 tracks for each lesson, and PDF guides to compliment those.

Content

52 lessons are divided into 10 chapters that cover the basics you would expect to learn if you’ve never attempted the language before – basic introductions, short conversations, asking for help, shopping, ordering at a restaurant. When you start a lesson, you’ll see what both your conversational and grammar goals are. Within a few minutes of starting, I was bellowing “come sta!” and “buongiorno signora!” over the gunshot ruckus sound of my husband playing video games. (An ideal learning environment, no?)

As you move through the lesson, cultural notes and explanations accompany the phrases, such as when is the more appropriate time to use formal or informal greetings.

I particularly enjoyed that every phrase is accompanied by both an “understood meaning” and “literal meaning” in English. (For example, “come sta” is the way to say “how are you,” while the literal translation is “how do you feel.”) While I know it’s best not to overanalyze when first starting a language, many students feel more comfortable learning why a phrase is structured a certain way.

Layout and Features

This is going to sound shallow, but my very first impression was that I enjoyed the image in the background throughout the lesson. Each chapter is presented as a slideshow in the center of the screen, set on top of an Italian village scene. It’s easy on the eyes, and that’s not something I can say about every computer language program I’ve tried.

Mango really lets you move at your own pace – even the time ticking down the seconds until you provide an answer has a little cheat to add extra time (someone please tell me why this wasn’t allowed in school). Every slide comes with both written and verbal instructions and translations, which you can replay as many times as necessary before moving on.

The audio features are pretty wicked. After a slide presents a new phrase, it’s your turn to say it. If you let your mouse hover over the first icon next to the phrase, you’ll see a phonetic spelling, and clicking allows you to hear the phrase again.

Photo by hyperscholar

Selecting the second icon next to the phrase pulls up two layered audio tracks; the speaker’s, and your own. Press “record” to make a recording of yourself speaking the phrase, and you can drag the resulting track to line up with the speaker’s.

You can listen to each one at a time to compare accents, or click “Both” to hear yourself and the speaker say the phrase simultaneously. Very useful, because accent is everything but it can be so difficult to hear our own mistakes and misinterpreted nuances.

Use

The great thing about Mango Passport is you have such a wide variety of material and so many ways in which you can use it. After going through the first chapter (three lessons) on my computer, I loaded the first lesson’s mp3 on my iPhone and went through it the next morning while walking my dog. Having that sort of “portable” review really helped to reinforce what I’d learned the day before, and I felt ready to move on to the next chapter.

Interested in checking it out for yourself? Mango Passport is working its way up to 29 languages, including French, Spanish, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Turkish, Farsi, Hindi, Hebrew, English as a Second Language, Russian, Korean, German, Vietnamese, Brazilian Portuguese and Greek.

Passport itself is $150, and the “Bundle” (which includes the “On the Go!” mp3 tracks and PDFs as well as Passport) is $200.

Want to give Mango Passport as a gift? Check out their holiday offer to give the gift of Passport.

Language Learning


 

About The Author

Michelle Schusterman

Michelle is a musician, writer, and teacher just trying to see the world while doing what she loves for a living. She's taught ESL in Salvador, Brazil and kindergarten in Suwon, Korea, and now she's a full-time freelance writer living in Seattle (just to keep the city alliteration going). She'll try pretty much any food once and believes coffee is its own food group.

  • Heather Carreiro

    Wow – this actually sounds really effective. I love language learning books, but this type of interactive approach that is easily portable seems like the way to go…and they have Farsi – tempting!

  • Joel

    In your opinion, how would you rate it to Rosetta Stone? If it’s VERY similar to Rosetta Stone, then this is a very affordable program.

    • http://michelleschusterman.com Michelle Schusterman

      Joel,

      To be completely fair, I’ve never used the complete Rosetta program. I did use an online version years ago, but I’m not sure what it lacked in comparison to the full program. It had the pictures and phrases, audio, a playback feature, and writing. The only thing I can think of that it had that Mango doesn’t was the writing – I’d see a phrase in English and have to type it in Portuguese.

      You’re right about the price tag being a huge difference. And I did like the cultural notes and extras Mango included. I think it’s definitely an option to consider. If you haven’t tried Rosetta either, Lola did a three part review on the full version here: http://matadornetwork.com/goods/review-series-rosetta-stone-totale-part-1/

  • Amanda Patterson

    My library offers This program for free – even off-site with your library card number. I’ve done the first few sections of Korean and I’m really enjoying it – especially since I’m NOT PAYING FOR IT. Y’all should look into it.

Learners tackle writing systems, tonality, and different grammatical systems.
A week into my German course, during a group exercise, the class clown struck with an...
I want you to experience a side of Thailand, through its language, that most expats never...
It can take time, effort and some experimentation to figure out the best way to progress...
Shifting between languages can almost immediately alter one’s personality.
Not every language learning attempt spells disaster for English speakers.
I carried a notebook everywhere, its pages flecked with food stains and warped from...
Camden Luxford, Abroad's regular contributor in Peru, shares her recommendations for...
How to compare people to cucumbers, and when, exactly, to flick your neck.
Eileen Smith breaks down how to text in Spanish and explains how words like demasidao end...