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.
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.
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.
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.