29 November 2007

Review of Mango Languages Beta Software

xopowoToday I decided to try out the Mango Languages software. It's an online language learning software for self-paced, self-acquired, second language. There are lots of languages to choose from, most are geared towards English speakers.

After registering, I started out by trying the Use Mango tab and selecting Russian for English speakers. It uses Flash Player 9 to show slides with the lessons. Your progress is charted by showing the number of slides you've completed. The first Russian lesson has 71 slides- that was a bit daunting to me.

Instructions are given by an English speaker. Russian phrases are spoken by a native Russian speaker with accompanying Russian text on the screen.

The first few slides were easy, since they are a repeat of what I've learned in Pimsleur. However, since Pimsleur is only listening and speaking, it was a bit strange to see the written text on the screen.

After the first few slides, I was in uncharted waters. The Russian speakers don't pronounce the phrases with long pauses, so I had trouble understanding the onslaught of foreign phonemes in my ears. Nevertheless, I did like being able to see the text; this aided my comprehension of the sounds. Some "phonetic transcriptions" are provided for the Russian words with a mouse roll-over, but because the phonetic spellings did not use IPA, I found them confusing.

The English instruction is mixed in with a different Russian speaker pronouncing certain words. However, the English and Russian sound bytes aren't clipped together too well and there are annoying pauses in between different speakers in the middle of sentences.

Here is a visual example of one of these stitched together bi-lingual sentences:


I did like these interesting and helpful cultural notes.

I plan to continue to use the software and see what enhancements are added as the software progresses. Overall, I am very pleased with it: It functions well technically, the sound quality is good, it is self-paced and free! I encourage you to check it out. I'd like to hear your comments on the software.