Libraries offer free foreign language instruction on the web
BY JAMES LOEWENSTEIN
Bradford County residents can study Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese, or 35 other foreign languages free of charge from their home or from many other locations in Bradford County.
All they need is a computer that has Internet access and is equipped with speakers or a set of headphones. And they'll need one more thing: a public library card.
As of January, all nine state-funded public libraries in Bradford County have installed a program on their websites, called Mango Languages, which allows people to learn foreign languages on-line at their own pace, said David LaFrance, who is the administrator of the nine public libraries in Bradford County.
To learn a foreign language through Mango Languages, library patrons can use their own computer, or they can use a public-access computer in a public library, he said.
During Mango Languages' on-line lessons, the foreign language is written on your computer screen, and the user will hear native speakers speaking the foreign language through the computer's speakers or headphones.
"It's a great program," said Susan Robinson, director of the Sayre Public Library, which has had the Mango Language program on its website for about two years. "It's fun. It's interactive."
And it's been very popular among Sayre library patrons, she said.
Another popular feature of Mango Languages is that it offers online English lessons to people whose native language is Spanish, Chinese, or some other foreign language, Robinson said.
"I think 830 people used Mango Languages last year" through the Sayre Public Library's website, she said. Some were high school students who were using Mango Languages to supplement their foreign language course at Sayre High School.
For English speakers who want to learn a foreign language, Mango Languages provides two options.
The first is the "basic" option, which is for someone who is going on trip to a particular country and wants to learn the most basic vocabulary and phrases so that he or she "can more or less survive in a foreign country," LaFrance said.
The second online option is a more in-depth course, which is approximately equivalent to two years' of instruction in a college, he said.
Because the public libraries in Bradford County have used state funds to pay for a subscription to Mango Languages, all of the Mango Languages instruction is provided free of charge to Bradford County residents, LaFrance said.
The lessons are set up to reinforce what you've learned in earlier lessons, said June Houghtaling, director of the Towanda Public Library.
"In every lesson, you'll get exposed to new vocabulary, and we'll give you tools on how to pronounce it, and we'll introduce some grammar," said Beverly Cornell, director of marketing for Mango Languages.
The program is accessible on the home pages of the libraries' websites.
Mango Languages, which is a company based in Farmington Hills, Mich., is training librarians in Bradford County on how to use the system, LaFrance said.
Once trained, the librarians will be able to help library patrons get started in using Mango Languages by showing them the basic features of the program, he said.
"When they start using Mango Languages, in about 15 minutes, they go, 'I can do this,'" according to Ryan Whalen, the founder of Mango Languages.
James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Languages available through the Mango Program:
Spanish (Latin America)