on a language adventure with mango languages

We are going to Egypt!

We're super excited about it. It's someplace we've always wanted to go. In fact, it's the only country that Allan has always wanted to see. (We went to my number one spot -- Peru -- in 2006.) Just after New Year's, we celebrate our anniversary, and we always go away for the 5s and 10s*. I thought for number 30 we should go someplace really special! The trip is in February.

In preparation, I'm learning some Egyptian Arabic, using Mango Languages, which I can access at no cost through my library card. I'm really enjoying it.

Here's why I love Mango.
- It breaks up the lessons into bite-size pieces, which makes the process less daunting.
- You hear the language spoken by native speakers.
- You can record yourself speaking, then play your words simultaneously with Mango's, to hear a real-time comparison.
- Mango teaches language concepts, rather than just rote phrases. For example, in the lesson that included I speak, I learned how to say the verb when speaking to a man and when speaking to a woman. (In Egyptian Arabic, the verb changes with the referent [who is being addressed], as well as with the speaker.) Then, in a later lesson that included I understand, Mango asked if I could figure out how to say this when addressing a woman. And to my amazement, I could!
- Every lesson begins with a review of the previous lesson, and every chapter (four lessons) ends with a review.
- It gives you cultural notes for the language you're learning. Not only does this make it easier to learn, it gives you context, which helps prepare you for the culture you're going to experience.
- For some languages, it includes other language needs, such as legal and even texting.

This reviewer for PC Mag found Mango's content "tedious". Perhaps that is something I'll encounter in later, more advanced lessons, but at this point I don't share that criticism.

The review also faults Mango for not teaching the scripts in languages that use non-Roman characters. For me, this is a plus. If I were also trying to read Arabic as well as speak it, I would be completely intimidated. Every lesson does include the script; you click or tap for transliteration. But it seems to me that learning to read a language is very different than learning to speak it, and I'm happy to skip that for now. (Linguist and translator friends, what do you think about that?)

The reviewer also criticizes Mango for not including grading, but I don't see this as a drawback. I do not want to be graded!

My only criticism of Mango is not relevant to my present learning, but very important. Many people want to use Mango to improve their English speaking skills. Mango offers English instruction in many different languages, but none of the South Asian languages are included. In Mississauga, this is a serious drawback, as many of our customers who want to improve their English speak one or more of Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi, and Gujarati. I know the library has given this feedback to Mango. I hope they can soon add these languages to their roster.

I've also heard good things about Duolingo, another free language-learning app. However, Duolingo's list of languages is much more limited, and does not include Arabic.

Needless to say, I'll be posting a daily account of our adventures in Egypt. Stay tuned.

* Charleston, South Carolina; Bermuda; New Hope, Pennsylvania (reprise of our first trip together); The Ice Hotel; Quebec City and Montreal.

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