We are a crazy bunch and act very much like a family…see some of our antics here!
When Mango Languages started in 2007, the company had one mission: Launch the website.
“We were putting on foot in front of the other, said Jason Teshuba, CEO of the online language learning company. “Get the website up, get the product done. We knew we were on some very limited funds, so we had to come up with some creative financing.”
I have this crazy theory where one day in the not-too-near future we´ll all go around with chips in our brains that will enable us to automatically translate spoken foreign languages. Imagine how different walking down Canal Street is going to be! But until then, we´re stuck learning the old-fashioned way – or in the case of language-learning software, the not-so-old fashioned way. Many such programs on the market are inaccessibly expensive, but Mango Languages – available for free in New York Public Libraries – provides a worthy alternative. Read more…
In obtaining language comprehension, it is important to understand the total language. What makes a total language? For starters, a total language is very different from a tonal language. A tonal language is one in which pitch is used as part of speech. Examples include Mandarin and Vietnamese. Vietnamese is a tonal language that has 6 tones: mid-level, high-rising, low-falling, low-falling-rising, high-rising broken, and low-falling broken. In other words the word “ma” can mean: ghost, mother, but, tomb, horse, or rice seed depending on the pitch of the “a.”
Vietnamese and Mandarin also share some of the characteristics of a total language. A total language is one which has, and makes use of: words, letters, sounds, gerunds, grammar, participles, phonemes, characters, punctuation, words of different sizes, infinitives, subject agreements, irony, sentence structure, inflection, cases, names, correct spelling, and origin. Linguist purists have long debated whether all 19 elements are necessary for a language to be attain the coveted “total language” designation. Most concede that a language need only to encompass enough of these fundamental elements to make communication possible.
English is not a tonal language. Do you speak or know anyone who speaks any tonal languages?
A few weeks ago I attended a birthday party for a friend of the family. The house was full of kids and grandkids who all came to celebrate a special event. In between the main course and dessert I got to interact with the kids, playing charades, singing karaoke, playing hide and seek, etc. Seeing how the kids selectively communicated with each individual, fascinated me. Their parents were born in Russia and they were leaning Hebrew in school, yet they were born in the United States. It was “Zdrastvuyte” (hello in Russian) to all the guests, “Shalom” (hello in Hebrew) at school and “Hey, what’s up?” among friends.
This is exactly what I thought of when I found this article from USA Today, More children Learn More Than One Language. This article is all about children learning to speak multiple languages at a very young age in our globalized world.
“More and more people are aware of the importance of teaching another language to their child because we are in a global world,” says François Thibaut, who runs The Language Workshop for Children, which has nine schools around the East Coast.
Language study for children is based on immersion, he says. Kids sing songs and play games to help develop language comprehension skills. “This is a natural way of learning language.”
The articles goes on to state, that when children start learning languages at birth, they have the capacity to learn many languages at once without getting confused — because, as the brain develops, so too does the ability to separate one language from another.
Early language learning has been shown to enhance verbal development, as well as reading, writing, and social skills. Now that Mango Languages offers Little Pim, a child doesn’t have to have an ethnic background to learn a foreign language. Since we’ve launched Little Pim as part of Mango Languages earlier in the summer, kids ages 0-6 can learn foreign languages in a fun, easy, and effective way. Kids who know more than one language not only have the opportunity to think creatively in a different language but also more opportunities to express themselves through communication. This is so exciting!
If you follow my blog you will know that I briefly touched on syntax once before. The Linguistic Elephant in the Room: Syntax (contrary to what it sounds like, it is not an increase in the price of beer or gambling) is a subfield of linguistics which focuses mainly on the grammar of language. This blog is just a brief introduction to some syntactic concepts. I will follow up with additional blogs to build and expand on the concepts presented here and /or introduce additional ones.
An important concept to understand in the beginning of a look at syntax is the idea of “the sentence.” You may think that a complete uttered or written thought is a sentence. In part you are correct. However, in the field of syntax the complete thought is given the term proposition, the written or spoken sentence is referred to as “the utterance.” The actual sentence is a bit more abstract. The “sentence” is the linguistic form of the utterance. For example, I can say on Tuesday, “It’s a nice day today.” And, you may use the same utterance on Wednesday. Therefore, these two utterances have different propositional meanings; one being that Tuesday is a nice day, and the other, that Wednesday is a nice day. However, both propositions used the same sentence or linguistic form. However, what if we both utter the same propositional meaning, i.e., “Today is a nice day” (today being Tuesday), but you utter this in English and I utter the same proposition but in Spanish? Clearly, the form of these utterances will be different. Therefore, we are using different sentences to express the same propositional meaning.
So the form we give to propositions is important, but what about the form? What makes one form acceptable and another not in a given language? You may think of word order. And, again this is partly correct. See the examples below:
(1) I picked up the mess Erik made with the cookies and juice you put out.
(2) I picked the mess Erik made with the cookies and juice you put out up.
Example (2) sounds awkward. This may lead you to say, that the words ‘pick’ and ‘up’ seem to belong together. However, now look at the following example:
(3) I picked the mess up.
And what about the following:
(4) I picked up the mess.
(5) I picked it up.
(6) *I picked up it.
So, it’s more than just whether ‘pick’ and ‘up’ come together in the sentence. Can you think of any other examples similar to the ones above?
1. Entrepreneurial Spirit
5. Fundipline (hybrid of fun and discipline)
6. Positive Attitude
This post is all about #3: innovation. According to Wikipedia innovation is a change in the thought process for doing something, or the useful application of new inventions or discoveries.
This core value is really important to keep things fresh and to add new ideas on the product development side of the business. We work hard to keep the ideas flowing. Having brain storming sessions. Working on cross-departmental teams. Coming up with crazy out of the box ideas and trying to find ways to make it happen.
Lots of creative juices flow around here. The only challenge… we are still only three years old and don’t have a ton of resources like the big guys. So, we have to be innovative in how we implement our ideas.
I think this is what makes us different than many other language learning companies. We are always looking at what is the next big thing and how do we get there. A truly great equation for success.
How do you keep innovating in your job?
The task based language learning (TBLL) approach is derived from cognitive and interactionist theories and research findings. TBLL attempts to avoid fitting language learners into a box of stereotypical language use, i.e., where the student is only familiar with a sentences in specific forms or specific context, by rather using the language to carry out meaningful tasks, such as visiting a doctor, conducting an interview, or even asking someone out on a date. Doughty and Long (2003) describe 10 methodological principles (MPs) of TBLL. This post will present the first and second principles of task based language learning (TBLL) and discuss how Mango incorporates these in our system.
Principle number one of task based language learning is to use tasks, not texts, as the unit of analysis. We use language to do things, to communicate. Therefore, why would we study linguistic structures removed from the context in which they are used, (i.e., random vocabulary lists), to learn a language? With Mango Languages every chapter starts with specific conversational goals, or conversational tasks that the student will be able to do effectively after successfully completing the chapter. Additionally, the target language, or language being learned, is always given in context. But, the learning doesn’t stop there. The Mango system then expands on and exploits the grammar and vocabulary that was learned in the initial context in order for the student to apply what they have learned to other contexts as well.
The second principle of task based language learning is to promote learning by doing. Connecting the material to be learned to real-world events and activities serves for better incorporation into and retrieval from long-term memory. According to Doughty and Long (2003), “Computer simulations of target environments and tasks constitute a good example of learning by doing. The basic idea is that a learner on his or her own can gain experience in a simulated environment under conditions of reduced stress and without real consequences to their actions” (p 58).
Well…learning by doing is what Mango is all about! If you follow the Mango blogs you already know that Mango uses Critical Thinking slides to get language learners actively involved in their learning experience. This is done by requesting that the student not simply regurgitate what was already given to them, but rather produce new phrases from what they already learned, and/or to apply previously learned grammar concepts to new words and/or phrases.
So, what do you think? Do you learn better when given a task to accomplish? Do you learn better and retain more when you are passively receiving material or when you are actively engaged?
Intuitive Language Construction was developed after looking at current products on the market and listening to feedback from users. The one thing we heard over and over is that they wanted a program that was fun, easy, completely integrated, and that included the following components:
In this post we are going to discuss the fourth component of Intuitive Language Construction…Culture. This is another big difference in the Intuitive Language Construction methodology.
Mango integrates cultural notes and tips into every lesson, ensuring our students develop an understanding for the expectations, traditions, and etiquette of the people with whom they want to communicate. Most language learning systems simply ignore culture, but at Mango we think it really is critical to a student’s success in a foreign country.
For example, imagine you didn’t understand the difference between formal and informal greetings. You wouldn’t want to walk into a meeting with your new boss and exclaim, “Hey Dude. What’s up?” It would be inappropriate, and in some cultures, it would be a really big offense! It could possibly even get you fired.
At the same time, you wouldn’t want to be introduced to a new friend at a café, and say something like “I’m very pleased to make your acquaintance.” That’s a little too formal and can be off-putting.
Understanding culture helps people understand which conversational tools are most appropriate for which situations and which audiences. Our curriculum is developed by native speaking professional language teachers – many of whom teach at the university level and hold PhDs. They really understand the cultural challenges that a learner will face for a specific language, and they carefully design each learning experience to help students overcome those challenges. You just can’t get that through the common word and phrase lists that other learning systems offer.
Why do you think culture is important in the language learning process? Or do you have a funny cross cultural story to share?