MARSHALL - As of the first of October, patrons of the Marshall-Lyon County Library can learn a foreign language for free in the library or at home through the Mango Languages online courses.
Mango is a subscription service purchased by the library in cooperation with Literacy Volunteers of Southwest Minnesota and Adult Basic Education of Southwest Minnesota.
"I heard about it some years ago, then they happened to call," said Library Director Holly Martin Huffman. "They did a demonstration of Japanese with three or four staff members, and they all had a chance to try it."
Photo by Steve Browne
Marshall-Lyon County Library Director Holly Martin Huffman stands next to a computer that can be used to access online language courses.
Anyone who holds a Marshall-Lyon County Library card can create an account and start using the software in the library or anyplace with Internet access.
Mango offers courses in 60 languages including English for speakers of several different languages. Choices include French, Russian, Polish, Biblical or Modern Hebrew, and Ancient, Koine (New Testament) or Modern Greek.
Lessons are broken down into bite-sized chunks and organized into useful categories such as greetings, asking for help, shopping etc. Students can follow the phrases and sentences in writing and audio and by passing the cursor over the them to show both literal word-for-word translation or the understood meaning.
For example in Spanish "casa blanca" would show both the literal "house white" and standard English "white house."
There are also pop-ups with brief facts about the grammar and forms of nouns and verbs.
According to Martin Huffman, the library just got in touch with Lyon County schools and hasn't started to publicize the service yet.
Barb Hawes is a computer professional turned artist who got an early look at Mango.
"I just wandered in one day, and they knew I study Russian," Hawes said. "I'm really excited. I study with a personal tutor, and I thought this would be a great supplement."
According to Hawes, a student can start out by taking a placement test that takes about 25 minutes. Once an account is created, the software will follow the student's progress and allow him/her to pick up where they left off each time they log on.
And by the end of November, there will be foreign language movies available with many of the same features. Students will be able to stop and replay scenes and dialogue.
"There's no limit to the number of languages you can learn, and you can use your own devices on the library WiFi," Martin Huffman said.