Sharing new ideas, resources, knowledge and technology to keep abreast of new development in reference service field

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Learning Languages Online

The Worcester Public Library staff, along with the staff of the Literacy Volunteers of Greater Worcester, are considering two online world language programs to offer to patrons interested in learning or improving a second language whether it be a foreign language or English.

I spent a little time trying both Mango and Tell Me More through our trial subcriptions and my thoughts are below.

Regarding Mango:
· The ESL programs are designed for learners with a specific native language – there is no general ESL.
· The grammatical explanations appear to be inserted irregularly and are quite technical.
· Both the German and Spanish language programs (the two world languages I tried as I have some knowledge of both) introduced the informal “you” in the second lesson, in the context of first meetings. They did identify this as Informal/Friendly Conversation, but my understanding is that there is no such thing as an informal conversation in German and Spanish speaking countries when you are merely acquainted unless you are talking to a child or an animal. This seems to be a true flaw. It may be interesting to note that in the Spanish-to -English lesson, formal address was maintained in the Friendly Conversation.
· The slides seemed slow to load.
· The optional repetition and color-coded breakdown of phrases is useful.

Regarding Tell Me More:
· Much more content, and greater depth unless Mango only allowed access to partial
· More interactive with greater variety of learning activities.
· Multiple language choices for the portal.
· General ESL.

If I was interested in learning or practicing another language, I would choose Tell Me More. Who is our audience? What role do we want this program to fill?

Are you familiar with Tell Me More or Mango? If you are interested, go to their websites and learn a little more about these products: and Please feel free to share your thoughts about these products. We would be especially interested to hear from any libraries that have offered this service to their patrons.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the analysis. I researched both for the LSTA Conversation Circle Grant, but unfortunately found Tell Me More pricing to be a bit steep.

However, perhaps with the consortium working together, we can bring those costs down. Keep me posted. Your Reg Ref Blog is always very informative.

Anne Berard

Anonymous said...

What an excellent analysis of the language software you've been doing!

I'd like to chime in on the German because I majored in German and lived there for two years.

"Du","Dir" and "dein" are indeed used only for children, family and intimate friends. Otherwise, particularly for anyone over about 20, it must be "Sie", "Ihnen" and "Ihr." There is even an expression where one asks permission to use "Du" with an acquaintance. "per "Du" mit Ihnen?"
Of course that's also a pun on the French "perdu" as well.

The same goes for French. "Vous" and "votre/vos(pl)" are the common formal usage. "Tu" and "ton, ta, tes" (masculine singular, feminine singular, plural) for children and intimates only. The French verb for using the familiar is "tutoyer." Using "Tu" to a non-intimate implies contempt in French (dissing them) where "Du" in German is, I think, only a lack of respect, not outright contempt or an insult.

In my view, they ought not to be teaching "Du" or "Tu" at all, to beginning speakers. Too fraught with peril and cultural misunderstanding, and we have enough of that already.

It's a small world, isn't it?

Patience K. Jackson
Library Building Consultant
Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners

Anonymous said...

Regarding learning a foreign language I believe a number of business majors/MBA students would be a good target audience. I would also hope that more than one user at a time can access an individual language.

Jim Douglas
Conant Library

CMRLS Regional Reference Center, Worcester Public Library, 3 Salem Sq, Worcester MA 01608