How about a language learning software that learns you instead of you learning it?
Adaptive algorithms: that’s the Mango Languages promise.
Mango Languages is an online and mobile learning resource that’s said to evolve with you as you progress through the course. So what you get isn’t just a self-paced language instruction, but a highly individualized learning experience that adapts to your study habits.
No doubt that’s a big task.
But has Mango actually delivered on that sweet promise, or has it turned sour in the process?
Well, let’s find out.
Read on to see our Mango Languages review and find out if the program is right for you!
What Is Mango Languages?
Mango Languages is an award-winning, language-learning platform based in Farmington Hills, Michigan. It was founded in 2007 by a team of four ambitious innovators who wanted to leverage technology to bring down linguistic and cultural barriers.
Mango aims to deliver practical conversational skills through proven methodologies so you can rapidly transition from a non-speaker to someone who can hold meaningful interactions in a foreign tongue.
The folks behind Mango believe in organic language acquisition, so they created a product that doesn’t deal too heavily with grammar or vocabulary building. Focus is placed instead on pragmatic conversations, with grammar and vocabulary stealthily learned in the background. The idea is that as you progress through the course, your intuition and feel for the language increases.
The company offers courses in over 70 languages, including the different regional branches of Arabic (Egyptian, Iraqi, Levantine and Modern Standard) and Spanish (Castilian and Latin American). There are also specialty language courses that focus on particular fields of work (eg. Business Spanish, Medical Spanish and Legal Spanish).
If you want to learn about culture, like the Irish St. Patrick’s Day or the German Oktoberfest, there are short courses about those, too!
And hey, if you or your friend are learning English, Mango Languages is one of the best sites that can get the job done—what with their English course being taught from over 20 source languages.
Mango Languages is available online and in app form for both iOS and Android devices. You can sync your progress across all devices for that seamless learning advantage. So whether you’re on the go, in a coffee shop with your laptop, or in bed with “night mode” turned on, you have Mango lessons on the ready.
Mango is suited both for individual and institutional users. Educators can use Mango Classroom as a 24/7 teaching assistant helping organize class activities and assessments. Global businesses and government agencies (like the military) have utilized their software to help employees and personnel get a better grounding in the language and culture of their international assignments.
The software is made available for free to countless partner public libraries around the world, as well.
This Mango Languages review will focus on the program as experienced by the individual language learner.
Mango Languages Subscription Options
A personal subscription to Mango will set you back $17.99 a month. This price includes access to all the 70+ languages on offer. You’ll be asked to pick a language as a take-off point, but don’t worry: You can switch and explore other languages anytime you like.
You can create as many as five profiles. So if you’re a family of language enthusiasts, or among like-minded friends, you can go ahead and learn languages together. In addition, your subscription includes 24/7 support, progress tracking and parental controls.
You can get onboard with a two-week free trial. You just need a credit card number and you’re good to go.
From time to time, they do have promos to encourage new subscribers. For instance, as of this writing, Mango is priced at $7.99 for the first three months of subscription instead of the regular $17.99. Keep an eye out!
There are actually thousands of local libraries that offer Mango for free. Yep, that’s right! For free.
The question is: Is your local library one of them? Head over to the Mango website to find out. At this link, you’ll be able to search the Mango system by typing either the name of your library, the city or the zip code of your location. So for example, if you type “New York,” you’ll be given the list libraries in the area that offer the program.
If you happen to have an account with a library that offers Mango Languages, you can have free access to the program ‘til the cows come home. All you have to do is link your library account to your Mango account.
How to Link Mango Languages to Your Library Account
Before you start these steps, make sure you have a Mango account. You can do that over on the main Mango Languages website.
- In the right-hand corner of your dashboard, you’ll find the user icon. Hover over it and choose “Edit your profile” from the pop-up list.
- Click on “Settings.”
- On the left side of your screen, you’ll see the option which says, “Organizations.” Click on it.
- Next, click on the button which says, “Link an Account.”
- Now do a search for your library by either typing its name, your city or the zip code where it’s located (US or Canada). Click on your library in the search results.
- Enter your library card number and your PIN number. Then click “Connect.”
Some users might see the “Launch Authentication” button instead of “Connect.” If you’re one of those users, just click on “Launch Authentication” when the option appears.
On the next page, simply enter the login details you’re asked for. This will typically involve, again, your library username, library card number and PIN number.
Manage that, and you’re now connected to Mango for free!
- Download the Mango app.
- Open the application and tap on the “Try Free & Sign Up” button. Create your profile.
- After going through the process of creating your profile, your home screen will show the “Your Profile” icon in the upper right-hand corner of your screen. Tap on it.
- Next, choose “Upgrade Account.”
- Then tap on the “Get” button, right next to the word “Free.”
- You’ll then be asked to type in the name of your library, your city or your zip code. Tap on your library from the search results.
- Enter your library card number and tap on “Access Mango.”
- “Success!” You can now enjoy the unlocked features of Mango.
And you’re in!
Now let’s take a look at everything the program has to offer with our Mango Languages review. Enjoy!
Mango Languages Review: A Practical and Comprehensive Look at the Program
Standard Language Learning Program Features
The standard Mango course is comprised of four or more “Units.” Each unit is broken up into “Chapters” and the chapters are further subdivided into “Lessons.” Major languages like English and Spanish have more content than the usual, compared to, say, Norwegian.
Each lesson hits on the four main language skills: listening, reading, writing (typing) and most importantly, speaking. The lessons are interactive and come in the form of a slide deck, with each lesson containing 20 or more slides to run through.
Lessons usually open with a dialogue containing target words and phrases. These are then presented in bits and pieces, with each subsequent slide adding more concepts and complexity to your understanding of the original dialogue.
The slides build on previous ones. So you will, for example, go through individual words before you’re introduced to phrases, sentences and conversations. (The experience is often seamless.)
Each screen involves some sort of activity or drill. It can be as easy as listening to how a new word is pronounced or a sorting task where you craft a sentence by rearranging words.
Every now and then, cultural or grammar notes will land on your lap and help you get a firm grounding on the concepts presented. Sometimes, a picture or two might appear in order to illustrate a point.
Going through each deck and working on the drills is said to increase your linguistic intuition and comprehension.
You’ll never be at a loss, either, because redundancy is built into the slides. Everything is “triple-layered.” This means that you’ll always have the word/phrase/sentence in lively fonts and colors, its English translation and the audio pronunciation of the word/phrase/sentence.
Recaps, Reviews and Reinforcements
As mentioned, redundancies are built into the whole system. In addition to the repetitions and drills in the lessons itself, there are reinforcement exercises in each chapter and unit. These make sure that the grammar and conversational goals have been successfully integrated by the student. (These goals are shown at the start of every lesson.)
The dashboard, which gives you everything you need to know at a single glance, shows your progress through the course so you can immediately pick up where you left off. The fact that you can also synchronize across devices means you won’t have any problems doing so.
Also, the adaptive algorithms in place ensure that the daily review prompts received by individuals are very relevant to their learning needs.
This should be a familiar concept if you’ve worked with FluentU before. If you haven’t, and you like the idea of a learning program that learns as you do, you’ll enjoy using both Mango Languages and FluentU. (We’ll talk a bit more about this power duo later in this post).
Working with Native Speakers
Mango courses are developed by expert linguists and passionate native speakers who pronounce the words, phrases and sentences, and who animate the conversations and dialogues in the lessons. The audio is the result of professionally-produced and studio-recorded sessions that ensure crisp and clear inputs.
If at any time during the lesson you need to hear what a word or a phrase sounds like, you merely need to click or tap the green speaker icon which you always find dead-center on your screen. This will get you a native speaker pronunciation.
You can practice your own pronunciation by tapping on the orange microphone icon found next to the speaker icon. You can actually see your recorded voice patterns. You can then compare your recorded wave patterns to those of Mango experts. (The closer in form your wave patterns are to a native speaker’s, the better!)
Unique Mango Languages Features and Functions
The previous section mentioned standard features that may be found in many other language courses. These next ones are somewhat unique to Mango:
As a self-paced learning platform that relies on slide decks, Mango totally leaves it up to the user when to move to the next slide. Just click on the “right arrow” icon when you’re ready.
But sometimes, like when you’re driving or busying yourself in the kitchen, you don’t have free use of your hands.
Mango has you covered. With its autoplay function, you can progress through a lesson without smearing ketchup on your phone. With its preset timing, Mango can play in the background as you multitask to fluency.
Literal and Dynamic Translations
There are many words and phrases in languages that don’t have direct or meaningful translations into other languages.
Idiomatic expressions are fertile grounds for these. The Spanish phrase “estar como una cabra” literally means “to be like a goat.” This could mean anything, from smelling like one or exclusively eating greens. The phrase actually means “to be a little crazy.”
Instead of divining its meaning from the heavens, Mango gives you both the literal equivalent of the words and also their intended meaning. That way, you can avoid getting a little crazy!
Mango has a small collection of authentic movies that you can use for immersive study. The films are only available for the most popular languages, though, and are pretty limited in number.
If audio-visual input with rich context is what you’re after, FluentU houses a large repository of authentic videos to learn with. The program takes real-world videos such as music videos, interviews, movie trailers, news clips and much more and imbues them with the latest language-learning technology.
Your simple video clip is then clothed with all the wonderful tools learners love. This includes interactive transcriptions, instant translations, pronunciation keys, usage examples and flashcard review. So suddenly, a simple video interview in, say, Italian can be milked for all the language lessons and insights it contains.
Since FluentU relies heavily on visuals and Mango Languages relies on text, the two programs complement each other perfectly. You can get a feel for a language and its grammar on Mango, then head to FluentU and hear it in real time. Now that’s a powerful combination of natural language learning!
Now that we know what to expect from Mango Languages, here’s an honest review of what worked and didn’t work for me about the program.
Mango Languages: The Pros
Beautiful and Intuitive Interface
One of Mango’s main strengths is its sleek interface. The screen features fonts, colors and design that are easy on the eyes and light on the mind. And the team has recently (in 2019) updated the software for an even more intuitive and streamlined experience.
Your dashboard gives you a well-thought-out layout of everything you’d want to do with Mango—from lesson progress to review prompts.
The color-coding it employs in every lesson is a winner, too. There’s a correspondence between the font colors used for sample sentences and their English translations.
For example, if the verb in the Spanish sentence is in red, its corresponding English verb will also be in red. Learners are able to intuit, without explicit grammar rules, how the elements in the sentences translate from one language to another. Cool!
Robust Content for Major Languages
For major languages, like English and Spanish, there’s plenty of content to pick up. You can easily spend 80-100 hours learning the target language.
And, even better, Mango is continually adding lessons in their lineup so the units will only get better with time.
Lessons Are Interactive
With Mango, you’re not just a passive recipient of information. The lessons get you to do something, engaging you to work actively with words and phrases—letting you manipulate their order in a sentence, prompting you to speak into the microphone or letting you in on a native speaker conversation.
Mango lets you learn organically by practicing listening, reading, writing and speaking in the target language.
Focus on Repetition and Drills
Mango works with spaced repetition technology so it can tailor the lessons and review to your needs. When weak spots are identified, like a missed vocabulary word, the software’s algorithm ensures you get to work with that word a little bit more, so it’ll often come up in the review.
New words and phrases are continually being introduced so that you’re always picking up something new, while at the same time reinforcing earlier presented words and phrases. With drills and repetition, a bridge is effectively made between the old and the new.
Google Translate Integration
Though far from perfect, Google Translate is the big daddy of the translation game.
Mango Languages integrates with Google Translate. Thanks to this, you can fetch the translation for practically any word using what’s probably the most advanced translation platform available today.
Mango Languages: The Cons
Lack of Images and Video Components
Mango Languages started with very few images to bolster their lessons. They’ve tried to rectify this with some recent visual additions to some of the courses, but there’s still plenty of room for more graphics, images and video content for the units.
Having these elements embedded in the lessons would bolster the program’s effectiveness, especially for the more visually-oriented learners.
Visual learners would benefit even more from that power duo we mentioned earlier. If you get tired of looking at the (admittedly lively and colorful) text, log on to FluentU and do some visually engaging learning, instead.
This comes in the form of videos, but also every word has an associated image and checking a word’s definition even let you see it in use in other videos. This is a great way to get engaged with the vocabulary, but it’s also an excellent way to get more context.
So here’s what we recommend: Learn a few new words or phrases on Mango Languages. Then, head over to FluentU and reinforce those words and images through visually appealing content. It’s win-win.
Light Content for Minor Languages
To be fair, this is probably not just an issue for Mango, but for major language companies that offer a wide array of languages, in general. It’s often the case that popular languages get a disproportionate investment in course development compared to the less popular ones. That’s very understandable but it’s something to be aware of.
So, if you’re studying a minor language, you’re usually better off going to native speaker websites that are focused and specialized just in the language you’re interested in.
Grammar Content Could Be Reinforced
The folks at Mango believe in organic language acquisition, and this belief is translated into how the courses are conducted.
You’ll realize that there’s not a lot of grammar instruction in Mango, save for some insightful grammar notes. Instead, you’re expected to learn grammar implicitly by working on the drills and interacting with the slides.
But for those who wanted an explicit, point-by-point tutorial on rules of grammar, you might want to look somewhere else.
Over-repetition Can Prove Tedious
“Repetition” is one of Mango’s advantages. But it’s actually a double-edged sword and that’s why it’s also listed as a “con.”
Sometimes, the drills get too repetitive. For some learners, working with the same words and phrases over and over, especially in the earlier lessons, can get too tedious and monotonous. They may not be encouraged to progress to more challenging lessons.
That doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time. Rather, you might want to break your learning up into chunks.
So don’t forget to take a break from Mango Languages and employ a number of different study methods so you can keep things fresh and fun. Read a bilingual story, make a study-date with a fellow language learner or do a five-minute mini-lesson on a topic you really enjoy watching with FluentU.
Do whatever you need to do to keep going and keep enjoying the process!
Lack of Content for Advanced Language Learners
Mango Languages is a good learning resource if you’re an absolute beginner in the language you’re interested in. They’ll take you by the hand and slowly show you the ins and outs of the language.
But if you’re an advanced student in need of more complex stimulation, Mango isn’t for you.
Lessons usually cap off at the intermediate level. Finishing a Mango course makes you knowledgeable about the language—not native speaker-fluent, but you’ll be able to navigate a foreign country adeptly. Don’t expect the course to be your only companion to fluency.
As we’ve been suggesting throughout this post, Mango works best as part of a whole cocktail of books, audiobooks, language courses, and one-on-one tutoring that you should get yourself into. Luckily, FluentU does have plenty of content for both intermediate and advanced learners, so that’s also an option.
So, after all that’s been said and done, was Mango Languages able to deliver on its promise?
I’d say that they’re delivering on it.
There are adaptive algorithms at work that can give you a personalized and tailored route to learning a new language.
As a product, Mango has a bright future still ahead. The Mango staff is continually learning, and they’re learning the right stuff. In fact, they’ve recently rebranded this year (2019), bringing in more features and functionalities to their system. Awesome!
Something tells me we haven’t seen the last iteration of this variety of Mango.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.