America is struggling with many deficits, and one of them is a foreign language deficit.
Forbes reported in August foreign language proficiency on the part of diplomats, military leaders, scientists, entrepreneurs, managers, physicians, writers and many other professions is critical to our country’s strategic and economic interests. Unfortunately, public schools, as well as colleges and universities, have eliminated or drastically cut their foreign language offerings in recent years in an effort to tighten their budgets.
Americans have always struggled with the place of languages other than English in our culture. But the nation is becoming more linguistically diverse. Indeed, the U.S. Census Bureau reported the number of Americans speaking a language other than English at home increased by almost 150 percent during the past 30 years. And they project this trend will continue, particularly with the Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, Portuguese, and Chinese languages.
Although some 20 percent of Americans speak a language other than English — compared to 53 percent of Europeans who are proficient in a language other than their own — Americans are expressing an interest in learning a foreign language in numbers not seen since the late 1960s. But with the educational establishments turning away from foreign language programs, their options are limited.
What is a person who is interested in exploring another language to do? Your first stop is the McPherson Public Library. While many people use our language instruction sets which have compact discs, we have a new option for learning a foreign language, which is a tremendous improvement.
Mango Languages is an online resource which provides instruction in 40 languages. Each language has a basic course, which covers everyday conversation and phrases. The complete course consists of 100 lessons which provides an in-depth understanding of the language and culture. Mango also includes some 16 English as a Second Language (ESL) courses.
Most of you know that I am not easily impressed by new technology, but Mango won me over very easily. I like it because it does a superior job of combining how one speaks and hears the language with the actual words that you are hearing and speaking.
You create your own account and progress at your own pace. You can take as long as you like. It is easy to use and navigate. And it’s fun!
To get started with Mango, all you need is your McPherson Public Library card and an Internet connection. Simply visit our website at www.macpl.org and select the Online Resources link from the menu on the left side of the page. Then select the Mango option. Those who have iPads and iPhones can download the free Mango app and use it on those devices, but it lacks some of the features of the PC-based program.
So whether you’re preparing for a vacation to another country and want to speak the lingo, want to learn the language of your ancestors, or simply want to become proficient in another language, Mango is your ticket to the world. Don’t be part of our foreign language deficit — take a look at Mango today.
Steve Read is director of the McPherson Public Library.