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Free Language Learning Tools at the Library
Posted On May 6, 2014
Learning a second language can be a challenge, especially for people who only need to get by on a business trip or family vacation—it’s difficult to decide whether a standard translation dictionary will be enough or if online education is the way to go. Even people who want to become fluent in a new language may think twice about investing in expensive language-learning tools.

That’s where the library comes in. Both public and academic libraries may provide tools that teach a variety of languages for free. Here are a few popular examples.

Mango Languages

Mobile Apps: iOS, Android

Number of Languages: 60-plus, including multiple dialects of languages such as French and Greek

Mango Languages provides language e-learning solutions to personal, K–12, higher education, government, corporate, and library learners. Libraries get a full range of services with their subscription to Mango, including an administration portal, downloadable marketing materials, and special features such as Mango Premiere and Mango Conversations. Mango Premiere is its teaching-through-film program that is currently offering a free preview, and Mango Conversations focuses on four key areas of language learning (vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and culture). An unlimited number of patrons can access Mango at one time, and librarians can visit the Mango Admin Portal to view statistics on usage, such as the most popular languages studied. Mango is on call to help both librarians and patrons with technical support, and it also helps libraries by providing advertising for Mango’s programs on its Downloadable Resources page. Patrons can see if their library subscribes to Mango by entering their ZIP code at

Rocket Languages

Mobile Apps: iOS, Android

Number of Languages: 13, including Russian, which is coming soon

Libraries that subscribe to Rocket Languages get their own login pages on the website, where patrons use their library card numbers to sign up. Librarians can also log in to view real-time usage reporting. The Rocket Express Learning System allows patrons to download Interactive Audio Lessons in MP3 format. These lessons guide learners to follow along and respond in the foreign language as though the conversation is occurring in real life. There are 32 tracks at about 25 minutes each that increase in difficulty as patrons build their skill levels. Rocket courses include free enhancements such as lessons that focus on speaking naturally, culture lessons, games, voice comparisons, and more. The MP3 downloads are free of DRM (digital rights management) and don’t expire, and there is unlimited simultaneous usage and streaming for patrons, who can access the learning system until they decide they’ve completed the program. Rocket also sells business and education solutions as well as premium courses.

Rosetta Stone, Inc.

Mobile Apps: iOS, Android

Number of Languages: 30, including British English and American English

The Rosetta Stone, Inc. website sells Home & Family or Business/Education solutions, so interested libraries can subscribe through EBSCO Information Services, which partnered with Rosetta Stone to serve public libraries’ patrons and academic libraries’ students, faculty, and staff. The Rosetta Stone Library Solution uses the immersion method, which features flexible schedules for its 50 hours of foundational instruction in reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. “We introduce new words and concepts in a carefully designed sequence that accelerates your language learning process,” according to the How It Works page. Activities such as live chats and games concentrate on grammar, vocabulary, and more, and speech recognition technology provides real-time pronunciation assessments. There are a variety of mobile apps, including TOTALe Studio HD, so iPad users can participate in live online sessions with native speakers. A Travel app, which has a built-in phrasebook and other vacation essentials, is also offered. Librarians can sign up for a free trial on EBSCO’s website.

Transparent Language

Mobile Apps: iOS, Android

Number of Languages: 80-plus, including selections such as French for Arabic speakers and German for Spanish speakers

Transparent Language’s solution for libraries offers “hundreds of hours of learning” according to its website. Transparent Language Online focuses on real-world uses for language alongside pronunciation, grammar, and writing. The courses and supplemental features consist of The Essentials (11 units and 33 lessons that teach fundamentals), Byki Vocabulary Builder (supplemental vocabulary with images, hints, and grammar and culture tips), the Learned Items Refresh System (which keeps track of when learners need extra practice with lessons they find difficult), and Language Reference (reference tools such as videos, alphabet help, and general tips). Patrons have unlimited access during the entire subscription period and can join Transparent’s social communities and view blog posts and words of the day. Librarians can access administrative features that are always available—the administration portal shows continuously updating usage reports in real time. Besides its solution for library patrons, Transparent also caters to personal, education, corporate, and government learners.

Brandi Scardilli is the editor of NewsBreaks and Information Today.

Email Brandi Scardilli

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Comments Add A Comment
Posted By Marydee Ojala5/20/2014 3:19:09 PM

For more on the subject of language learning tools, take a look at the article I wrote in the Jan/Feb 2012 issue of ONLINE:

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