Guest blogger Marina has been with us sharing her experience in using Mango Languages to learn Brazilian Portuguese. Here is part four.
Several weeks into my Mango Languages experiment, shortly after completing my last blog post, I made an important change in my study routine. No, I did not increase the number of lessons per week, as I had intended (for reasons explained below, this task remains to be accomplished). The change was very simple, but it had such a profound effect on my learning experience, that it is worth describing in more detail.
What I did a few weeks ago was switch to a different version of the Mango Languages software. This version, Mango Basic, focuses on building basic speaking ability, whereas the version I had been using previously, Mango Complete, addresses conversational and grammar skills. Yes, the grammar is there, although it is dealt with in a rather indirect–-and, therefore, less tedious--manner compared to most textbooks.
The reason for making the switch was the announcement that Mango is introducing Voice Comparison--an option that allows students to compare their recorded pronunciation to that of a native speaker. I have always been a fan of the voice recording option in other language learning software packages, and so I was eager to try out this new feature. Since it was only available in the Basic version, I decided to "downgrade," and this was a step that I never regretted.
The benefits of working with Mango Basic went beyond pronunciation practice, however. I had initially assumed that Mango Basic was merely a scaled down version of Mango Complete, but the content of the Basic version is considerably different and, for a complete beginner, is certainly easier to master. This version is also much more colorful, which can be a deciding factor for visual learners. Furthermore, the lessons are broken down into very manageable bits, which provided a welcome respite from the lengthy dialogues of Mango Complete, which often made me wonder if I was biting off more than I could chew. :)
With this in mind, my strategy will be to work through the Basic version, making sure I thoroughly understand the material before I attempt to master the more complex vocabulary and grammar of Mango Complete. In my last blog post I announced that I would try to complete several Portuguese lessons each week, but it did not work out quite as I had planned. I started a full-time teaching job in the meantime, and this had kept me very busy (and tired!), so the thrice-weekly Portuguese strategy had to be put on hold. Knowing how detrimental extended gaps between lessons can be, I try to work little bits of Portuguese-related activities into my daily routines. Conversations with my Brazilian flatmate (not in Portuguese, yet, but rather about the different aspects of the language) certainly help, as do my occasional encounters with other Brazilians–in real life and online.
Recently, for example, I received an email from a reader of a blog that I had started years ago when I was living in Kyrgyzstan and attempting to learn the Kyrgyz language. The query was Kyrgyz-related, but its author turned out to be Brazilian, and so we ended up having a lively email interchange about regional differences in Brazilian Portuguese pronunciation.
On a slightly different note, my flatmate's family is now visiting Turkey, so I may be in for a bit of speaking practice. Perhaps I should start drilling myself on basic Portuguese courtesies: "Olá. Como vai a senhora? Meu nome é Marina. Prazer em conhece-lo."