Tag Archives: Mango languages

Polishing my Polish with Mango – Update

So, nearly a month on from my last blog post in which I announced my intention to learn Polish, I thought I’d give you an update on how things are going.

 

Not everything has gone to plan. I had set myself an ambitious schedule, but family life is rarely predictable. Still, progress is progress. In my last blog, I promised I’d update you on what I thought worked, and what didn’t, as well as the good, the bad and the ugly of the new Mango Languages resources.

 

Of course, some things haven’t changed (much). The basic structure of the Polish course is familiar from the other courses. There are several – in this case ten – chapters covering different topics from places and directions to compliments and correction, split into smaller individual lessons. Each chapter has clear conversational goals. The individual lessons consist of around 50 slides each, and take on average 15-20 minutes each to work through. The trademark formula used by Mango (Introduce a phrase, break it down, then reassemble it) also remains unchanged. Grammar is more often inferred or shown by example rather than explicitly taught. For the vast majority of people who don’t really like grammar, this is great news, but as part of a small minority of grammar geeks, this leaves me a little disappointed. However, the selection of phrases is spot-on for what I will actually need in the country, as I found in my previous language learning adventures. So I am willing to overlook this little niggle and get my grammar-fix elsewhere.

 

There are some changes that I really like. Firstly, one of the things that used to really annoy me about Mango before was that ever so often a review slide was introduced with “Isn’t this easy?” and then asked me “How do you say ‘I’d like 30,000 kilos of bananas?’” in a pathologically cheerful way. Thankfully, that’s gone now. More importantly though, there are now review slides to work through each day to ensure you don’t forget words and phrases from earlier lessons/ chapters. I used to regularly go through the end-of-chapter recaps for my own reviews previously, but this was not very time efficient. The new review feature makes things a lot easier.

 

There are small issues I’ve found which may well be specific to the Polish course. One of those is that, as in Polish sometimes a word (for example the personal pronoun) can be omitted, it is often not clear, if this should or should not be included in my response. As the process is pretty much a self-assessment, this is only a minor concern. What is distracting though is, when a slide gives an (under the circumstances) unexpected answer. One example: “Hello. My first name is Jacek” is translated as “Dzień dobry. Mam na imię Jacek”, when “Dzień dobry” actually means “Good morning/ afternoon”, and the correct translation for “Hello” would be “Cześć”. Not a huge difference in meaning, but enough to be annoying. A similar thing happens when I’m asked to translate “What’s your name?” but the actual translation is for “What is your first name”, when different phrases were taught for each.

 

Unfortunately, Polish is not one of the major languages, for which the new Reading and Listening materials were added, so I can’t yet comment on these, but I think that over the next weeks I may take a peek at one of those – probably Latin American Spanish. That’s the other thing about Mango that I like as a compulsive language learner: access to material in 70 different languages for a not-bad-at-all $17.99 per month, or following the new pricing structure just $7.99 per month for a single language. Or you can pay annually and get the equivalent of 2 months free.  Find out more at https://mangolanguages.com/pricing/.

 

I’ll endeavour to keep posting progress updates, as well as my experiences with what has worked well, and what hasn’t. Next month I have a fantastic Polish food evening at a local pub to look forward to, which I will be attending with my wife and partner-in-Lingotastic, the fabulous Sarah. Let’s see if I can make it as far as the “ordering food” vocab by then!

Learning Polish – Mission Impossible?

The Polish language has a reputation, even among native speakers for being notoriously difficult to learn. This is in no small part due to its case system, which (retaining the Old Slavic system of cases) boasts a total of seven distinct cases for nouns, pronouns, and adjectives. Thought German was hard? Only four cases. Latin? Just six (well, OK seven if you count the rarely used locative).

In any case (no pun intended), it often comes as a surprise to Polish speakers, that anyone would want to learn their language, based on this reputation. So why do it? For me personally, there are three main reasons. Although I am a native German, not too far back in my generational line, I had family who lived in Poland. Also, as I now live in the United Kingdom, there are plenty of opportunities to speak Polish. In fact, Polish is the second most widely spoken language in Britain, obviously after English, but way ahead of either Scottish Gaelic or Welsh. The fact that the local Polish shops sell delicacies which are also popular with Germans is a definite benefit – and means that I find myself in a Polish-speaking environment on an almost weekly basis.
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But the main reason, in all honesty, is the upcoming Polyglot Gathering from 26th- 30th May in Teresin, Poland (just outside Warsaw). It is not the first such event which I have attended, and I always try to make the effort to learn the local language of whatever country I visit, especially if it is for a Polyglot event (i.e. a gathering of fellow language-lovers).

Back in 2016 (wow – is it really that long ago?), I took part in the Polyglot Conference in Thessaloniki, Greece I have to admit, I had previously tried – and largely failed – get to grips with the Greek language, but finally succeeded with the help of Mango Languages and an excellent tutor. I wrote about this previously in my blog titled “My big fat Greek adventure”.

So, when I heard that Mango Languages had recently updated and expanded their language learning resources, I was intrigued to see if I could repeat my Greek success story using the new and improved Mango.Actually, in the meantime, I also achieved brilliant results with Mango when learning Dutch and Italian for our family holidays.

Full disclosure: I have personally worked with Mango before, both as a German coach and co-writing some of the new reading and listening material for their German course. The guys at Mango Languages have also kindly provided me with free trial access for the purpose of this series of blogs about my Polish language journey.

So, if you’re interested in learning Polish, and maybe even considering coming to next years Polyglot Gathering, keep checking back on the blog for my updates on what I found worked, and what didn’t, and of course my honest review of the resources at https://mangolanguages.com/ – the good, the bad and the ugly … hopefully not so much of the latter 😉

My big fat Greek adventure

Greek inscription on an exhibit at the British Museum

This week we have a guest blog from Maik my hubby so here goes, his big fat Greek adventure.

Well, or it may also have been “Greek – An unexpected journey”. But let’s start right at the beginning. The beginning in this case was a family visit to the British Museum at the beginning of 2016. As a family we’re incredibly lucky to live near London, which means a day trip to amazing places such as the British Museum is no problem for us. Among the breathtaking range of artefacts from around the world and different eras, my personal favourites have always been the ones from Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, and it was in Room 78 containing classical inscriptions from the 6th century BC to the 2nd century AD that it all began. Being a polyglot family, of course my children expected Dad (me) to be able to understand each and every inscription – dads know everything of course! While I didn’t have too many problems with Latin (thanks to five years if learning it in school and a recent refresher with uTalk), I didn’t really know where to start with Greek. I decided then, that Greek would be one of the languages I wanted to learn this year.

Fast forward a few weeks into May to the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin.I had not yet made any firm plans for learning Greek, as I had been working on Esperanto. However, as luck would have it the first talk I attended at the Gathering was about Greek, with the lovely Lilia Mouma from Mango Languages giving a talk on Greek history and language ranging from the Ancient to the Modern. This was also when I found out two more important bits of information: First, that the Polyglot Conference later in the year would take place in Thessaloniki, Greece; and second that Mango Languages where running a competition to learn Greek (the modern variety) for 20 weeks learning with their app and weekly 1:1 tutoring. Well, I entered the competition, and a short while later found an email in my inbox informing me that I had won! OK, so language learning resources for Greek were sorted.

I have to admit that Greek has been one of the more difficult languages for me. Learning the alphabet took a week or two, but internalising it well enough to be able to read semi-fluently or even write took many more weeks. However, it has been an immensely rewarding experience. What I liked most about the approach taken by Mango Languages was that it was quite different to my normal approach. For one thing, at least in the app, grammar is not explicitly taught, everything is taught in the context of a conversation. Secondly, sentences are spoken at full speed by native speakers rather than the slowed down conversations I have come to expect. Yes, this makes things more difficult to begin with, but with invaluable once I actually got to Greece as (unsurprisingly) real Greeks don’t exactly speak slowly! Of course, having the weekly support from top notch online tutor Vasiliki Baskos helped as well. Although my focus was on Modern Greek, as I had been given access to all of Mango’s language courses, my inquisitive nature led me to sneak a peek at their offering of Ancient and Koine Greek as well. I was pleasantly surprised that they use authentic texts from the very first lesson – the Iliad and the Greek New Testament respectively. I may well end up subscribing once I lose my free access. The range and quality of resources are a language lover’s dream come true … I was able practice my Greek at a restaurant in Germany.

The white tower at Thessaloniki

So,moving forward in my big fat Greek adventure, how well did it work? When I finally arrived in Greece for the Polyglot Conference at the end of October, I managed a basic conversation with the taxi driver who took me to the hotel, I ordered food at the restaurant in Greek and I bought bus tickets, water bottles etc. etc. in Greek. Road and shop signs actually made sense to me, adding to the sense of achievement. It was a special treat to be able to meet Lilia (again) and Vasiliki, my online tutor, in person for the first time. I absolutely loved Thessaloniki, and being able to speak and understand Greek definitely helped at lot. I must go back with the family sometime!

So how did my My big fat Greek adventure end? Coming full circle, back to the British Museum. Despite the Greek language having changed a lot from ancient to modern time, the alphabet has remained the same across thousands of years. So when our family returned to the British Museum for the spectacular exhibition “Sunken cities – Egypt’s lost worlds”, or course I just had to pay another visit to the Ancient Greek galleries. Given that inscriptions tend to contain a lot of names (Alexandros = Alexander the Great for instance), I could now work out a lot of what was written, and the children were suitably impressed. Result!

Are you planning to learn a new language in the new year? Let us know in the comments below.