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How to learn a new language for free with Mango Languages

You know, hosting Meet, Plan, Go! in Seattle has been a great learning experience for us, and the biggest bonus is meeting great people and learning about new companies that support long-term travel. One of my favorites has been Mango Languages, not only because my contact Beverly Cornell is so fun and engaging, but because Mango provides a way for people to learn a new language for FREE because they provide their software through libraries all over North America and beyond.

Cappuccino in Japan

Photo by ALT123 via Flickr

(In fact, if you aren’t using your local library for travel books, cultural music, videos, and reference material in preparation for your trip, you are wasting a lot of time and money. And who doesn’t want to save a few extra bucks for the trip fund? Anyway, enough of my PSA about your local public library.)

The team at Mango travels quite a bit, and many are bi- and tri-lingual. These people practice what they preach, and I love having them as sponsors for Meet, Plan, Go. If you are going to the Chicago event you can meet Beverly in person, and even if you aren’t planning to attend (the only excuse is that you are already on a trip), then you can benefit a lot from finding out more about our sponsors and speakers.

Listen below as Beverly and I talk about language, cultural taboos, and how to sign a petition to her boss to allow her to travel full-time to “road-test” all 70 languages in the Mango catalog. (ahem, if the boss is reading that is just a joke – kinda)

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01:40  How Mango is different from other language learning software companies

03:50  How Beverly uses Mango for her own travel and communication needs

05:15  How much language does a traveler need to learn for travel through several countries?

06:15  Three levels of language learning to suit your needs – basic is only 2-5 hours!

08:19  Access Mango from any internet service in any country with just your library card

09:00  The importance of being able to order food when traveling

09:55  Beverly admits that Mango is not as appealing as the hot language tutor Julia Roberts had in Eat, Pray, Love, but it is a pretty good second option

10:50  Mango is conversationally focused instead of focused on learning lists of nouns and verbs

11:30  Semantic color mapping, differences in word order in other languages, literal and understood meanings, and pronunciation popups – all of these are extra tools to help you learn faster

13:57  Cultural notes and taboos are addressed. Language is also about body language, and knowing this will help you communicate better. Mango is a “Lego” approach instead of a “puzzle piece” approach, meaning you will be able to build on your lessons.

16:30  The importance of knowing how to ask where the bathroom is AND being able to understand the answer.

17:06  What is “intuitive language construction?”

17:23  The “forgetting curve” and how Mango addresses this

19:38  Mango has an iPhone app coming out in October

21:45  What is the most popular language at Mango?

23:18  Beverly and I discuss how much easier it is to learn new languages after you learn the first new one. We unscientifically conclude that you begin to get an ear for it.

24:30  How learning even the basics of a language will encourage the locals to help you.

27:20  How travel to another country is like being a guest in someone’s home

28:38  The basic Mango program is a 2-5 hour investment. Think of how this compares to the overall time you’ve spent planning your trip.

29:00  Where can you find Mango Languages? Go to to find the library nearest you. Keep in mind that if your library does not have it, they may have access to it through an interlibrary loan with a neighboring library.

30:30  Beverly shares some of her favorite travel resources at the public library (and I love this because they are free AND you have nothing to get rid of when it comes time to pack up and leave)

32:45  Beverly’s final travel advice based on her own experiences:  Keep an open mind

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About Betsy

Betsy Talbot can't live without a Moleskine notebook, her passport, and happy hour. She sold everything she owned to travel the world with her husband Warren in 2010, and she's been enjoying her midlife crisis ever since. Betsy writes about creating the life you want from the life you already have in her books and on the Married with Luggage website. Drop her an email at btalbot (at) marriedwithluggage (dot) com and check out her Google+ page.


  1. Conni Mayr Desilva says:

    Do you prefer Mango over Rosetta Stone? I know you had won a Rosetta Stone package and I might have missed your follow-up review on how it is–and if you like it. I’m interested to read a comparison of the two.

    ~Just Ducky

    • I actually do prefer Mango over Rosetta Stone, for a few reasons.

      First, it is FREE. As a budget traveler, this is an important thing. I don’t ever want to pay for something I don’t have to.

      The second thing I love is the 3 levels of “fluency” in Mango. I can spend 2-5 hours for their Basic version and learn enough to get by in a country. That is a really small investment in time, especially considering how much time we spend planning the trip overall.

      The third thing I love is that I can access it anywhere that has an internet connection by just using my library card. This means I can learn all 70 languages in their curriculum if I want without adding to my expenses or my luggage load.

      The Rosetta Stone Totale program is a good one, but for most long-term travelers who need to learn a passable bit of several languages, it just isn’t as flexible as Mango. Plus, at the price of almost $1000, it is pretty steep for a budget traveler. Again, it is a good program, but the price and flexibility of Mango Languages are more appealing to me as a long-term traveler.

  2. Oh, this sounds fantastic — please encourage Beverly to expand to UK libraries!

    • Hi, Miss Minimalist. They are actually expanding overseas – check your library to see if they have it!

      (Also, I just finished reading your excellent book over my family visit AND used some of your sage advice to help my mom “let go” of 3 trucks full of stuff. Many thanks…and look for the review on our site in a couple of weeks).

  3. I’d love to check out their iPhone app when it comes out. I want to learn Thai and Korean, but whenever I look at the languages I get overwhelmed. lol

  4. Good timing with this post! I’ve had a goal to learn another language forever, but keep putting it off – like many others, I’ve always found some excuse to delay :) Well, this year, I’m finally getting serious about it! I’ve decided on Spanish first, since I already know a very minimal amount and it will likely be the most useful, but I also want to learn German in the future. We’ve been to several cities in Germany, as well as Salzburg and Zurich where German was spoken extensively, and it was amazing to see how much we could pick up just in the time we were there. Of course, German is a bit intimidating due to their super-long words with a million consonants – haha!

    I’m about to sign up for beginning Spanish lessons from a local organization and am going to check out Mango since it’s available at our library.

    I’m also brainstorming ways now to actually use the language, and to get over my fear of sounding ridiculous. It seems that many times people begin learning a language, but don’t want to speak it until they can speak perfectly – if I wait until then I may never really speak it at all! Several blogs that I’ve investigated, especially Fluent in 3 Months recommend just jumping in and beginning to speak without worrying so much about grammar, pronunciation, etc and it will gradually become easier, so that’s what I’m going to try and force myself to do. We have some friends who are native Spanish speakers, so I’ll try and talk to them and I was thinking of the concept of a supper club type event where people participating can speak both English and Spanish. I think that would require at least some level of understanding though, so I may try that after completing the first level of the Spanish classes. I’d love to hear any other suggestions anyone may have!

  5. Looks excellent – I’m in the process of learning Latin Spanish and this would be ideal, obviously if they offered that particular course!!


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