Shelby Township Library brings free language learning to the community

By: Joshua Gordon | Shelby - Utica News | Published September 10, 2018

 The Shelby Township Library recently introduced Mango Languages, a language learning program that is free for library cardholders.

The Shelby Township Library recently introduced Mango Languages, a language learning program that is free for library cardholders.

Photo by Deb Jacques

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Shelby Township Library Director Katie Ester was surprised at the ease of use when she first logged on to Mango Languages and started the first lesson to learn Arabic.

“It was easy; I have already done the first three lessons in Arabic,” Ester said. “There is the standard Arabic, but also a lot of other dialects.”

Ester is hoping she won’t be the only person in Shelby Township learning a new language thanks to the Shelby Township Library offering Mango Languages for free to library cardholders. The program has around 70 different language choices, including English as a second language.

The library slowly rolled the program out through its website in early September. Library patrons can log in through the library website and take courses in the library or at home.

“Language learning has been something that has been requested by residents a couple of times, and other libraries nearby have it, and our patrons are finding out about those things and wondering why they can’t have it,” Ester said.

Ester said the program costs the library about $3,600 a year thanks to working with the Suburban Library Cooperative to get a deal on the price. Ester said she isn’t sure how much it would have cost had she gone out on her own to acquire Mango, but it would have been more.

Through Mango, residents can take audio and video courses that range from beginning up to more advanced language skills. The program offers everything from ancient Greek to Hawaiian.

Ester said there are a number of reasons people may want to learn a new language, and she hopes the ease of use will bring in people who are on the fence about it.

“If you have high school students already taking a language course, this can help improve their fluency by doing it at home whenever is convenient for them,” she said. “You also have adult learners who maybe have a kid who married someone from China, or they are going on a cruise and think it would be helpful if they spoke a few words of French.”

The subtext for learning a new language can be done in a number of languages, which helps anyone learn.

The Madison Heights Public Library added the program in 2013.

“The hardest part for me has always been the grammar — what goes in what order,” Madison Heights Head Reference Librarian Sally Arrivee said at the time. “Here, you can see how the sentences are constructed, in addition to listening to them.”

English as a second language is also a big motivator for bringing the software in, Ester said. With a diverse community, she said Mango offers between 20 and 30 different native languages for people learning English.

“If people are new to the United States and want to learn English in their native languages, Mango gears the lessons towards them and offers directions and translations in, say, Korean,” Ester said. “This is something specifically libraries have a hard time keeping up with as demographics change all the time. We are asked about this all the time, so now we are able to point to this program and help them log in.”

Library patrons are able to access Mango by visiting www.shelbytwplib.org and clicking on “Search Alphabetical Database” under the Resources tab. Once there, a patron just needs to create a username and password.

If someone wants to use the program in the library, Ester said she just asks that they bring their own headphones, as the library doesn’t provide headphones.

As libraries are looking for new and unique ways to engage with patrons, Ester said she hopes that learning something new would be a natural fit for the Shelby Township Library.

“I would hope, if people have informational needs, the library will be the first option on their list,” she said. “When people are really in need and don’t know where to start, a lot of people think about the library. We are really good at referral and can help you, and now we have this great software, and you can come in and connect and it is totally free.”

The Shelby Township Library is located at 51680 Van Dyke Ave. and is in the same building as the Shelby Township Senior Center.

Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski contributed to this story.