Following the organizational meeting on March 21, we now have several small groups meeting at the Springville Road Library to practice speaking foreign languages together. We started by looking at the Mango Languages database together to see how it worked and how it can be used by the small groups to study together and in between groups. Currently we have groups meeting to practice Advanced Sign Language at 1:30 p.m. on Mondays, Beginning French at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesdays, Beginning Sign Language at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesdays, and Beginning Spanish at 5:00 p.m. on Fridays. Groups in Irish and German are forming now. This forum is perfect for ESL students, too, because it gives them a chance to practice English and a rare chance for English speakers to converse with native speakers in the language they are learning. All current groups are meeting at the Springville Road Library, but it is not required. If you would like to visit or join a group, or start a new one in a different language, please contact Kelly Laney in the Adult Department at 205-226-8403.
Mango Languages is an online language learning tool available through the Birmingham Public Library. Go to www.bplonline.org. Double-click on “Databases” in the black bar across the top of the page. Use the “Database Quick Links” to scroll down to Mango Languages; highlight it and click on “Go.” If you are outside the library, you will need your library card in order to gain access—it’s a subscription database, but free to all JCLC cardholders who reside in Birmingham. With over 70 languages to choose from, as well as mobile apps, learning a language has never been easier! The lessons begin with what you will learn in the lesson, followed by a sample conversation. Words are repeated by a native speaker and can be replayed as many times as needed. There are phonetic spellings to help you say the words correctly, and you can even record your voice to compare it to the native speaker. Throughout the lesson there will be grammar and cultural notes to inform and assist you.
There are common languages and not-so-common languages to choose from, and you can pair your new language with the Ancestry.com database (available free when you’re at the library) to research your family history and learn something about your family culture. I’m of Irish and Cherokee ancestry, so I am studying both Irish Standard and Cherokee through Mango, while working on my genealogy through Ancestry. Through the phone app, I can download a language lesson and play it anywhere. The American Sign Language program has a video tool (it’s still being developed and just has one lesson, but we hope to have a full program before too long).
In addition to the database, there are audio, video, and print resources available through the libraries to help you learn languages. These materials are geared to business and pleasure travelers, students, and people who just want to be able to converse with neighbors and friends. There are visual dictionaries that name common items, as well as phrasebooks and translation tools. Whatever your reason for wanting to learn a new language, the Birmingham Public Library offers many ways and resources. Check one out today!