It's clear that a lot of work went into Mango's compendium of online language lessons. If the choice of 13 languages doesn't impress you, how about the fact that more than 100 lessons constitute each course, and between 70 and 150 slides or more add up to a single lesson? Or how about conversational lessons appearing in their own alphabet, with AJAX pronunciation pop-ups to reinforce the visual and phonetic learning combo?
To begin, choose a language from among Asian and Romance languages (or Pig Latin) for English speakers, or English lessons in Spanish and Polish. Like most language software, Mango shows and plays conversations between two people in a variety of social relationships. The next hundred or so slides dissect and recombine the conversation line by line and word by word until you've become familiar with the phrases by dint of repetition if not actual absorption. Each ensuing level builds on skills learned in the last.
There's currently no way to pause a slide, but you can skip ahead, go back, and replay it endlessly. The pronunciation pop-ups and prominent "speaker" icon, which repeats phrases audibly, are placed just right on the exceedingly navigable interface. These are the heart of Mango's online application, and the keys to eventual understanding.
"Chief Mango" Jason Teshuba is hard at work pushing Mango's beta towards its general release. Along the way I hope it picks up an alphabet library for users to reference unfamiliar scripts, quizzes, and at the very least, a progress file associated with my account that keeps track of where on the scale of the 100-odd lessons I've advanced.
Even better would be watching videos of native speakers, and if Mango's Web application were able to receive audio, encouraging students to pronounce new words and conversations by checking them off as progressive tasks. It wouldn't be surprising if future iterations also included social networking components where multilevel users could practice speaking and writing with each other in their newest tongue.
Those who don't need as much structure as I do to motivate them will find that the currently-free service is a good start. Bem trabalho, Mango.