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Learning a New Language

Kara's picture

Every New Year brings new resolutions (or perhaps just good intentions). Last year, I decided I wanted to learn Japanese. Why? Well, if you’ve read my previous blog, you’ll already know that I love manga. I also love anime and am planning to visit Japan. So I figured, why not? There are worse reasons to learn something. Several articles mentioned that the best way to learn is either to live in the country that speaks that language for a while or to simply take a class. Not too many people I know have the opportunity for that first option and unfortunately none of the classes I've found fit into my schedule. So where else could I go? The library, of course!

One of the greatest resources we offer is Mango Languages. It is so awesome! You can access it anytime from our catalog. It's also available as an app. You will need your library card number and phone number to log in. Once you do, you'll also need to set up an account with your own email and password. This will create a profile to keep track of your progress (and yes, if you have multiple family members, you can create multiple profiles with different email addresses so you don’t have to share). They offer a ton of languages and you are not limited to just one. It is self-paced and gives you something that books cannot - proper pronunciation!

So what other resources does our library have? Our non-fiction section has several books and audio sets in the 400s. At Laura's, we've made this section even easier to find (it's right next to all the travel books). Here you'll find dictionaries, phrase books, textbooks, and the audio sets.

I particularly love the Learn in Your Car audio book series. Currently we have Chinese, French, German, Italian, Russian, Japanese, and Spanish. Each set (broken up by level) comes with audio CDs and a guidebook. The guides on the CDs will prompt you with vocabulary words and phrases in English and then pause, giving you time to come up with the appropriate translation, and finish with the answer. It’s a great thing to be able to do in the privacy of your car (concentrating first on driving, of course) while at the same time giving you that everyday practice that can otherwise be difficult to find on a busy schedule.

Reading books is of course another great way to learn. However, we usually don't all start off reading Victor Hugo in his original language (if you want to try, kudos to you!). We have a few bilingual children's books that are an easier way to start:


- The Ballad of Mulan
- Mr. Wolf and the Vegetable Patch
- Chinese Mother Goose Rhymes
- Chinese for Children


- Matilda
- I'm Too Big
- Alice au pays des merveilles
- The Missing Cat
- We have many more. If you need help finding some, a librarian would be happy to show you.


- Chi Mangia?
- Pandi: e i colori


- Where are you Going? To See My Friend
- Sora and the Cloud


- Los tres pequeños jabalíes/The three little javelinas
- My Day: A Book in Two Languages
- Es oscura? Es clara? Is it Dark? Is it Light?
- Curious George visits the library: Jorge el curioso va a la biblioteca
- As with French, we have a lot more on the shelves. Come by and ask a librarian if you need help finding them!

There are also a lot of free resources online. One of the best tools I have discovered is Anki. This is a digital flashcard builder that becomes almost like a memory game. It will introduce 20 new words per day and you can choose how often to repeat each word. Once properly installed, you can also access it anywhere with an Internet connection. There are ready-made decks you can download, but I highly recommend building your own flashcards. It takes more time, but you learn vocabulary as you build and you can also choose which picture to associate with each word.

Learning another language can be a lot of fun. It's challenging and definitely gives your brain a workout. You get to learn about another culture and an entirely different way of thinking. Don't let anyone tell you that you are too old. You are never too old to learn. 頑張って! Good luck!

Image courtesy of Nofrills