Library offers free online language-learning program

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Guttenberg librarian Sandy Barron offered a Transparent Language introductory workshop on Thursday, March 22. (Press photo by Molly Moser)

By Molly Moser

Guttenberg Public Library cardholders have access to a new, free resource from the State Library of Iowa and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Library members can choose from over 100 languages to study with an interactive online program called Transparent Language.

“With Transparent Language, you can learn any language from Afrikaans to Zulu,” said Guttenberg librarian Sandy Barron. “It’s exciting.” The Guttenberg Public Library pays an annual fee to give patrons access to the service via their own personal computers, phones, tablets and other touch-screen devices.

Barron offered a Transparent Language introductory workshop on Thursday, March 22 at the library. Students start out by choosing a language, and can then take alphabet lessons, practice typing with that alphabet, and play a variety of learning games for reading, writing, listening, and speaking. If given access to a device’s microphone, the program will even analyze the student’s speech and compare it with a native speaker. 

The program offers animated lessons for youth, teen-speak for understanding language used by young adults, and lessons for all ages in the basics as well as very specific conversational topics such as medical and business language, rules of popular sports in the culture of the chosen language, or going out to eat. The program uses an algorithm to keep tabs on when a learned word or phrase might become stale, i.e. is at risk of being forgotten, and works them into ongoing lessons. 

A graph on the program’s home page shows a student’s progress. Words of the day add to a student’s vocabulary, and blog lessons teach cultural concepts and phrases around a specific topic. There are online resources outside the Transparent Language website for interacting with other students on Facebook, YouTube, or other social media. Speakers of 25 languages other than English can switch the entire experience into their mother tongue and learn that way. 

Transparent Language is used by dozens of U.S. government agencies, thousands of public libraries and university, and private companies. Since 1991, Transparent Language products have been used by millions of customers in more than 12,000 civilian, government, and educational institutions. Transparent Language is unique in its flexibility, allowing learners to move between lessons at their own pace and level of interest. Each language course contains over 2,300 unique words and phrases organized into lessons with a wide variety of engaging learning activities, all presented with native speaker pronunciation. 

To take advantage of this free program, visit www. guttenberg.lib.ia.us. Click on the ‘catalog’ tab and sign in with your library card number and phone number. Then scroll down to Transparent Language in the list of resources on the left side of the page. Choose your username and password, pick a language (or two, ore more!) and get started. 

To obtain a library card, one must live within Guttenberg, North Buena Vista, Osterdock, or a Clayton County rural area and will need to show a driver’s license or photo ID and proof of residence such as a utility bill.

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