By Ann Wagner

¡Te amo! Je t’ aime! Ich liebe dich! Mahal kita! (That’s “I love you” in Spanish, French, German, and Tagalog.) Throughout the world, in many languages, there are words to express love. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone learned to say “I love you” in as many ways as we can? February is the month of love. February is also Discover Languages Month, according to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL).

What does research show about the benefits of language learning? Well, besides filling the world with a bit more love, three major areas have been identified. (More details and study sources can be found on the ACTFL website at Language learning supports academic achievement. It correlates with higher academic achievement on standardized test measures and students’ ability to hypothesize in science, and is beneficial in the development of students’ reading abilities. Language learning provides cognitive benefits to students. There is evidence that early language learning improves cognitive abilities, and that bilingualism correlates with increased cognitive development. There is also a correlation between bilingualism and memory skills and problem-solving ability. Finally, research suggests that language learners develop a more positive attitude toward the target language and/or the speakers of that language.

The Santa Monica Public Library currently has world language collections for adults in eight languages: Chinese, Farsi, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Spanish. Our world languages collections for children include seven languages: Chinese, Farsi, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Russian. These materials include books [both fiction and nonfiction] and audiovisual formats. We also have materials for babies and children to learn sign language. Our extensive Spanish language collection includes books for both adults and children, DVDs for kids, music CDs, audiobooks, Ebooks and downloadable audiobooks. For children we also have Biblioteca TumbleBook, a digital collection of illustrated children’s books in Spanish (some of which are bilingual English/Spanish) that you can read, and read along with, on your computer or tablet. Our World Book Encyclopedia digital resources include Enciclopedia Estudiantil Hallazgos, for Spanish-speaking students. Also available is the LearningExpress Library database, which offers test preparation in Spanish and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) study guides, as well as other study guides for school and career.

We invite you to explore the shelves in both the children’s and adult nonfiction areas for language learning tools. Need a Chinese-English dictionary or an English-Farsi phrasebook? You’ll find them in the stacks in the 400s (that’s the “call number,” the book’s address on the spine label). You can also search digital dictionaries via the library’s website. Merriam-Webster online dictionary includes “Spanish Central,” Brittannica English-Arabic translation, and English-Spanish/Spanish-English translation. The Hoopla streaming service, which can be used on a computer, tablet or smartphone, also includes language learning titles for both children and adults.

A fun and useful language learning resource is Mango Languages, an online database accessible for free to anyone with a Santa Monica Public Library card. Mango offers online lessons for 71 languages-including Biblical Hebrew, Ancient Greek, Shakespearean English and even Pirate!  Also on Mango are lessons in English as a second language (ESL). And Mango is not just for adults! A special section called Little Pim offers language learning fun for kids in Russian, German, Arabic (Levantine), Chinese (Mandarin), Japanese, Italian, Hebrew, Spanish (Latin America), French, and English. Many Mango lessons are supplemented by videos or conversational units geared toward specific situations, such as Legal Spanish or “Wine and Cheese” French!

The library offers help for English language learners as well as for those wishing to learn to speak Spanish. The Brainfuse HelpNow database, also available free to anyone with a valid Santa Monica Public Library card, includes a Language Lab where you can connect with a live tutor for help with your Spanish lessons. For English language learners, Brainfuse HelpNow offers live tutors who speak Spanish and can help you with a variety of subjects for students in Kindergarten through College. Adults can use the Brainfuse HelpNow Adult Learner resources for help in Beginning, Intermediate and Advance ESL subjects including Reading, Writing, Grammar, College Application Information and preparation for the TOEFL-everything from what to expect on test day to practice test questions. Both Brainfuse HelpNow and Mango Languages are available as apps for iPad, iPhone, and Android.

All you need to access these language resources is a valid Santa Monica Public Library card, which is free for anyone who lives in California. Come to your local branch to sign up. For more information, visit

So, spread the love. Greet your sweetheart and say, “¡Tu eres mi amor!”

Ann Wagner is a Youth Services Librarian at the Santa Monica Public Library. She studied Spanish, German, and a little bit of French in college. Her latest language is Pirate, which she learned on Mango Languages so she could present a “How to Speak Pirate” program at the Main Library.