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What is NaTakallam?
Aline Sara, Co-founder, NaTakallam
NaTakallam connects refugees with remote income-earning opportunities related to language and cultural exchange, providing them with economic empowerment, purpose, and re-gained dignity. The majority of session fees go directly to displaced persons, who have self-generated over $600,000 through their, individual language tutoring, guest speaking, translation and classroom work with NaTakallam.
According to UNHCR (The United Nations Refugee Agency), there are more than 68.5 million people today who have been forcibly displaced from their homes by conflict. Some of these people have been displaced within their own countries and others have been forced to flee into other countries. Many hope to be able to return home as soon as possible, but the average length of displacement is between 20 and 30 years and some will never return to their country of origin. Despite the challenges, millions of refugees and displaced people work hard to overcome struggles, preserve their culture and identity, and rebuild their lives, often in new places.
Worldwide, there is a need to better understand the refugee crises and to encourage young people worldwide to get involved and support refugees. For the displaced people, their situation can be compounded by restrictions on their right to work, leaving them unable to earn a living. Refugees and asylum seekers can also be subject to unhelpful stereotyping and misrepresentation due to a lack of understanding of the refugee situation or cultural differences.
NaTakallam was born in 2015 with Arabic conversation partners from Syria, we have now expanded to offer Arabic, French, Persian and Spanish conversation sessions -- with conversation partners from Francophone countries, Latin America, the MENA region, as well as Afghanistan & Iran. Refugee conversation partners gain much needed access to income, as well as training and transferable skills. Language learners get to learn and practice Arabic, Spanish, French or Persian skills from a native speaker, who can also offer an insight into the culture of the region. The lessons are organised in a flexible and tailored way, at an affordable price.
NaTakallam has programs for individual adults language learners, as well as for universities and school partners. School sessions can also be held in English and can be used to teach global citizenship and increase intercultural understanding. For example, one school in Hong Kong used NaTakallam to support their learning about migration. 4th graders were able to talk to displaced people via Skype and hear their stories directly, bringing the issue of forced migration to life and helping the student to contextualize and understand the issue more deeply. This type of learning can also be an opportunity to explore empathy and promote responsible global citizenship. NaTakallam works closely with teachers and instructors at all levels to ensure that the school’s needs are met, by assigning refugee conversation partners to the school based on the saliency of their stories to the specific subject matter and context
In 2016, NaTakallam was winner of the World Bank Youth Summit ‘Rethinking education for the new millennium’ award and this year, it was selected a top 5 idea among 650+ submissions in the Bridgebuilder Challenge a collaboration between GHR Foundation and OpenIDEO that recognizes development solutions through open innovation at the intersection of peace, prosperity and the planet.
NaTakallam connects language learners around the world with displaced Syrian or Iraqi people for online Arabic lessons and intercultural exchange, usually over Skype. NaTakallam means “we speak” in Arabic. There are various online tutoring platforms for language exchange, but in having refugee tutors, Natakallam provides unique cultural learning opportunities as well as qualified language instruction.
Over 6,000 people have engaged in more than 30,000 hours of NaTakallam sessions and refugees have generated over $600,000USD through their work on the platform. NaTakallam has also partnered with over a hundred schools and universities worldwide.
The service currently offers only Arabic, while the long term goal is to expand to other languages. There are 65 million displaced people in the world today who speak multiple languages.