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Aline Sara

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Want to give your students a unique language learning experience, while giving displaced people an opportunity to work?


Beirut, Lebanon
NaTakallam connects displaced people — primarily Syrian refugees — with students around the world, to provide affordable, flexible and tailored language practice, intercultural exchange, and experiential learning opportunities over Skype.

What is NaTakallam?

Aline Sara, Co-founder, NaTakallam
“ I do think people getting to know another language is a window into the world ... the dynamic of one to one interaction is important, it's about cultural and refugee awareness and intercultural understanding .”

Aline Sara, Co-founder, NaTakallam

In recent years, the popularity of Arabic language learning has risen dramatically, and it is now among the fastest growing foreign languages to learn in the US. Many language learners want to study an Arabic dialect, such as Levantine, but most resources and curricula focus on the more formal and less colloquially used Modern Standard Arabic. Practice is important for language learners, yet travel to the Middle East can be expensive, and it is now impossible to attend previously popular language courses in Syria.

Conflict in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, has triggered the worst refugee crisis since World War II. There is a need to better understand this part of the world 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 Arabic culture.

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.

Refugee conversation partners gain much needed access to income, as well as training and transferrable skills. Language learners get to learn and practice Arabic 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. Language learners are typically individual adults, although NaTakallam has also partnered with K12 institutions and colleges to provide group instruction. A teaching support system is being developed to train tutors, to ensure high retention rates and student satisfaction.

NaTakallam can also be used to teach global citizenship and increase intercultural understanding. 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. 

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Innovation Overview
5 - 18
Age Group
2 437
Tips for implementation
NaTakallam will link you with a conversation partner and provide basic staff support. A laptop with internet access is required - with a projector or interactive whiteboard screen for whole class learning. Pricing for group classes varies.
Connect with innovator
Aline Sara
HundrED Review

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 1,500 people have engaged in more than 13,000 hours of NaTakallam sessions and refugees have generated over 150,000USD through their work on the platform. NaTakallam has also partnered with over a dozen universities.


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.


See this innovation in action

Language learning through Skype
Bogdan Badiu


Achievements & Awards


Spread of the innovation


Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

Sign up online
 Tell NaTakallam where you are located, about your class and students, and what your language or cultural exchange goals are.
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Get introduced to your Conversation Partner!
You'll meet your Conversation Partner online via skype or a similar channel. This is your chance to get to know a bit about them and to discuss and plan how you'd like to structure your sessions together.
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Schedule your sessions
Internet connection could be problematic depending on the location of the conversation partner, so bear this in mind. Think about how regular you would like your sessions to be.
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Go online and begin your conversation session!
Make sure you have access to wifi, a quiet space, a laptop and possibly a screen and projector so the whole class can get involved!
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