The best way to learn a language is to immerse oneself in its environment. While Arabic’s popularity continues to increase worldwide, traveling to the Middle East, for reasons ranging from cost to time and safety, is not always an option.
Lebanon, a country of 4 million currently hosts some 1.2 Syrian refugees, fleeing the now 4 year old civil war. According to the ILO, almost all Syrian workers in Lebanon (approximately 60% of the total Syrian refugee population) are employed in unprotected and potentially exploitative conditions in the informal economy.
NaTakallam aims to alleviate the suffering of jobless Syrians in Lebanon by pairing students learning Arabic with displaced Syrians in Lebanon for conversation-focused classes over the internet. In providing them with work opportunities, NaTakallam helps to appease stressors on the Lebanese people, government and economy and international aid agencies. At the same time, the platform caters to a specific need within the Arabic learning community interested in the spoken Levantine (especially Syrian) dialect.
While academic and language institutes tend to teach Fusha, formal literary Arabic ( Classical or Modern Standard Arabic (MSA)) , students are increasingly interested in `Ammiyyah,’ the local dialect, and primary spoken form of Arabic in a given region.
A conversation partner does need extensive experience as a teacher and NaTakallam bases its conversation-partner recruitment on individuals’ level of English, interest in the program and interpersonal skills.
NaTakallam believes that maximizing one’s language skills relies on complementing traditional academic courses with conversation sessions, which are most beneficial in a one-on-one setting. Via an online platform, students gain full flexibility with respect to the timing, length, and format of the sessions. They also engage in a unique cultural experience.
At the core of its mission however, NaTakallam seeks to shed a light at the end of the tunnel for the thousands of refugees currently living in difficult conditions, with little options to look forward to.