In a global setting where political leaders are talking about building walls, NaTakallam is building bridges.

NaTakallam Founder Aline Sara at the World Bank MENA competition for women entrepreneurs

Aline Sara pitches during the 2017 World Bank WeMENA competition in Casablanca, Morocco. (April 2017)

In the summer of 2014 Aline Sara had just completed her masters in International Affairs at Colombia University and was looking for an affordable way to practice her Arabic—specifically, her native Lebanese regional dialect—from New York City. It was also at that time that Syrians, fleeing the violence from the brutal civil war, were pouring into Lebanon, where today, roughly 1 out of 4 people are Syrian.

Like most Syrians outside of the country, and notably the 5 million-plus who are living in neighboring countries, Syrians in Lebanon cannot easily get work permits, making their capacity to work and sustain a livelihood incredibly difficult.

Aline thought of connecting her need to access conversational Arabic to that of displaced Syrians to access an income…and thus came to life the idea of NaTakallam, pioneering the concept of leveraging the Internet economy and refugees’ language skills to provide language services to users worldwide, who, through their engagement, help support displaced persons’ livelihoods. Thanks to our talented pool of conversation partners, we are now expanding to serve other nationalities. We also now offer translation and interpretation services. Find out more here!

Who We Are 

Our founding team is made of individuals with extensive experience in economic and political development, conflict resolution, human rights, humanitarian affairs, language learning and journalism. All core members of the team are originally from the Middle East. More details coming soon.

The Why  

The best way to learn a language is to immerse oneself in its environment. Arabic has long been popular among students, members of the Arab Diaspora interested in maintaining their spoken skills, and professionals working in or on the Middle East. In the US alone, Arabic’s popularity has increased two-fold over the past decade and represents the fastest-growing area of foreign language study in the US. Additionally, as conflict continues to unfold in the Middle East, the need for people to communicate with Arabic-speaking displaced communities is quickly becoming more urgent.

NaTakallam (“we speak” in Arabic) pairs displaced persons with learners around the world for language practice over Skype. The platform offers affordable, flexible, tailored language practice with native speakers for language learners while also providing a valuable income source to displaced people mostly in Lebanon, but also in Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, France, Brazil, Italy and Germany.

Along the way, users and conversation partners engage in a powerful intercultural exchange, frequently developing transatlantic friendships between worlds that are often polarized in the media and political spheres.

 Partners & Supporters