To commemorate Refugee & Pride Month, Get 20% OFF any Language Session Purchase, using code WRD21 at Checkout, to amplify impact during this special month!

To commemorate Refugee & Pride Month, Get 20% OFF any Language Session Purchase, using code WRD21 at Checkout, to amplify impact during this special month!

NaTakallam

10 Common Misconceptions About Refugees | NaTakallam

10 Common Misconceptions About Refugees

Reading Time: 7 minutes

In our modern era of clickbait headlines and 280-character debates, refugees often suffer from negative stereotyping and popular misconceptions like so many other marginalized communities.

NaTakallam’s tutors, teachers, interpreters, and translators come from diverse personal and professional backgrounds – each with unique skills and experiences that are often misconstrued by simplistic generalizations.

NaTakallam is committed to unpacking facts from fiction. We seek to reshape and reclaim narratives about refugee and displaced populations and promote understanding through fact-based discussions.

This World Refugee Month, NaTakallam hopes that employers and communities around the world will continue to work towards a better understanding of the rich contribution that individuals impacted by displacement can offer their communities and workplaces.



Myth 1: Most refugees restart their lives comfortably in new countries.

Fact: Less than 1% of refugees are resettled into new countries.

 

Resettlement is still a rare phenomenon, even though millions are eligible. In 2020, resettlement numbers hit a record low in the past two decades, according to a UNHCR report. Even though the US increased their refugee ceiling in 2021 to 62,500, a total of only 11,411 were resettled in the fiscal year – a mere 18% of the announced target. Even if successful, the resettlement process often takes years, and the journey of starting life anew in a foreign country can be extremely hard, especially in the face of new legal and educational systems, foreign languages, and cultural norms. 

NaTakallam works with skilled refugees who are often stuck in limbo, cut off from local labor markets, in camps or other transit circumstances. Therefore, each language session with NaTakallam makes important and meaningful contributions to their livelihoods and overall sense of belonging.

Sources: UN, UNHCR (Report), UNHCR (Data finder), Immigration Forum.




Myth 2: Most displaced persons flee to the US, Europe and Australia
.


Fact: 85% of displaced persons are hosted in developing countries.


Contrary to common belief and misleading headlines, only a small fraction of resettled refugees are hosted in developed countries of the West.
Though there are around 100 million forcibly displaced people in the world, the US 2021 immigration cap was 62,500, of which only 18% of the quota was realized. In 2020, the entire EU accepted less than 200,000 refugees. Most are forced into limbo states, with no legal residency or work status. 

The majority of displaced persons that NaTakallam works with have fled to neighboring developing countries. Top host countries include Turkey, Colombia, and Uganda, which as of mid-2021 host 3.7 million, 1.7 million, and 1.5 million refugees, respectively. 

Sources: UNHCR, Amnesty, Immigration Forum, UN News




Myth 3: Most refugees are adults.

 

Fact: Over 40% of refugees are under 18.


Not all refugees are adults. According to the UNHCR, an estimated 36.5 million of the world’s 100 million displaced people are under the age of 18. Furthermore, an estimated 12.5 million of the 27.1 million refugees are child refugees. Between 2018 and 2020, an average of between 290,000 and 340,000 children were born into a refugee life per year. Today, there are over 1 million children in the world who were born as refugees.

This demographic breakdown holds true for almost every regional crisis. Though children make up about a third of the global population, they constitute 50% of the world’s refugees. This dynamic is a significant concern, as contemporary child migration is often inhumane, unregulated, and dangerous. Moreover, an additional obstacle for refugee children seeking asylum is the fact that many of them go through this process without adult support. 

Source(s): UNHCR, UNICEF, Concern USA, UN News




Myth 4: Many refugees have smartphones so they must be well off.

 

Fact: Smartphones are a lifeline for refugees, not a luxury.


For refugees, smartphones provide access to essential and potentially life-saving information. Smartphones are used to find food, shelter, and assistance, navigate new areas, communicate with loved ones, and even earn a living through virtual work. Refugees often spend up to a third of their disposable income to afford connectivity and opportunities that come with a smartphone, according to Amnesty International.

In the era of what some have dubbed “the connected refugee,” NaTakallam provides opportunities for refugees to work as online language tutors, interpreters, and translators for users worldwide. 

Sources: UNHCR, Forbes, GSMA, Amnesty 



 

Myth 5: Most refugees live in camps.

 

Fact: Nearly 80% of refugees live in urban areas.

 
Contrary to the frequent images of sprawling refugee camps in the media, almost 80% of refugees live in urban areas. This has presented a new set of challenges: resources are often less concentrated and humanitarian assistance is less plentiful, meaning that individuals can miss vital information and aid more easily.

NaTakallam works with displaced persons in both urban areas and refugee camps to ensure no one is marginalized due to their current circumstances. We leverage technology in a way that ensures accessibility for all users. 

Sources: UN Refugees, UNHCR, The Brookings Institute 




Myth 6: Refugee influxes ruin economies and communities.


Fact: Studies show that refugees can have positive fiscal and social impacts.


The notion that admitting refugees will ruin a host country’s economy is rooted in false economic beliefs. Over time, it has been shown that refugees actually add more value to the economy than the initial cost of resettlement – if they are granted the right to work legally. Moreover, studies show that low-skilled foreign workers and low-skilled domestic workers tend to complement each other rather than compete. In the US, refugees add billions to the economy, and experts assert that they will play a vital role in helping economies recover after the pandemic.

What is more, contrary to political narratives, studies consistently show that refugees are less likely to commit crimes, engage in “antisocial” behavior, or be arrested. In fact, higher immigration is generally associated with much lower crime rates. 

Many of NaTakallam’s displaced tutors are barred from local employment due to legal restrictions – leaving them vulnerable to the black market and unsafe work. NaTakallam allows refugees to make an income legitimately and safely, regardless of their location.

Sources: Immigration Forum, University of Oxford, Business Insider, Economic Research Forum, Global Citizen

 


Myth 7: Refugee resettlement quotas increase each year.

 

Fact: Resettlement  numbers reached a record low in 2021.


Each year, resettlement quotas are subject to change. In 2020, the UNHCR resettled about 22,770 refugees, which represents only a third of the refugees resettled in 2019 and less than a fifth of those resettled in 2016. According to the UNHCR, this figure was the lowest in two decades. Undoubtedly, the unprecedented impacts of the pandemic contributed to a decrease in resettlements; however, these statistics still help to illustrate the precarity of many refugees’ situations. Equally troubling, the US froze resettlement and humanitarian assistance to refugees during the pandemic. 

By leveraging the digital economy, NaTakallam enables tutors and translators from displaced backgrounds to earn livelihoods through language services – particularly during the pandemic.

Sources: UNHCR, UN, OCHA, CIS Report




Myth 8: Refugees never return home to their native countries.

 

Fact: Most refugees would prefer to go home, and many do.


Popular narratives paint refugees as “economic migrants” who come to profit from the opportunities of more developed countries and never return to their home countries. This is a misconception. According to various surveys done across the world, most refugees are understandably reluctant to go home when the situation remains unsafe. However, from a sample survey of 1,100 displaced Syrians, an overwhelming majority, around 73%, say they would return home if the conditions were right.

Another report showed that in 2019 alone, 46,500 refugees voluntarily returned to the Central African Republic. What refugees seek is physical safety, dependable work, and sustainable housing, and the majority agree that if this were available in their home country, they would return. NaTakallam enables refugees to have reliable, consistent work as language tutors and translators in Arabic, Armenian, English, French, Kurdish, Persian, Russian, Spanish, Ukrainian and more.

Sources: UN refugee statistics, Washington Post, Relief Web, The National, UNHCR report




Myth 9: Refugees don’t make for good employees.

 

Fact: Refugees can be a long-term economic advantage for companies.


Employers say it best: when it comes to refugees, “they come to work and get the job done.” Research from the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) in 2018 highlights that in addition to being hardworking, refugees often stay with their employers for longer and speak a foreign language – a highly desirable skill for any global company. 

Furthermore, in a Tent Partnership for Refugees report (also backed by the FPI), many businesses that hired refugees stated that they were among their most dedicated workers. Employee turnover rates were much lower among refugee employees than in the general population – thus, saving businesses money. 

Sources: UN, Fiscal Policy Institute, Business Insider, Tent Partnership for Refugees.




Myth 10: “There’s nothing I can do to help refugees.”

 

Fact: Each person can make a difference in supporting refugees.

 

Everyone can do something. Whether it is welcoming refugees into your own community, raising awareness about the cause, or supporting refugee-centered organizations, you have the power to make an impact beyond donations.

And if you are looking to support refugee livelihoods directly, amidst the fastest-growing displacement crisis of our time, consider bringing NaTakallam into your home, classroom, or office setting for your language-learning, cultural exchange, or translation needs. Change a life, one refugee at a time.

 

Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Learn Spanish

Reading Time: 3 minutesUp for a challenge this summer? We recommend picking/brushing up a language – perhaps, Spanish! As we mark UN Spanish Language Day, observed annually on April 23rd, here are five reasons to learn this beautiful language.

1. Second-most spoken language in the world


Learning Spanish gives you the ability to connect with more than 580 million people! Spanish is the official language of over 20 countries and is widely spoken in Spain, Latin America and the United States. Spanish is the second most spoken language worldwide, with a higher proportion of speakers who recognize it as their first and primary language over English. There is rapid growth in the number of Spanish language speakers, meaning that there is a growing opportunity for Spanish language learners to engage and immerse themselves in the language.

 2. Rich literature 


Spanish is the language of world-class literature. Spanish classics include the likes of Colombian author García Márques’ novel
Cien años de soledad (One hundred years of solitude) which won a Nobel Prize for Literature for its portrayal of magical realism, the award-winning anthology of works by Chilean author Isabel Allende, and the much-celebrated novel, Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes. If you have a passion for literature or Spanish culture, learning Spanish might just be for you.

3. Gateway to other languages


Spanish belongs to the family of romance languages. Learning Spanish would open doors to several other languages such as Italian, Portuguese and French. The general structure of these languages is very similar, thereby making them easier to grasp and understand. Spanish has also borrowed several words from Arabic, including ojalá (hope), almohada (pillow), and azúcar (sugar). Besides, Spanish is a fun language to learn and an excellent starting place for those looking to embark on learning a second language!

4. Language of the future 


Spanish is an amazing language with rising potential. If you are interested in travel, increasing your career prospects or learning a new skill, studying Spanish may just be the way to go! Spanish is an excellent way to leverage your career opportunities. The rapid growth of the Spanish language across the globe, from Europe to Latin America, has seen a rising demand for Spanish speakers in the international job market. With a diverse and global array of Spanish speakers, there’s no wonder international organizations, governments and big-name brands are looking to include them. If you are interested in testing your intellectual capabilities and improving your career prospects, learning Spanish will open new doors.

5. Easy to learn


Unlike some other languages, with standard Spanish, what you see is what you get! Spanish is a phonetic language, meaning that words are spelled exactly as they are pronounced – with consideration of the unique pronunciation of certain letters in Spanish (and varieties of Spanish), and the exception of the letter h, which is silent! Also, you may already know some Spanish as thousands of English words are borrowed from the language, for example, the word “barbeque” which comes from the Spanish term “barbacoa”, or the word “cargo” which is derived from the Spanish verb “cargar” meaning “to load”.


If you are interested in discovering new worlds and cultures, increasing your career mobility AND making a social impact, consider learning Spanish with NaTakallam, today!

NaTakallam brings Latin America to your doorstep with native tutors from refugee backgrounds. Learn a language, make a friend and support the livelihoods of forcibly displaced persons – from the comfort of your home.

 

CREDITS
Copywriting: Lucy Haley is a copywriter with NaTakallam. She is currently completing her Masters in International Relations. She is an avid reader, gym-goer and language learner, and loves nothing more than a good cup of coffee.
Copyediting: Maria Thomas is a copywriter with NaTakallam. She is currently pursuing her doctoral studies in art history. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, powerlifting and going on hikes.
– Copyediting: Emmy Plaschy is a volunteer content writer and editor at NaTakallam. She currently works in communications in Switzerland. In her spare time, she enjoys polishing her Arabic skills, writing and gazing at the stars.

NaTakallam 6 Must-Try Easter Delicacies From Around The World

6 Must-Try Easter Delicacies From Around The World

Reading Time: 4 minutesEaster is celebrated by millions around the world and it is not a surprise that food is at the heart of these festivities. Join us as we delve into the Easter delicacies from around the world – from Ukraine to Argentina, Armenia to Egypt.

Paska (пáска)1. Paska (Ukraine)


Paska
(пáска) is a bread traditionally made at Easter in Ukraine and other parts of Eastern Europe. It is made with milk, butter, eggs, flour and sugar. In Ukraine, it forms an important part of the Easter basket also known as the “basket of blessed food” (свячене, “svyachene”) alongside Easter eggs (писанки, “pysanky”) and sausage (ковбаса, “kovbasa”).

Variations of this bread are also made in Armenian and Assyrian communities of Iran, Iraq, Armenia and the diaspora.

Kaek and Ma’amoul2. Kaek and Ma’amoul (Egypt and the Levant)


Kaek (كعك) and Ma’amoul (معمول) are two cookies at the heart of all Egyptian and Levantine celebrations (read about ma’amoul in our Ramadan blog). These cookies are made with semolina flour and butter. They are stuffed with dates, pistachios, walnuts and flavoured with rosewater, orange blossom, mastic and mahlab. Each cookie is formed by hand or by using wooden moulds and each shape symbolizes an event associated with the Holy Week and Easter.


Egyptian Fattah3. Fattah (Egypt)


Among the Coptic Christians of Egypt,
fattah (فتّة) is a popular dish eaten at Easter and other feasts. It is a quintessentially Egyptian dish that dates back to the time of the pharaohs. It is made with rice, (lots of) garlic, crispy pita bread and a protein of choice – commonly, lamb. 

The word fatteh comes from the Arabic root verb meaning “to break up” or “crush”, referring to the pita bread crumbs that form the bases of all fatteh recipes. 

A similar but distinct dish is found in southern Levant. This Levantine counterpart (fetteh, فتّة), includes ingredients such as chickpea, strained yoghurt and other regional variations, and is a popular breakfast dish.


Rosca de Pascua4. Rosca de Pascua (Argentina)


This is a sweet bread enjoyed at Easter in Argentina. The name literally translates to “ring or bagel of Easter”. Like the name, the bread is shaped into a ring and decorated with cream, fruits, nuts and often, chocolate eggs. 

It is similar to Rosca de Reyes and Galette des Rois, cakes enjoyed at Epiphany in several Spanish and French-speaking countries, respectively (read more about Galette des Rois, “Kings’ cake”, in our New Year traditions blog).

Choreg5. Choreg (Armenia)


Choreg
(չորեկ), also spelled as “chorek”, “cheoreg”, or “choereg” is an Armenian sweet yeasted bread made at Easter. It is made with flour, butter, yeast, eggs, milk and sugar, and flavoured commonly with mahlab (cherry-based spice), mastic or orange zest. It is often braided using three strands to represent the Holy Spirit

Variations of this bread are found in Greece (τσουρέκι, “tsoureki), Turkey (paskalya çöreği), Romania (cozonac) and Bulgaria (козунак, “kozunak).

Petits Nids de Pâques6. Petits Nids de Pâques (France)


Literally translating to “little Easter nests”, this is a popular delicacy from France. It is a chocolate-based, nest-shaped pastry that brings together the symbolism of eggs at Easter with the decadence of chocolate. It is made with flour, sugar, a raising agent, butter, eggs and cocoa, and is served with chocolate Easter eggs nestled on the top.

 

Learn more about these delicacies, people and languages with NaTakallam, today! Book a session with one of our Ukrainian, Arabic, Persian, Spanish, French or Armenian language partners from displaced backgrounds, and delve deeper into the world of languages and everything sweet! 

To all learners, language partners, and friends observing this festival Happy Easter – Shchaslyvoho Velykodnya (щасливого Великодня), Eid Fasih Sa’eid (عيد فصح سعيد), Shnorhavor Surb Zatik (Շնորհավոր Սուրբ Զատիկ), Felices Pascuas, Joyeuses Pâques!

 

CREDITS
– Copywriting: Maria Thomas is a copywriter with NaTakallam. She is currently pursuing her doctoral studies in art history. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, powerlifting and going on hikes.
– Copyediting: Emmy Plaschy is a volunteer content writer and editor at NaTakallam. She currently works in communications in Switzerland. In her spare time, she enjoys polishing her Arabic skills, writing and gazing at the stars.

7 Traditional Ramadan Delicacies You Must Try

Reading Time: 4 minutesRamadan is a month of fasting, prayer and self-reflection, observed by millions around the world. It is a time for practicing self-discipline, empathy and compassion. 

Those who observe it, fast from dawn to dusk. These fasts are broken by a meal after sunset called iftar (إفطار) or ftoor (فطور) and reinitiated by dawn with a meal called suhur (Arabic:سحور) or sahari/sehri (Persian/Urdu: سحری). The iftar table particularly is a feast for both the eyes and the taste buds, enjoyed by Muslims and their guests from all walks of life. 

Here are 7 traditional delicacies from the Middle East that you can spot on iftar/suhur tables around the world.

 

Ma'amoul1. Ma’amoul (معمول)


Ma’amoul is a filled semolina cookie popular in the Middle East particularly in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine. It is often filled with dates, figs and nuts such as pistachios, almonds and walnuts. It is also prepared in Egypt and Turkey where it is called kahk and kombe, respectively. The word ma’amoul is derived from the Arabic root ‘amila (عَمِلَ) meaning “to do”.

Basbousa2. Basbousa (بسبوسة)


Basbousa is a semolina cake, soaked in syrup, originally from Egypt. Today, it (or a version of it) is found throughout the Middle East (in Levant: harissa “هريسة”), the Caucasus (Armenian: shamali “Շամալի”), and in countries like Greece (ravani “ραβανί”), Turkey (“revani”), Bulgaria (revane “реване”) and Ethiopia (basbousa “ባስቦሳ”).

Qatayef3. Qatayef (قطايف) (also pronounced as ‘atayef)


Qatayef is a sweet dumpling made from yeasted batter and filled with cheese and nuts, enjoyed throughout the Levant and Gulf region. A recipe for it is found in the earliest known Arabic cookbook – the 10th century, Kitab al Tabikh (كتاب الطبيخ, “The Book of Dishes”) by Ibn Sayyar al Warraq. The word qatayef is derived from the Arabic root qtf (قطف) meaning to pick or pluck.

Om Ali4. Om Ali (أم علي)


Literally translating to ‘mother of Ali’, this is a traditional Egyptian dessert. Some call it the national dessert of Egypt.
Legend has it that it was first prepared in the 13th century at the behest of Om Ali, the first wife of Mamluk Sultan Izz al Din Aybak. It is a speciality at most Egyptian iftar feasts. 

A variant of this dish is found in the Jordanian and Iraqi delicacy called “khumaiaa”.

Luqaimat5. Luqaimat (لقيمات) or Zalabiya (زلابية)


Luqaimat
literally translates to “morsel” or “mouthful” and refers to deep fried dough balls, soaked in syrup or honey. This delicacy, sometimes also known as zalabiya (زلابية), is mentioned in several medieval sources such as Ibn Batuta’s travelogue, the famous ‘Thousand One and Nights’ (in the story of the porter and the three ladies of Baghdad), and in the 13th-century writer, al-Baghdadi’s cookbook Kitab al Tabikh (كتاب الطبيخ, “The Book of Dishes”) – where it is called luqmat al-qādi (لقمة القاضي), “the judge’s morsel”.

Variations of this delicacy are found in Iran (bamiyeh, “بامیه”), Cyprus (loukoumádes “λουκουμάδες” or lokmádes “λοκμάδες”), Greece (zvingoi  “σβίγγοι” or tsirichta “τσιριχτά”), and in Turkey (Saray lokması).

Zoolbia6. Zoolbia (زولبیا)


It is a sweet and crunchy Iranian fritter prepared with fermented batter, saffron, sugar and syrup. At
iftar tables, they are often found alongside bamiyeh (بامیه), the small donut-shaped bites. The Iranian zoolbia is closely related to the Arab zalabiya (زلابية), another delicacy prepared at Ramadan using fermented batter, sugar and syrup. Recipes for the latter are recorded in both al Warraq’s and al Baghdadi’s cookbooks from the 10th and 13th centuries respectively. 

Varieties of this delicacy are also found in South Asia (jalebi), North Africa (zlabia) and the Caucasus (zulbiya or zilviya).

 

Goosh-e fil7. Goosh-e fil (گُوش فيل)


Literally meaning “elephant’s ears”,
goosh-e fil is a deep fried pastry prepared in Iran and Afghanistan. They often come topped with powdered sugar and crushed pistachios and are in many ways similar to the Italian dessert named crostoli or chiacchiere. They are particularly enjoyed around Nowruz (Persian new year) and Ramadan.


Learn more about these delicacies and their cultural histories with NaTakallam! Book a session with one of our Arabic, Persian or Kurdish language partners today to delve deeper into the world of languages and everything sweet! 

To all learners, language partners, and friends observing this month, Ramadan Kareem (رمضان كريم, “[have a] blessed Ramadan”), remezan pîroz be!

 

CREDITS
– Copywriting: Maria Thomas is a copywriter with NaTakallam. She is currently pursuing her doctoral studies in art history. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, powerlifting and going on hikes.
– Copyediting: Emmy Plaschy is a volunteer content writer and editor at NaTakallam. She currently works in communications in Switzerland. In her spare time, she enjoys polishing her Arabic skills, writing and gazing at the stars.

5 Incredible Latin American Feminists You Need To Know

Reading Time: 2 minutesBlog contributor: Maria Thomas

Women’s History Month or any day of the year, here are 5 Latin American feminists you need to know and celebrate!

1. Frida Kahlo (Mexico, 1907-1954)

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist known for her paintings that explored themes of female subjectivity, sexuality and marginality. Through her highly symbolic canvases, many of which were built around her own self-portraits – for example, Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair, Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird – Kahlo eschewed gender stereotypes and gave voice to often taboo aspects of femininity.

2. Excilia Saldaña (Cuba, 1946-1999)

Excilia Saldaña was an award-winning Cuban essayist, poet, translator, academic and author of children’s books. Her works – including the book, La Noche (‘The Night’), poems such as My Name (A Family Anti Elegy) and short stories like Kele Kele – were very important contributions to the creation and consolidation of a tradition of Afro-Hispanic women writers and artists.

3. Cecilia Vicuña (Chile, 1948-)

Cecilia Vicuña is a Chilean poet and multidisciplinary artist. Her works, which include collections of poems such as Precario/Precarious (1973) and Unravelling Words and Weaving Water (1992), and art installations such as Could-Net and Quipu Menstrual, are grounded in her understanding that the political, environmental and indigenous are inherently connected and must be addressed as such. Also, central to Vicuña’s works are her explorations of the connections between gendered injustice and environmental despoliation.

4. Selva Almada (Argentina, 1973-)

Selva Almada is an Argentinian writer who is considered one of the most powerful voices of contemporary Argentinian and Latin American literature. She is also recognised as one of the most influential feminist intellectuals of the region. Her works, particularly her book,  Dead Girls – originally published originally in Spanish as Chicas Muertas in 2014 – highlight issues such as gendered violence, femicide and the legal inadequacies of Argentinian legal systems in addressing them.

5. Clarice Lispector (Brazil, 1920-1977)

Clarice Lispector was an Ukranian-born Brazillian novelist and short-story writer. Her family fled Western Ukraine to escape the pogroms that followed World War I and the Russian Civil War. Her works written in Portuguese include short story collections such as Laços de família (‘Family Ties’) and Para não esquecer (‘Not to Forget’), and novels such as Perto do coração selvagem (translated and published in English as Near to the Wild Heart), A Paixão segundo G.H. (translated and published in English as The Passion According to G.H.). French feminist writer Hélène Cixous credits her works with “exploring women’s identity with a depth that no one has achieved until now”.

Learn Spanish and explore the worlds of these inspirational women with NaTakallam!

We are a women-led and women-fueled community that offers language sessions in Spanish, among other languages. Our Latin American native language tutors are individuals who have been displaced from countries like Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, and are currently resettled in neighboring countries such as Uruguay, Costa Rica, the United States, Ecuador, Trinidad and Tobago, and Argentina. 

Brush up your Spanish skills, delve into Latin American cultures and experiences, and celebrate these incredible women, today and everyday!

 

This piece was contributed by Maria Thomas, a copywriter with NaTakallam. She is currently pursuing her doctoral studies in art history. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, powerlifting and going on hikes.

6 Ways To Say Mother In Arabic

6 Ways to Say “Mother’’ in Arabic

Reading Time: 3 minutesMother’s Day in the Arabic-speaking world is celebrated on March 21 every year. This date was chosen to coincide with the beginning of spring. This Mother’s Day, join us as we take a look at a few different ways one can say “mother” in Arabic!

1. Omm (أم) or Ommi (أمي)

These terms are used commonly throughout the Arabic-speaking world to refer to mothers. Literally, Omm (أم) means “mother”, and Ommi (أمي) as “my mother”.

Fairuz, a music icon from Lebanon uses this term in her famous song “Ommi el-Habiba” (أمي الحبيبة, My beloved mother).

2. Yumma (يُمّه)

In Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and neighbouring Gulf countries, one often hears the term yumma (يُمّه) for mother.

3. Mama (ماما) or Mami (مامي)

In the Levantine or Shami dialect, the words used for mother are mama (ماما) or mami (مامي). It is likely that one may hear Mama or Mami in regions beyond the Levant and across different languages – read more here on why words for “Mom” and “Dad” sound similar across the world!

4. Youm (يوم)

In Aleppo, Syria, one encounters the term youm (يوم) for mother.

5. Yamo (يامو)

In Damascus, Syria, a slightly varied term, yamo (يامو) is used for mothers. 

Popular Damascene actor and director, Duraid Lahham, pays tribute to mothers in his song titled “Yamo Yamo“.

6. Lwalida (لوالدة)

In the Moroccan or Darija dialect, one of the terms for mother is lwalida (لوالدة).

Mothers are an epitome of love, warmth and selflessness. In their embrace, one finds hope, strength and protection. These sentiments are beautifully encapsulated in the award-winning Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish’s (1941-2008) poem titled, “To My Mother” (إلى أمي). Here is an excerpt:

Dearly I yearn for my mother’s bread,
My mother’s coffee,
Mother’s brushing touch.
Childhood is raised in me,
Day upon day in me.
And I so cherish life
Because if I died
My mother’s tears would shame me.

Set me, if I return one day,
As a shawl on your eyelashes, let your hand
Spread grass out over my bones,
Christened by your immaculate footsteps
As on holy land.
Fasten us with a lock of hair,
With thread strung from the back of your dress.
I could grow into godhood
Commend my spirit into godhood
If I but touch your heart’s deep breadth.
____________________________

أحنُ إلى خبز أمي
وقهوةِ أمي
ولمسةِ أمي ..
وتكبر فيَّ الطفولةُ
يوماً على صدر يومِ
و أعشق عمري لأني
إذا متُّ
أخجل من دمع أمي !

خذيني .. إذا عدتُ يوماً
وشاحاً لهدبكْ
وغطي عظامي بعشبٍ
تعمَّد من طهر كعبكْ
وشدِّي وثاقي..
بخصلة شعرٍ ..
بخيطٍ يلوِّح في ذيل ثوبك..
عساني أصيرُ إلهًا
إلهًا أصير ..
إذا ما لمستُ قرارة قلبك !

To all mothers and mother figures out there, عيد ام سعيد, Happy Mother’s Day! 

Are you a heritage language learner or perhaps, you are looking for ways to make the mother figures in your life feel a little extra special this Mother’s Day? Gift a NaTakallam Language Experience session to a loved one today, or treat yourself to a session!

Learn Arabic authentically with our native language partners from displaced backgrounds. Besides Modern Standard Arabic, NaTakallam offers Arabic in more than 7 dialects: Egyptian, Iraqi, Sudanese, Yemeni, and Levantine – Syrian, Palestinian, Lebanese.

P.S. Write to us and let us know if you use another term to refer to your mother in an Arabic dialect!

Credits: We would like to thank our Language Partner community for helping with the content, and Maria Thomas for copywriting the piece. Maria is a copywriter at NaTakallam and is currently pursuing her doctoral studies in art history. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, powerlifting and going on hikes.

Nowruz: A Celebration of Spring, Renewal & Resilience

Nowruz: A Celebration of Spring, Renewal & Resilience

Reading Time: 6 minutesNowruz is a festival that marks the beginning of spring and a new year, according to the Persian solar calendar. The term “Nowruz” (نوروز) comes from Persian and translates literally to “new day”. Although the festival has its roots in Iranian and Zoroastrian cultures, over the years, it has been celebrated by communities in the Balkans, the Black Sea Basin, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East and South Asia as a secular holiday.

Nowruz is marked at the precise moment of the Spring equinox (between the 20th and the 21st of March) in the northern hemisphere and across the various time zones. This year, Nowruz falls on Sunday, March 20th, 2022 at 16:33 CET | 11:33 EST | 08:33 PST.

This blog explores the significance of Nowruz to individuals and communities that have faced displacement over the years. It delves into rituals, food and memories that are kept alive despite turmoil, separation, perilous journeys and novel circumstances. It also looks at aspects of Nowruz celebrations that have evolved with time. In our exploration, we are joined by six Language Partners at NaTakallam who celebrate Nowruz and have experienced displacement. 

Nowruz, a celebration of nature in spring


Nowruz is a celebration of a new day and a new life”, reflects Sayed Nabi, an Afghan Language Partner at NaTakallam, as he fondly recollects celebrating the festival out in parks with family and friends as a child while growing up in Afghanistan. 

Nowruz marks the renewal of life in nature during spring. Parks, the countryside and forests have a special place in Nowruz festivities. Families join friends and neighbors outdoors particularly, on the ultimate day of Nowruz celebrations called “Sizdah Bedar” (سیزده بدر, lit. ‘the thirteenth outdoors’) to reconnect with nature and imbibe its renewed vigor.

Marwan, a Kurdish Language Partner with NaTakallam, shares his memories of celebrating Nowruz in nature with family and friends. He recounts, “while adults were on the green meadows singing folk songs, accompanied by the strumming of a tembûr player, and dancing in big circles, children played hide and seek or waited for their turn to get in on a small rust-covered so-called ferris wheel.” Similarly, a Kurdish Language Partner from Syria (who would like to remain anonymous) reminisces waking up at 5 A.M. to prepare to travel to the countryside, wearing traditional Kurdish clothes where they sang, danced and watched speeches and plays late into the night. 

Sabzeh_Nowruz_Persian_New_Year_HaftSeen_Table_SpreadAn Iranian Language Partner with NaTakallam (who, also, would prefer to remain anonymous) points out that although the refugee/migrant-experience(s) have curbed traditional Nowruz celebrations, being out in nature is still central to their family’s observance of the festival: “On the last day of festivities i.e., on Sizdah Bedar (getting rid of thirteen or the thirteenth out of the doors), all of the family spend the day in the open fields, parks or riversides to picnic; playing games, making music and dancing, taking with them the Sabzeh (سبزه, sprouts) to give it back to nature by throwing it into the river.”

Nowruz preparations and the Haft-Seen table


Nowruz celebrations and preparations for it can span days. As the aforementioned Iranian Language Partner relates, it usually begins with, “
a scrupulous cleaning of the house and growing Sabzeh (sprouted wheat, barley or lentils) in a dish”. 

Sadiqa Sultani, an Afghan Language Partner with NaTakallam, shares: “My family and I started our preparation for the festivities weeks beforehand. We clean our homes from top to bottom, including carpets, windows and curtains. Everyone in the family helps out. Anything broken is repaired or replaced and the house is decorated with flowers. By doing this spring cleaning, we wash away the bad things from the previous year and prepare for better things to come in the new year.”

Nowruz_Persian_New_Year_HaftSeen_Table_SpreadApart from cleaning, preparing food particularly, the Haft-Seen (هفت سین, seven Ss) table spread for the night of Nowruz is a key component of the celebrations. Sadiqa describes her family’s Haft-Seen table as follows:

We prepare a special table in our homes, where we place small dishes holding seven symbolic foods and spices. The names of these foods all start with the letter ‘s’ (س) in Persian and so the table is called the ‘seven s’s’ (Haft-Seen). The dishes generally contain wheat or bean sprouts (sabzeh), vinegar (serke), apples (sib), garlic (sir), a wheat-based pudding called samanu, a red spice called sumac, and senjed, a kind of wild fruit which is common in the region. Other symbolic objects can include goldfish, painted eggs, candles and a mirror. The seven s’s symbolize life, love, health and prosperity.”

Alongside the delicacies on the Haft-Seen table, a variety of other dishes are prepared and enjoyed over the days of Nowruz celebrations. Leila Eftetahi, an Iranian Language Partner with NaTakallam, shares that her favorite dish to have on Nowruz is Sabzipolo ba Mahi (سبزی پلو با ماهی, herbed rice and fish). The Kurdish Language Partner (who would like to remain anonymous) shares that Mahshi is a popular dish enjoyed during Nowruz, mainly among Iraqi-Kurdish communities. Sadiqa tells us that her favourite Nowruz food item is Samanu (سمنو), “a sweet paste made entirely from germinated wheat, which is prepared especially for Nowruz in a large pot.”

Nowruz and the refugee/migrant experience(s)


Nowruz celebrations among communities affected by conflict and displacement have an added meaning today. It celebrates resilience – of nature and human beings. 

The aforementioned Iranian Language Partner shares “the usual family links and networks do not exist anymore for many exiles or immigrants…In spite of these and other obstacles, Iranians who live abroad try to observe Nowruz traditions and rituals.” These sentiments are echoed by Sadiqa, when she says: “living as refugees, not having access to basic rights and having very few facilities, people prepare a small table just to celebrate the Nowruz with their family. Something that hasn’t changed is the way and reason for celebrating Nowruz. People spread love and happiness as much as they can.’’ 

Nowruz_Persian_New_Year_Sizdah_BedarSharing happiness and keeping alive memories of “cozy fellowship” has been an important part of Marwan’s recent Nowruz celebrations. He reveals that he is looking forward to celebrating Nowruz with his small family “outdoors in a nearby playground and then, indoors  dining locally, listening to Kurdish songs in Kurdish-hyggelig ambiance.” Leila, similarly, shares that she has never forgotten the excitement of getting to pick the tablecloth for the Haft-Seen table as a child. She honors this memory by continuing to pick a tablecloth for the Haft-Seen table as a tradition even after being away from home for the last 7 years. 

Nowruz is a celebration of nature and new beginnings. Over the years, it has also come to commemorate human resilience and the quest for fellowship and happiness even in the face of adversity and displacement. 

Happy first day of Spring to our language partners, language learners, friends and supporters, and all those celebrating, نوروز مبارک , Newroza te pîroz be, Happy Nowruz! 

Fascinated by Nowruz? Learn more about Persian, Kurdish and Afghan cultures, traditions and languages with NaTakallam’s native tutors. Sign up here, today! 

Learn a language, make a friend, change a life. 

 


CREDITS
Copywriting: Maria Thomas is a copywriter with NaTakallam. She is currently pursuing her doctoral studies in art history. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, powerlifting and going on hikes.
Copyediting: Lucy Davis is a Communications and PR Officer with NaTakallam. She is currently pursuing a dual Bachelor’s degree in economics and literature. She loves cooking, doing puzzles, and traveling to new places.
Content support 1: Leila Eftetahi is an Iranian Language Partner with NaTakallam teaching Persian – Farsi dialect. She has degrees in Computer Science and International Tourism, and has been working as a Community Engagement Specialist. Leila enjoys performing, watching movies and reading in her free time.
Content support 2: Sadiqa Sultani is an Afghan Language Partner with NaTakallam teaching Persian – Dari dialect. She is an active volunteer at her local Refugee Learning Centre and in the refugee community. She loves sharing her culture and in her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and writing in her journal.
Content support 3: Sayed Nabi is an Afghan Language Partner with NaTakallam teaching Persian – Farsi and Dari dialects. He studied French language and literature and worked as an interpreter & translator with ISAF/NATO and AFRANE. He loves Persian poetry, is interested in cultural exchange, and eager to share his experiences with students.
Content support 4: Marwan Sheikho is Syrian Language Partner with NaTakallam specializing in Kurdish – Kurmanji dialect. He studied the development of Kurdish Kurmanji in Turkey and Syria for his Master’s degree in Germany. He enjoys learning languages, photography and preparing Kurdish language learning material for kids.
– And TWO OTHER content supporters who would like to remain anonymous.

Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Learn French

Reading Time: 2 minutesIn an increasingly globalized, digital world, speaking several languages is an asset. To those of you wondering which second or third language to pick, here are five good reasons to learn French!

1. SCALE


French is spoken by around 300 million people. It is, along with English, one of the few languages spoken on all five continents! French is a major language in international communication: be it at the UN – where it is one of the 6 official languages, or at multinational events such as the Olympics or Eurovision.

2. CULTURE


France and the Francophone world have produced a plethora of cultural icons. From famous painters (Cluade Monet, Auguste Renoir), thinkers, writers and poets (Balzac, Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvoir, Amhadou Kourouma) to legendary singers, composers and musicians (Edith Piaf, Claude Debussy, Daft Punk), fashion designers (Gabrielle Chanel, Christian Dior), film directors and actors (Jean-Luc Godard, Luc Besson, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Simone Signoret)… the list goes on! What’s more exhilarating than diving into this rich culture aided by the knowledge of its original language!

3. TRAVEL


France is a great travel destination – with its variety of historic locations within the heart of Europe and landscapes, from Côte d’Azur (French Riviera) to the Alps to explore. So too are destinations such as Mauritius, Seychelles, Morocco, Quebec and Monaco – where French is commonly spoken, too! Learn French to converse with locals and share meaningful experiences in a number of countries from around the world – whether you are enjoying the sea in Mauritius or Seychelles, the desert in Morocco, the mountains in Quebec, or the Grand Prix in Monaco!

4. ACHIEVABLE CHALLENGE


Although it can be intimidating at first, French is not a difficult language to learn! Its grammar is similar to that of a lot of European languages (mainly due to their Romance origins). Many English words have roots in Old French – apparently, as many as 10,000 loanwords! This is perhaps not surprising given the long history of political and cultural exchange between France and Great Britain, with French once being the language of the English court for several centuries. 

5. GASTRONOMY


This is one of France’s strengths and its influence has extended to the rest of the world. If you ever find yourself seated in a fancy restaurant, learning French will come in handy! No wonder France is the homeland of the Michelin-star rating system (read more on its fascinating origins here)! From all the table-related customs (the word “etiquette” literally comes from the French “étiquette”) to the fine art of pronouncing the names of dishes, knowing French will help you fit right in!


Learn French and explore more of such linguistic and cultural connections with NaTakallam. Our brilliant Language Partners come from displaced communities from around the Francophone world. Book a session for yourself or for a loved one today and kickstart your journey exploring the richness of the French language and cultures!

5 Incredible Arab Feminists You Need to Know

Reading Time: 3 minutesBlog contributor: Maria Thomas

NaTakallam is marking International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month by highlighting some of history’s most celebrated feminists. This week, join us as we take a look at 5 incredible Arab feminists we all need to know.

1. Nawal El Saadawi (Egypt, 1931-2021)

Nawal El Saadawi was an Egyptian feminist writer, activist and physician. Her works such as The Hidden Face of Eve (الوجه القاري للمرأة العربية, Al-Wajh al-qari lil-mar’a al-‘arabiyyah), A Daughter of Isis, and Memoirs of a Woman Doctor have over the years become a cornerstone of Arab feminism. In Saadawi’s own words, her writing was a weapon which she exercised against the autocratic power of state and that of the father or husband figure in the family.

‘‘The written word is an act of rebellion, against injustice exercised in the name of religion, or morals, or love.’’ – Nawal El Saadawi (A Daughter of Isis)

2. Fatema Mernissi (Morocco, 1940-2015)

Professor Fatema Mernissi was a Moroccan writer and sociologist. Her works include her revolutionary book Beyond the Veil (1975), a fictional memoir, Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood (1994), and The Forgotten Queens of Islam (1990). Her scholarship thwarts the popular notion that female subordination is rooted in religious texts and argues that this misunderstanding ‘‘sprang from centuries of misinterpretation by male leaders intent on maintaining the sexual status quo’’. Mernissi was a pioneer of Islamic feminism and inspired Muslim women, especially those from humble backgrounds, in their struggles for human dignity, equality and social justice.

3. Sahar Khalifeh (Palestine, 1941-)

Sahar Khalifeh is a Palestinian writer known for her gripping novels such as Wild Thorns (الصبار, Al- Sabaar), The Inheritance (الميراث, Al-Mirath), and My First and Only Love (حبي الأول, Hubbi al-Awaal). Her writings focus on female characters with strong personalities. She masterfully connects the plight of the nation with that of women, pointing out that the devaluation of women obstructs nationalist ambitions

‘‘I could see very clearly that the debacle of 1967 was the fruit of a rotten tree that needed a cure – the internally defeated do not triumph. The cure must start with our households and with those in power, with our social values and ties, with the fabric of the family, with the rules and basics of the upbringing of the individual at home, in school, and at university, and then progress to the street.’’ – Sahar Khalifeh (My Life, Myself, and the World)


4. Ghada al Samman (Syria, 1942-)

Ghada al Samman is a Syrian journalist and novelist, best known for her sublime short stories. Her writings are collected in volumes such as عيناك قدري (Aynak qadiri, ‘‘Your eyes are my destiny’’), لا بحر في بيروت (La bahar fi Beirut, ‘‘No sea in Beirut’’), and  رحيل المرافئ القديمة (Rahil al-marafi al-qadima, ‘‘The departure of the Old Ports’’). She also wrote two novels – Beirut Nightmares ( كوابيس بيروت, Kwabis Beirut) and ليلة المليار (Laylat al-milyar, ‘‘The Eve of Billion’’). Samman’s works are a bold commentary on contemporary social and political realities. She established the Ghada al Samman Publications in 1977 to publish her own writings free of editorial interference and censorship.

5. Assia Djebar (Algeria, 1936-2015)

Assia Djebar was an Algerian writer, translator and filmmaker. She is known for works such as La Soif (“The Thirst”), Les Enfants du Nouveau Monde (‘‘Children of the New World’’), and Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade (original title: L’Amour, la fantasia). Although her writings are not in her mother tongue – Arabic, she had a keen interest in the language and used French to ‘‘reproduce Arabic rhythms’’. Her writings explore the struggles she knew both as a feminist living under patriarchy and an intellectual living under colonialism and its aftermath.

Learn Arabic and explore the writings of these incredible women with NaTakallam! We are a women-led and women-fueled community that offers language sessions in Modern Standard Arabic and 7+ dialects. This March, receive a $25 credit in NaTakallam language sessions to gift to a woman, loved one, or yourself, with every language purchase of 5 hours or more!

 

This piece was contributed by Maria Thomas, a copywriter with NaTakallam. She is currently pursuing her doctoral studies in art history. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, powerlifting and going on hikes.

5 Ways to Express Love in Western Armenian

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Blog contributors: Nairy Kouyoumjian, Lucy Davis, and Maria Thomas.

The month of love may be well behind us but everyday is a new opportunity to spread love! Armenian has two main dialects – Eastern and Western – and even more ways to say “I love you”. Though the two main dialects are mutually intelligible, they have been evolving separately over the last 100 years in their own unique ways.

Here are our top 5 phrases to spread the love with Western-speaking Armenians around the world!

1. Դուն իմ աշխարհն ես (Toun im ashkharhnes)
Meaning “you are my world,” this is also the name of a famous song by Armenian-American singer Paul Baghdadlian, known as the King of Love Songs.

2. Սիրելիս (Sirelis)
This word, meaning “my darling” or “my beloved,” is a simple one to memorize and use with your loved ones! Use this expression (and the others listed!) to tell someone how much you care for them.

3. Կեանքս (Gyankes)
This more figurative way of expressing love, meaning “my life,” uses the same word as you would use to talk about life in a general sense.

4. Սիրտս (Sirdes)
To round out our list we have Սիրտս meaning “my heart.” It is commonly used when talking with a lover, friend or family member with affection.

5. Քեզ կը սիրեմ (Kez geh seerem)
This is the most straightforward way to express your adoration of someone in Eastern Armenian, translating directly to “I love you.”

Here’s another bonus expression: Սէրս Քեզ Կու տամ (Seres kez gou dam). This phrase translates to “I give you my love,” which you might use interchangeably with Քեզ կը սիրեմ (Kez geh seerem) i.e. “I love you.”

Interested in learning more Western Armenian? Sign up for NaTakallam Sessions today, or give the Gift of Language to a loved one! At NaTakallam, every language session contributes to the livelihoods of our skilled tutors from displaced backgrounds.

Join a session today, learn a language and make an impact!

 

This piece was contributed by Nairy Kouyoumjian, Lucy Davis, and Maria Thomas:
Content support: Nairy Kouyoumjian is a Syrian-Armenian Language Partner with NaTakallam teaching Arabic and Western Armenian. She loves teaching her native languages in a fun and engaging way! During her sessions, she combines the basic rules of the language with discussions about her life and her culture! In her free time, she enjoys reading and doing voluntary social work.
Copywriting: Lucy Davis is a Communications and PR Officer with NaTakallam. She is currently pursuing a dual Bachelor’s degree in economics and literature. She loves cooking, doing puzzles, and traveling to new places.
Copyediting: Maria Thomas is a copywriter with NaTakallam. She is currently pursuing her doctoral studies in art history. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, powerlifting and going on hikes.

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