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

The Human Rights Advocates teaching you languages :)!

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Today, December 10th, marks Human Rights Day – the day the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948…and a day to celebrate in all languages.

Did you know..? Many of our Language Partners are human rights advocates themselves!

Mahmoud: Women’s Rights in the Middle East

“This year during COVID times, I started an Instagram account supporting women rights and speaking on human rights topics in the Middle East. My goal is to shed light on the growing gender equality movement in the Middle East covering topics such as toxic masculinity, relationships, the upbringing of children and mental health. Moreover, I started working as a cultural mediator for the European network for the work against perpetrators of gender-based violence, a project by the European Commission, and I will have my first webinar about this topic very soon.”

– Mahmoud, Syrian language partner based in Germany

Leila: Giving a voice to the voiceless

“Most of my studies are about voiceless people from the Middle East. This year during the very hard times of the pandemic, I started to focus on presenting my ideas and interpretations via zoom workshops and talks, as well as building a series of podcasts. In these podcasts, we try to educate the people about their past. Our goal is to show that there are always traces of subordinated voiceless people neglected by governments and some historians. The history is not only of well-off people, but all the human beings, despite their ethnicity, sex, and social class, should have their space in history. The history of the Middle East, in most cases, is comprised of the stories of victorious kings, armies, and masculinity-we are trying to transform all these presumptions. I am also writing applications and hope to get some amount of money to continue my project on voiceless people in Europe.”

– Leila, Persian language partner based in Sweden

Luis: Fighting against corruption

 

“I am a former anti-corruption prosecutor and I worked in high impact cases within my country which were of national significance. One of them even reached the USA. In the cases I worked, I managed to prosecute high State officials and powerful national and international businessmen, which led to my being harassed.

As there is no protection from the State institutions in Guatemala, despite the various complaints I presented to make it known that my family was in danger, the level of persecution against us was such, that it led to my current refugee situation in the US. Nonetheless, I feel very happy with the work I did, because fighting corruption is synonymous with supporting Human Rights. Corruption limits people’s access to good education, food, health, housing, among others, and despite being away from my home and loved ones, I know that I did the right things in the right way.”

– Luis, Guatemalan language partner based in the US

Fanar: Refugee & Asylum Rights to Resettlement

 

“After more than 4 years of waiting in my host country, I am finally getting the chance to get an asylum visa to France through the French Embassy. It was like a miracle for me to get it especially in this hard year for most of the people. I didn’t believe in good in this world, but we found very good hearted people that helped and still want to help us.

I am expecting to travel in the next few days with my family and I am very excited to move to a new country and have a life after years of being a refugee in Jordan where I wasn’t even recognized as a refugee by the UNHCR. I hope this gives hope to others who are in need for it.

NaTakallam is a great opportunity for me because I cannot work in Jordan as an asylum seeker. I feel happy and hopeful every time I get a new student. NaTakallam is the place where I can meet different and new young people that encourage me to look forward. I am very glad to be one of the language partners in such a wonderful organization. I feel liked and confident whenever I talk to one of my students. I can see their kindness in their words and compliments that makes me so happy and satisfied. There are students that care for my asylum status and try to send me online jobs: one time my sister got a job because of my student sending me a link she found and thought of us!”

– Fanar, Iraqi language partner based Jordan, soon moving to France

Join us today, and every day, in celebrating human rights, and all the unsung heroes around the world who have stood up for humanity. 

Want get to know these heroes further & even perhaps, learn languages with them?
Sign up for language sessions (in 5 languages) with them here! Or maybe even gift them to loved ones this holiday season.

5 Ways to say “thank you” in Persian

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

Salaam (سلام, hello)! After exploring how to say “thank you” in Spanish and Arabic in our previous posts, this week we bring you 5 culturally meaningful ways to express gratitude in Persian!

1. Sepās-gozāram (سپاسگزارم)

Mostly used in formal settings with roots dating back to ancient Persia (before the Arabic influence over the Persian language circa 600s AD), the term Sepās-gozāram (سپاسگزارم) is used to say “I am grateful”.

Want to impress? Add kheili (خیلی) meaning “very” before sepās-gozāram to emphasize your gratitude. In semi-casual settings, you can shorten the phrase to sepās (سپاس).

2. Mersi (مرسی) or Merci

Looking for a more colloquial term? You can use the French loan word, Merci – pronounced “mer-see” with a rolled r. It is an informal term which is used commonly within Farsi-speaking communities. As a response, you may hear khahesh mikonam (خواهش می‌کنم) meaning “you’re welcome”.

3. Daste shomā dard nakone (دست شما درد نکنه)

This phrase literally means “may your hand not hurt”. You can use it to express gratitude when receiving a gift*, any form of assistance from someone, or even when being served a nice meal!

Shoma (شما) is a formal pronoun for “you” (similar to the French polite form “vous”). Make this phrase informal by taking it off and tweaking the first word: Dastet dard nakone (دستت درد نکنه).

*It comes particularly handy if you happen to give/receive our Persian Gift of Conversation to/from a loved one this holiday season 😉 

4. Kheili lotf dārid (خیلی  لطف دارید)

Remember “kheili” (خیلی, very)? This phrase literally translates to “you have much kindness” or “that’s very kind of you”. This can be used when receiving compliments, gifts, or even declining favors kindly and respectfully.

5. Ghorbāne shomā (قربان شما )

Literally meaning “your sacrifice”, this expression is an example of Persian taarof, or Iranian etiquette, and a sign of politeness. When someone compliments you, instead of saying “thank you” to accept the compliment, it is more common to display modesty and deny the compliment. This is where ghorbāne shomā comes in. It is used to display humility and to acknowledge and show appreciation for the sacrifice of the other.

For a more informal use, replace the formal shoma (شما) with ghorboone to (قربون تو) or ghorboonet (قربونت).

As in Arabic, these translations can come across as quite dramatic; however, they reflect the beauty of the Persian language (and culture)!

Lastly, remember “mamnoun” (ممنون) from our Arabic blog? Persians use it, too! If you’re fascinated by the links between Arabic and Persian, check this out: the Persian words tashakkur (تشکر) and motashakkeram (متشکرم) come from the Arabic root “sh-k-r”, meaning “to thank” – exactly like shukran (شكراً)!

Practice these phrases and learn more about the Persian language and culture with NaTakallam’s language partners this holiday season!

Book a one-on-one Persian language session here. Or give our Gift of Conversation to a Persian-learning friend!

5 Ways to say “thank you” in French

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Bonjour (hello)! Rounding up our “thank you” series, this week’s blog explores 5 different ways of saying “thank you” in French.

If you’re just tuning in, check out our previous posts on how to express gratitude in Spanish, Arabic and Persian.

1. Merci (mekh*-see)

Merci is the most common way to say “thank you” in French. The response you may hear is de rien, which literally translates to “from nothing”, meaning “you’re welcome”. You might also hear avec plaisir which means “with pleasure”.

Fun fact: merci is also used commonly in French-speaking countries across the MENA region as well as in Farsi-speaking countries!

* The letter “r” in a French word is pronounced as a soft version of the Arabic “kh”, like in the word “Khaled”.

2. Merci infiniment (mekh-see an-fee-nee-man)

You can combine merci with adverbs such as beaucoup, mille fois, infiniment to form expressions such as merci beaucoup (thank you very much), merci bien (thanks a lot), merci mille fois (thank you a thousand times) and the strongest, merci infiniment translating to “thanks infinitely”.

3. C’est très gentil à toi/vous (seh tkheh jan-tee a twa/voo)

In more formal settings, one might say “that’s very kind of you”. It generally follows merci and can be used when someone does you a favor.

A useful tip: if you’re thanking an elder, or in a situation that requires you to use the polite form, use the formal counterpart of toi which is vous, applicable to both men and women, to a single person or to a group of people: “C’est très gentil à vous!

4. Merci de tout coeur (mekh-see dah tu ker)

A heartfelt phrase meaning “thank you with all my heart”. It’s also sometimes used with the verb j’espère, to express hope. For example: J’espère de tout coeur que tu vas réussir cet examen, meaning “I hope with all my heart that you’ll pass this exam”.

5. Cimer (see-mekh)
Spice up the standard merci by using its inverse, “cimer”. Caution: this word is French slang, also known as “verlan”, for “thanks” and used mostly in conversations in younger crowds.

These are 5 ways to express gratitude in French. This holiday season, level up your language skills with one of NaTakallam’s native language partners or Gift a Conversation to your French-learning friends! À bientôt!

10 Fun Facts About Cinnamon

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

Cinnamon is more than a perfect holiday spice. Once a prized gift, it was reportedly worth 15 times more in value than silver! Here are ten fun facts that prove cinnamon’s history is as rich as its flavor.

1. Cinnamon’s broad range of uses made it invaluable in Ancient Egypt. It was used to preserve meat, treat sore throats, and was even used as a perfume in the embalming process.

2. Cinnamon was considered an ancient merchant’s best-kept secret. To monopolize the cinnamon trade, they came up with a variety of stories about its source.

The 5th-century B.C. Greek historian Herodotus, for instance, recalled how people left large pieces of ox meat under birds’ nests, believing that large birds carried cinnamon sticks from unreachable mountain tops!

3. Zakaria al-Qazwini – a Persian author and physician of Arab descent – in his work “آثار البلاد و أخبار العباد” (“Monument of Places and History of God’s Bondsmen”) from c. 1270 identifies cinnamon as native to Sri Lanka. 

4. Later in the 16th century, Spanish explorer Gonzalo Pizarro set out to the Amazon hoping to find “el país de la canela” or “the cinnamon country” after Christopher Columbus falsely claimed that he found cinnamon in the “New World”.

5. The Dutch, through their colonization of Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka), monopolized the cinnamon trade for over 200 years!

(Source: NPR)

6. Two types of cinnamon that we know, love and commonly use today are cassia cinnamon and cinnamomum verum. You probably use the former for your holiday sweets. It is produced in Vietnam, China and Indonesia – and is the affordable variant. The latter is more of a splurge! It is still primarily sourced from Sri Lanka and is found in South Asian, Central and South American cuisines. It has a milder, sweeter flavor – perfect for a rich cup of hot chocolate on a winter day!

7. The English word “cinnamon” is derived from the Ancient Greek kinnámōmon (κιννάμωμον), via Latin and medieval French. The Ancient Greek term itself is borrowed from a Phoenician word, thought to be related to the Hebrew term qinnāmōn (קינמון‎).

8. Several European languages use some derivation of the Latin “canna”, meaning “tube”, for cinnamon, for example French “cannelle” and Spanish “canela”. This refers to the curled shape of the spice.

9. Interestingly, since the source of cinnamon was kept secret by early merchants, some falsely believed the spice to be native to China. This explains why some languages refer to cinnamon as a Chinese export, for example darcheen (دارچین‎) in Persian translates literally to “Chinese tree”! The word for cinnamon in Turkish “tarçın”, and in Kurdish “darçîn”, are derived from Persian, too.

10. Cinnamon is a staple in Arab and Persian cuisines. It is an element in the Persian spice blend called Advieh (ادویه‎), used in a delicious Lebanese couscous dish called Moghrabieh (مغربية) which literally translates to “a dish from the Maghreb”, and several other dishes!

Fascinated by the etymology and culture surrounding cinnamon? ? Or know someone who would be? Dive deeper into it with NaTakallam’s Language Sessions or give the Gift of Conversation this holiday season to loved ones. Available in Arabic, Armenian, English, French, Kurdish, Persian, and Spanish.

5 ways to express “thank you” in Spanish

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

“Bienvenido/a”! The holidays are (almost) here! As we enter the season of giving and gratitude, let us explore 5 ways of expressing gratitude in Spanish.

1. Gracias (grah-see-ahs)

The most common way to say “thank you” in Spanish can be used anywhere and anytime: from when you receive your “café con leche” at a cafe to when you thank someone for holding the door open. You can also add “muchas” in front of the word to give “many” thanks to someone in all Spanish-speaking countries. Added bonus: try to roll the “r” in the word to sound like a local!

A simple response to this would be “de nada” meaning “you’re welcome” or, literally “from nothing”.

2. (Estoy) Muy agradecido/a (ehs-toy muy agra-de-cido/a)

This is a lovely way to say “(I’m) very grateful” – a more polite version of “thank you so much”. The adjective “agradecido” is translated as “grateful”, and prefacing it with “estoy muy…” will earn you bonus points. Remember to modify masculine “agradecido” to “agradecida” if you’re speaking to a female!

3. Eres un sol (eres un sol)

This is slang-Spanish so make sure to read the room first! “Eres un sol” literally means “you are a sunshine” and by calling this person “the sun” or “sunshine” you are thanking them for something. For example, if you give your Spanish-speaking friend a gift, you may receive a flattering “eres un sol”, similar to the English endearment “you’re a doll”.

4. Eres recapo/a (eres reh-capo/a)

Anyone looking to head to Argentina once travel eases again? This is a term used by Argentines to mean “You’re the best” when you want to go beyond just “gracias”.

Did you know, the “acento argentino” or Argentine accent of Spanish is influenced by Italian, due to large waves of Italian immigration to Argentina in the 19th & 20th centuries? You may even hear Argentinians use the word “chao”, to mean “bye” – derived from the Italian “ciao”!

5. Te la/lo debo (te la/lo de-bo)

Spanish for “I owe you” – instead of responding with a simple “gracias” if your friend buys you tickets to see “un partido de fútbol”, or “a football game”, you can say “te la/lo debo” to let them know you got them next time.

Now, want to put these tips into practice? “¡Vámonos!” Let’s go…

Book a language session herewith one of our native Spanish language partners or gift a conversation here, to a loved one – near or far.

5 ways to say “thank you” in Arabic

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

Ahlan (أهلا, hello)! Last week, our blog explored 5 ways of saying “thank you” in Spanish. This week, let us dive into 5 different ways of expressing gratitude in Arabic.

Although each country in the MENA region has its own colloquial dialect, ‘aammiya (عامية), here are 5 ways to say “thank you” that can be understood almost anywhere in the region.

1. Shukran (شكراً)

Shukran is used in all Arabic-speaking countries, in both formal and informal settings, and is understood widely among speakers of all dialects of Arabic. It comes from the root verb shakara (شكر) meaning “to thank”. As a common response, you may hear al-’awfoo (العفو) or ‘af-waan (عفواً) which literally means “forgive/pardon”, and is the equivalent of “you’re welcome” or “no problem” in English.

2. Tislam/Tislami (تسلم/تسلمي)

Heard mostly throughout the Levant and parts of the Gulf, this phrase comes from the root verb salama (سلم) meaning “to come out safe/healthy”. It can be used when a friend or family member gives you something or does something nice for you.

Add ideyk (إيديك – to a male) or ideyki (إيديكي – to a female) to the end of the phrase and you will quite literally say “may your hands enjoy health” – a way of thanking the person who gave you something.

3. Mamnoun(t)ak/ek (ممنونك/ممنونتك)

Mamnountak/ek (female speaker) or mamnounak/ek (male speaker), is used throughout the Levantine region to say “thank you” or to mean “I’m grateful to you”.

If you’ve got this down, you know some Persian, too! This Arabic loanword, mamnoun (ممنون), which is gender-neutral in Persian, is commonly used to say “thank you” by Persian speakers as well. Watch out this space to learn more about expressing gratitude in Persian!

4. Ya‘tik al-‘afiya (يعطيك العافية)

Literally translating to “may [God] give you health” this phrase is said in recognition and appreciation of someone’s hard work. In response, you may hear Allah y-a‘fik, which also means “may God bless you with good health”. It is also used in the Levant as a way to say “hi” when entering a shop, acknowledging and praising the fact that the people attending you are working hard.

Caution: in Moroccan Darija dialect, ‘afiya means fire, so please be careful while using this phrase in Morocco!

 5. Yekather khairak/ek (يكثر خيرك)

An abbreviated version of the saying “I wish [that God] increases your welfare”, this phrase can be a way of saying “thank you so much for helping me” across the Arab world. Khair (خير) is the noun meaning “good” often heard as bekhair (بخير, well) when responding to the question “How are you?”

These are a few ways to express gratitude in Arabic. This holiday season, learn more about the subtleties of the Arabic language and culture with NaTakallam’s language partners! Sign up for sessions here. Offer the gift of conversation to loved ones, near or far, here!

5 Spanish Words With Arabic Origins

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

We have all learned and witnessed how languages evolve over time and geography. The roots of a language are often tied to their region of origin, their birthplace so to speak. The European Romance languages such as French, Spanish and Italian evolved from Latin while the Semitic languages such as Arabic, Amharic and Hebrew all originated in the modern day Middle East.

That said, languages are full of complexity, often interacting in dynamic and organic ways. For instance, when traveling through Spain, it is near impossible to avoid local vocabulary and names derived from… Arabic! The influence of Arabic on Spanish language (and culture!) largely originates from Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula between 711 and 1492 AD.

Because the origins of words can be fascinating… Here are our top 5 Spanish words borrowed from Arabic!

1. Almohada / المخدة

Has indoor time and chilly fall weather got you snuggling up more these days? Spanish speakers owe their good night’s sleep to Arabic! Almohada comes from المخدة (al-mikhadda), meaning cushion or pillow – and potentially one of our favorite quarantine objects. And it inspired Palestinian writer Mourid Barghouti’s beautiful poem.

2. Jirafa / زرافة

According to Oxford Languages, the earliest recorded origin of the word “giraffe” – “girafe” in French” and “jirafa” in Spanish – is actually from Arabic, زرافة (“zarafa)”, which roughly translates to “fast walker” – nothing to do with its height nor its distinctively long neck!

3. Mezquino / مسكين

Did you know the Spanish word “mezquino” meaning “stingy” or “petty” is derived from Arabic’s مسكين (miskeen) meaning “poor” or “miserly”? ¡Si! The Arabic word itself is a loanword from Akkadian, the oldest known Semitic language, spoken in ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq).

4. Ojalá / إن شاء الله

Ojalá”, which means “hopefully” or “let’s hope so”, comes from the Arabic phrase “inshallah” (إِنْ شَاءَ اَللَّه), which means “God-willing” and is also used in Arabic to reflect the hope that something will happen. Nowadays, it is used by all Arabic speakers, regardless of faith groups.

5. Barrio / بري

The word “barrio”, meaning neighborhood, actually originates from the Arabic word “بري” (barriy) which refers to the outside or the exterior. This year we’ve definitely learned to love and value both barrio and بري a whole lot more than earlier!

Fascinated by etymology and languages? Look no further. With NaTakallam, pick up Spanish and/or Arabic with our native tutors from displaced and refugee backgrounds! Sign up here.

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