10 Fun Facts about Cinnamon

There’s more to cinnamon than being the perfect holiday spice. Once a prized gift for monarchs and reportedly worth 15x more in value than silver, here are some fun facts proving cinnamon’s history is as rich as its flavor!

1. Cinnamon’s broad range of uses made it invaluable in Ancient Egypt: preserving meat through the winter, treating sore throats, and it was even used as a perfume throughout the embalming process!

2. Cinnamon was an Arab merchant’s best-kept secret! To maintain their monopoly on the spice, they came up with quite the range of stories about their supply source…  

Apparently the 5th century B.C. Greek historian Herodotus recalled people leaving large pieces of ox meat under birds nests, believing large birds carried cinnamon sticks from unreachable mountain tops.


(A concoction of cinnamon, cardamom, and olive oil was used as perfume in Ancient Egypt, maybe even by Cleopatra! via: Daily Mail)

3. Zakaria al-Qazwini – a Persian author and physician of Arab descent – is thought to be the first to mention that the spice is native to Sri Lanka, in his work “آثار البلاد و أخبار العباد” (“Monument of Places and History of God’s Bondsmen”) around 1270.

4. Spanish explorer Gonzalo Pizarro set out to the Amazon hoping to find “pais de la canela” or “cinnamon country” after Christopher Columbus falsely claimed he found cinnamon in the “New World”.


5. Eventually, the Dutch rule over Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka) monopolized the cinnamon trade for over 200 years!


6. There are two types of cinnamon we know and love today. You probably use cassia cinnamon for your holiday sweets. It’s primarily produced in Vietnam, China and Indonesia – and is the affordable variant. 

But if you want to splurge on true cinnamon, Cinnamomum verum, still produced in Sri Lanka is the way to go! It’s the preferred cinnamon choice in Central America, South America and South Asia and offers 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 “κιννάμωμον” (kinnámōmon), via Latin and medieval French. The Ancient Greek term itself is borrowed from a Phoenician word, said to be related to the Hebrew “קינמון‎” (qinnāmōn). In turn, this Hebrew name may come from the Sri Lankan source of the spice, since cinnamon in Singhalese is “kurundu”.

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

9. Interestingly, since the source of cinnamon was kept secret by early Arab 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 “دارچین‎” (daarcheen) in Persian translates literally to “Chinese tree”! (PS. The Turkish word for cinnamon,“tarçın”, and Kurdish “darçîn”, are derived from the Persian, too!)

10. Cinnamon is one of the staple spices used particularly in Arab and Persian cuisines. It’s an element of the Persian spice blend called “ادویه‎” (advieh), as well as used in the delicious Lebanese couscous dish “moghrabieh”, meaning “a dish from the Maghreb”, among others!

Fascinated by the culture and history of word translations and etymologies? Or know someone who is?

Dive deeper with NaTakallam’s Conversation Sessions or give the Gift of Conversation this holiday season to loved ones. Available in Arabic, Persian, Kurdish, French, and Spanish.

5 ways to express “thank you” in Spanish

“Bienvenido/a”! Our blog post last week highlighted 5 ways to say “thank you” in Arabic.

This time: It’s all about Español!

1. Gracias (grah-see-ahs)

The most common way to say “thank you” in Spanish can be used anywhere and anytime: from receiving your “café con leche” at the cafe or thanking someone for holding the door open! You can also add “muchas” in front of the word to give “many” thanks to someone throughout all Spanish speaking countries. 

A simple response to this would be “de nada” meaning, you’re welcome, or quite 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 for you” a politer version of “thank you so much”. The adjective “agradecido” is translated as “grateful”, and preceding 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’re 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 term of endearment “You’re a doll!”

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

Anyone looking to head to Argentina once lockdowns ease up? 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 “partido de fútbol” or “a football match”, you can say “te la/lo debo”, to let them know you got them next time! 

Now, want to put your motivation into action?

“¡Vámonos!” Lets go… Book a conversation session, here,  with one of our native Spanish conversation partners or gift a conversation, here, to a loved one near or far!

5 ways to say thank you in Arabic

The holidays are (almost) here! As the US kicks off Thanksgiving weekend (next week), and we enter the season of giving and thanks, we’re exploring the many ways of giving thanks in Arabic.

Although each country has its own colloquial dialect (عامية) or “‘aammiya”, these 5 ways to say “thank you” can be almost universally understood throughout the MENA region.

1. شكراً (Shukran)

Shukran is used in all Arabic-speaking countries, in both formal and informal settings, and understood widely among all tongues of Arabic language speakers. It comes from the root verb “شكر” “shakara” meaning “to thank”. A common response? You may hear العفو (“al-’awfoo”) or عفوا (“’af-waan”) which literally means “to forgive/pardon”, and is the equivalent to “don’t mention it” or “no problem”.

2. تسلم/تسلمي (Tislam/Tislami)

Heard most commonly throughout the Levant and parts of the Gulf – this phrase comes from the root verb “سلم” or “salama” meaning “to come out safe/healthy”. It can be used if a friend or family member does something nice for you!

Add إيديك/ي or “ideyk/i” to this phrase’s end to quite literally say “may your hands enjoy health” a way of thanking the hands that give you something!

3. ممنونك/ممنونتك (Mamnoun(t)ak/ek)

Pronounced “mamnountak/ek” from a female speaker, and “mamnounak/ek” from a male speaker, you may hear this throughout the Levant region as a way to say “thank you” or “I’m grateful to you”. 

If you’ve got this down, you know some Persian too! This Arabic loanword, “mamnoun” or “ممنون” is commonly used for “thank you” by Persian speakers as well!

4. يعطيك العافية (Ya‘tik al-‘afiya)

Literally translating to “may [God] give you health,” this is a recognition of someone’s hard work and allows you to show your appreciation. You may hear the reply “Allah y-afik” also meaning (May God bless you with good health) in response. 

FYI – In Moroccan Darija, “‘afiya” means fire, so please be cautious in Morocco as this phrase will be taken the wrong way!

 5. يكثر خيرك (Yekather Khairak/ek)

A shorthand version of the fuller sentence meaning “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 when someone asks “How are you?”.

While this is just a sampler, NaTakallam’s conversation partners can surely tell you more about the subtleties of Arabic. 

Sign up for sessions here! Offer the gift of conversation to loved ones, near or far, here!

5 ways to change the world – even under lockdown

Lockdown, round 2? 

Believe it or not, that act of staying indoors—in itself—is saving lives. 

As we continue to experience pressure these days – worrying news worldwide, anxiety about an even greater winter Covid-wave and, getting used to remote work (again) – something remains unchanged: the aspiration to make a difference.

Here are our – non-exhaustive – suggestions of 5 great ways to change the world from home.

1. Support worthwhile causes


While many of us are taking a financial toll due to the new restrictions, others are fortunate to be able to continue working from home, business (almost) as usual. If you’ve saved cash from skipping restaurants or shopping, consider donating to cause or browsing the web for holiday gifts with a cause.

There are plenty of phenomenal organizations to choose from, and many have lost funding due to a shift towards covid-related initiatives.

→ CharityWatch provides a topic-based list.

2. Grow your own urban balcony garden

Grow your own urban balcony garden. Pollution in many areas under full lockdown went down earlier this year, so while we breathe cleaner air, the climate crisis continues to threaten the survival of hundreds of species – including our own.

Growing an urban garden will allow you to get in touch with nature, its rhythm, cycles, feeling part of something bigger than yourself. Your balcony will look even greater, and might even come in handy for a bit of cooking! You’ll also reap benefits to your mood and productivity!

3. Get inspired by a talk or podcast!


Everyone loves a good podcast, TED Talk or other. Get cozy, and get inspired.

In line with our mission to support displaced persons, here’s a selection of powerful refugee and displacement related content (and a few uplifting ones!).

Are We There Yet? by The American Life, to hear what it’s truly like in refugee camps in Greece

Let’s Help Refugees Thrive, Not Just Survive by Melissa Fleming, real talk more relevant today than ever

Border(less) by Kerning Cultures, on navigating Europe’s elusive borders as refugees

→ The Surprising Science of Happiness by Dan Gilbert, when you need a ~scientific~ reason to 🙂

How to Make Stress your Friend by Kelly McGonigal, when you have overwhelming days.


4. Take advantage of online courses, especially those in social change and impact!


5. Boost your language learning skills 🙂

NaTakallam generic banner

We will be honest: our mission is to support refugees and their host communities worldwide. We would love for you to consider learning a new language while supporting our incredible refugee tutors, teachers, and translators.

Travel the world through your screen with NaTakallam, make a new friend, practice a language!

Click here to learn Arabic, French, Kurdish, Persian, or Spanish!

* * * * *

And if you’re able to… stay home! Flatten the curve, protect yourself and those around you. Above all, stay positive 🙂

Which global leaders speak more than one language?

Election fever is at an all-time high… but have we ever stopped to think about the languages candidates speak?

Sure, Pete put multilingualism in the spotlight during his time running for the primaries… but how do our current runners fare?


With US elections less than a week away, we’re looking both back in history and ahead to see which US Presidents were bilingual – or even polyglots – and how other global leaders fare.


While one would assume world leaders need to speak multiple languages to handle  diplomatic relations and enhance ties abroad, only 20 out of 45 (44%) US presidents spoke a second language. The most multilingual of all US Presidents was allegedly President John Quincy Adams – reportedly fluent in seven other languages: French, Dutch, Russian, Latin, Greek, Italian and German. 


President Thomas Jefferson was known for speaking Spanish, but he also studied French, Italian, Latin and Greek, while his library reportedly included Arabic and Welsh dictionaries. Sadly, there has not been a bilingual US president since Franklin D. Roosevelt.


Today, some of the most well-known leaders of English speaking countries – the United States, Australia and New Zealan – are monolingual, even though Jacinda Ardern, from New Zealand, apparently wishes she had learned Maori.


Some famous monolingual world leaders

1. Donald Trump (USA) – English

2. Xi Jinping (China) – Mandarin

3. Scott Morrison (Australia) – English

4. Alberto Fernandez (Argentina) – Spanish

5. Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil) – Brazilian Portuguese

6. Andrés Manuel López Obrador (Mexico) – Spanish

7. Yoshihide Suga (Japan) – Japanese

8. Abdel Fatteh el-Sisi (Egypt) – Arabic

9. Jacinda Ardern (New Zealand) – English (wishes she had learned Maori)


At NaTakallam, our experience has shown us that learning a language doesn’t stop at syntax. Learning a language provides much more than words – it opens doors to new cultures, builds empathy, and fosters intercultural understanding. Multilingualism can provide an avenue for conflict prevention and diplomacy, helping avoid misunderstandings, and perhaps even prevent wars and conflict from escalating.


Multilingual world leaders are of course not without fault, but here’s a look at the panoply today: 


Some famous multilingual world leaders

1. Emmanuel Macron (France) – French, English, German

2. Angela Merkel (Germany) – German, English, Russian

3. Boris Johnson (UK)- English, Latin, French, Italian – (we were surprised too!)

4. Pedro Sanchez (Spain) – Spanish, English, French

5. Sahle Work-Zewde (Ethiopia) – Amharic, French, English

6. Vladimir Putin (Russia) – Russian, German and a little English (we specify – a little…)

7. Ursula von der Leyen (President of the European Commission) – German, French, English

8. Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa) – English, Afrikaans, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Ndebele, Isizulu, Setswana, Sepedi, IsiXhosa

9. Giuseppe Conte (Italy) – Italian, English

10. King Abdullah II (Jordan) – Arabic, English


Studies have shown that learning a foreign language directly correlates to the learner’s ability to empathize with and enhance understanding towards the speakers of that language and subsequently, their culture. Bilingualism or even, multilingualism fosters cross-cultural connection to the benefit of everyone involved. Language learner Katie Santamaria, emphasizes that, “Understanding each other’s intricacies [..] is an opportunity that shouldn’t go to waste.”


In an increasingly divided world, cultural understanding and respect destroy the walls our world leaders try (and fail at) building.


In a recent debate, Biden surprised us all with his appropriately sarcastic use of the famous “Inchallah” – which means God Willing in allusion to Trump sharing his tax records… one day. As for Trump himself, his Spanish skills are just great. 🙂 


Given what the world’s looking like, this election season, we’re offering any president or presidential candidate a bundle of 10 Free NaTakallam sessions ;). Send us an email with your special request at info@natakallam.com!


Yalla, what are you waiting for? After all… ❝If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.❞‒Nelson Mandela

5 Spanish words with Arabic origins

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, 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 five 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 Marghouti’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”, 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.

Five years later: Important updates from NaTakallam

In 2015, NaTakallam happened.

Happened, because we identified two critical gaps: a lack of affordable ways to practice Arabic from abroad and an absence of ways for millions of Syrians fleeing war into Lebanon to access a livelihood. We connected some dots, thus planting the seeds for NaTakallam.

Five years later, NaTakallam, a language services platform powered by individuals from displaced and host community backgrounds through the digital economy, is on track to hit its goal of a cumulative disbursement of $1,000,000 USD  to its instructors and translators.

They are based in 30+ different countries, speak a combined 20+ languages and dialects, and since 2015, have worked with over 10,000 individuals and organizational clients. Clients include the private sector to NGOs, classrooms of 8-year old children in Kentucky, USA, to humanitarian aid workers in places like Sudan or Bangladesh.

As founders, our backgrounds in humanitarian affairs, human rights, and economic development, helped us identify an opportunity where traditional business leaders may not have seen one. Learning the ways of doing business in this environment has been a steep curve. But today, we better understand the rapidly evolving social entrepreneurship ecosystem. We do believe that social impact and market-based solutions can create beautiful things together. While the sector is still young, developing and complex, one thing consistently stands out: a drive for sustainability.  

As we continue to grow, NaTakallam is getting closer to our goal to become independent from external funds and becoming fully self-sustainable. We can do so by continuing to generate revenue from our core activities, selling quality, curated language services. NaTakallam is fortunate to have an opportunity to do this – to leave external funds and donations to those NGOs on the ground doing incredible, needed humanitarian work on the ground that simply cannot become revenue-generating. 

At the precipice of NaTakallam’s self-sustainability, we would like to acknowledge the improvements our team has delivered over the years, including:

• A fresh new website – to be launched next month
• Training, upskilling and community building – investing time and money in our refugee and host community instructors and translators to ensure they are well equipped to deliver the highest quality professional services  
• An upcoming brand-new user platform – enabling more seamless scheduling, booking, tracking  
• Enhanced customer service – we have more hands on deck to answer your needs and troubleshoot any issues more smoothly
• Continuing to serve those in hard to reach areas – notably, Lebanon, whose recent crisis has rendered payment processing and disbursements all the more difficult.

More and more refugees and displaced persons rely on NaTakallam for financial security. As we continue to improve our services to both those we support and those to whom we provide paid services, so too does our commitment to remaining sustainable. 

Each translation service we sell contributes directly to refugee livelihoods.
Each classroom we visit fosters empathy and cross-border understandings.
Each language lesson held helps show the role of technology and digital innovation in an otherwise slightly antiquated humanitarian and bureaucratic system.

After careful consideration and to honor our goal towards self-sustainability, we wanted to share that as of November 1st, 2020,  pricing for NaTakallam’s conversation session will increase as follows: 

•  $25 for 1 hour 
•  $95 for our 5 hour-bundle ($19/session)
•  $160 for our 10 hour-bundle ($16/session)

This will have a significant impact on our team’s ability to carry out our mission to improve the lives of thousands more refugees and their host communities while building bridges worldwide.

*If you want to continue benefitting from our current pricing, you can renew your package or buy several in bulk until the end of October 2020. As we want to ensure that our services remain accessible and affordable to non-profit and educational partners, please get in touch with our team directly for customizable group offerings.

Pricing for our Integrated Curriculum, as well as our Academic Programs and Translation and Interpretation services, remain unchanged.

We look forward to continuing to work with you, and thank you for your support and belief in our mission over the years.

With gratitude, love, as well as peace in all languages,

Aline, Reza and the entire NaTakallam team

A year later…

Credit: Nouri Flayhan

On October 17 2019, the Lebanese poured into the streets to demand accountability, justice, and dignity. The October Revolution was born.

A year later, Lebanon is grappling with an economic crisis beyond imagination, amidst the political instability, ongoing refugee crisis (Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees per capita in the world), the pandemic and aftermath of the August 4th explosion.

To support Lebanese on the ground, NaTakallam launched the Lebanese dialect last March. Get inspired and hear from one of our Lebanese conversation partners, Sally, on what the work means to her, especially during these times.

Looking to support Lebanese? Spread the word about NaTakallam’s language sessions, available for all ages + levels! We offer translation and interpretation services, too.

Or know Lebanese in the country looking for work? Send them our way if they have a solid language and/or translation background!

Yalla! What are you waiting for? Click here to learn the authentic spoken Lebanese dialect online by native Lebanese in Lebanon! Available for beginners and advanced.



Tarek: From Lebanon to Turkey

Meet Tarek, who joined NaTakallam in 2017

NaTakallam is my second family and every person I’ve talked to has an inspiring story. I learn from them – their lives, background, culture – as they learn from me. Many of my students became my friends and some were able to come to visit me in person which was such a great thing to happen! I can’t imagine my life now without NaTakallam. 

My story began when I arrived in Beirut on August 4th, 2016. I had the chance to study graphic design which I was dreaming of and I enjoyed living there. But it was is temporary because the moment I completed my studies, it would be illegal for me to stay. Four years later, on August 4th, 2020, I went to the general security office to check my residency and they gave me a paper instructing me to leave the country within 5 days… My residency wasn’t renewed because I graduated during the COVID lockdown. Later that day, the Beirut blast happened, 1.5 km away from where I lived. I thought I was going to die.

I couldn’t stand seeing the beautiful city I lived in for 4 years being destroyed. I decided to go to Turkey. It was the only and fastest option, and my brother has lived there since 2015 and I hadn’t seen him since. But the waiting period in Lebanon was stressful. I was afraid of being asked for my (expired) residency at any moment and risked being jailed with the possibility of being sent back to Syria.

A month after the blast, I arrived in Istanbul on September 4th. I hope to stay safe here for a while until I apply for a masters degree somewhere in Europe.


Noor: From Biologist to University Tutor

Meet Noor, who joined NaTakallam in 2016

NaTakallam is a gate that opens up the whole world. I made lots of memories and friends while teaching with NaTakallam. For example, one of my learners, Gina, has become my best friend and she has even visited me here in Italy. Through NaTakallam and Gina, I also had the opportunity to work as a translator with the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP).

During the quarantine period, all my students texted and called me, making sure I was fine in Italy – especially in the early days of the pandemic. I’m blessed to be a part of such a great family at NaTakallam.

This October, I am thrilled to start working at IULM University. During my interview, they asked for an Arabic language certificate but as I’m a native Arabic speaker, NaTakallam wrote a recommendation letter telling them that I have been working with NaTakallam and teaching students, including university students, and that I had been trained by Professor Munther Younes, Director of the Arabic Department at Cornell University.


Tawfic: From Languages to Data Science


Meet Tawfic, who joined NaTakallam in 2018

Two years ago, when my asylum claim got rejected, I felt hopeless. My right to work got revoked. I was at the edge of losing my rented room. Those were dark days of limbo that I hope that nobody experiences. It was then that my partner told me about NaTakallam. I always loved languages and so I applied for the opportunity. I was aiming for a reliable income to support myself while waiting for my papers. Through NaTakallam, not only did I achieve that goal, but also, it changed my life forever.

I met amazing people through NaTakallam, from different countries and cultural backgrounds, many of whom became good friends that I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life. I have learnt a lot from them. I also obtained valuable skills that helped build my career through different opportunities that NaTakallam offered. I learned the ability to work in a multicultural environment, an important prerequisite for many workplaces. NaTakallam prepared me for work in (future) multinational organizations.

NaTakallam’s flexible working hours also gave me the opportunity to study Data Science online for two years and get experience and certificates in various fields. Once my papers were sorted, I could apply for my dream job which merged my passion for languages, which evolved even further at NaTakallam, and data science, which I could study. I began a new career that I was always dreaming of and am now working towards a more certain future.

This is a very rare opportunity during the pandemic, as many people are struggling to keep their current employment, let alone to advance. For that, I am indebted to and grateful for this amazing organization that literally changed my life forever.

* * *

At NaTakallam, language is life-saving.
Tell your friends and family about our language learning, your colleagues about our organizational offers such as translation, and let’s continue to change the world through language and culture.


In our modern era of clickbait headlines and 280 character debate, refugees, like so many other marginalized communities, often suffer from negative stereotyping and popular misconceptions. As part of our commitment to promoting more understanding, truth-based discussions and helping reshape the narrative around refugee populations, it is essential to unpack the facts from the fiction.

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

This World Refugee Month, NaTakallam hopes that employers and communities around the world will use this time to better understand the rich contribution refugees can offer their cities and places of work.

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. If successful, it 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 many skilled refugees who are often stuck in limbo, cut off from the local labor market, in camps, or in other transit circumstances, where each session contributes directly to their livelihoods.

Sources: UNCHR and Roads to Refugee

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

Fact: Over 80% of displaced persons are in countries neighboring the conflict from which they fled.

Contrary to common belief and loaded headlines, only a small fraction of resettled refugees are hosted in developed countries. More often they are forced into limbo states, with no legal residency or work status.

NaTakallam works predominantly with displaced people who have fled to developing countries, neighboring the conflict from which they fled. Top host countries include Turkey, Pakistan, and Uganda, as well as Lebanon (which hosts more refugees per capita than any other country, according to UNHCR).

Sources: UNHCR and WEF

Myth 3: Refugees are mostly adult males.

Fact: More than half the world’s refugees are under 18.

Most refugees are not men. According to UNHCR, there are around 13 million child refugees, but less than one million seeking asylum. Additionally, 17 million children are forcibly displaced within their country of origin. This demographic breakdown holds true for almost every regional crisis and is a significant concern as contemporary child migration is often inhumane, disregarded, and usually unregulated.

Source(s): UNCHR and UN.

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 are not just for casual scrolling through social media, instead they offer the ability to access essential and potentially life-saving information such as where to get food, how to find shelter, applying for financial aid, or even earning a livelihood through virtual work. Smartphones are so important to refugees’ lives that they often spend up to a third of their disposable income just to stay connected.

In the era of what some have dubbed “the connected refugee,” NaTakallam can provide income opportunities to refugees, to work as language tutors, teachers and translators for users all around the world. 

Sources: WEF Forum and Forbes.

Myth 5: Most refugees live in camps.

Fact: Over 60% of refugees live in urban areas.

Contrary to the frequent images of sprawling refugee camps in media outlets, over 60% of refugees live in urban areas. This has presented a new set of challenges: resources are often less concentrated, humanitarian assistance less plentiful and individuals can more easily miss vital information and aid.

NaTakallam works with displaced persons in both urban areas and refugee camps – which is made possible because of how we leverage technology.

Sources: UN Refugees, UNHCR, World Refugee Council and The Brookings Institute.

Myth 6: Refugee influxes ruin economies.

Fact: Studies show that refugees can be positive fiscal contributors.

The notion that admitting refugees will ruin a host country’s economy is rooted in false economic ideas. Over time, refugees 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 addition, immigrants tend to have higher entrepreneurial activity compared to natives, with studies finding that two-thirds of US GDP expansion since 2011 can be directly attributed to migration – an economic development trend also observed in Europe and the Middle East.

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

Sources: UN, Immigration Forum and University of Oxford.

Myth 7: The largest refugee camp is a Syrian camp in Jordan.

Fact: The Kutupalong Rohingya camp in Bangladesh is the world’s largest refugee camp.

While not receiving much global media coverage, Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh hosts over 860,000 Rohingya refugees fleeing ethnic and religious persecution – making it the largest refugee camp in the world, since 2017. Followed by Bidi Bidi camp in Uganda with a population of over 230,000 refugees, and Dadaab camp in Kenya with over 200,000 refugees.

In comparison, the largest Syrian camp, Zaatari refugee camp, located in Jordan, is home to over 77,000 refugees – 11 times fewer refugees than that of Kutupalong camp. 

Sources: UNHCR, Africa Center and UNHCR Data

Myth 8: Most refugees are from the Middle East.

Fact: The largest groups of refugees are from Venezuela, Syria & Afghanistan.

While refugee flows from the Middle East have captured most media attention in recent years, unfortunately conflict and persecution know no bounds. In 2020, 5.5 million Syrian refugees made up ~25% of the global refugee population. Meanwhile, Venezuela continues to battle one of the largest non-war displacement crisis, with over 5 million people forced to flee economic, political, and humanitarian disaster over the last two years. In addition, many often overlooked countries actually top the list, such as Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Eritrea.  

Sources: UN, Statista, The Brookings Institute, UNHCR, and World Vision.

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.” Recent research from the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) 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 company with global operations. Furthermore, in the Tent Partnership for Refugees report, many businesses hiring refugees claimed that employee turnover rates were much lower among refugee employees than the general population – thus, saving businesses a lot of money. This finding was further backed by FPI across all industries and sectors.

Sources: UN, Fiscal Policy Institute and 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’s hosting refugees in your home or community, raising awareness or supporting refugee-centered companies, you have the power to make meaningful differences aside from financial donations.

And if you’re looking to directly support refugee livelihoods, consider bringing NaTakallam into your home, classroom or office setting, for your language-learning, cultural exchange or translation needs. All services are delivered by skilled refugee and displaced tutors, teachers and translators, and each session contributes directly to refugee livelihoods, at a time when they might be cut off from the local labor market, in camps, or in other transit circumstances.