5 Reasons Why Language Learning Boosts Your Mental Health

Reading Time: 5 minutes

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to highlight the profound impact of mental well-being practices. We know that #mentalhealthmatters  – the hashtag has over 13 million posts on Instagram! As a language learning and cultural exchange social enterprise, powered by the talents of displaced and conflict-affected individuals, we believe in the transformative power of language learning — not just as a cognitive exercise but as a vital tool for enhancing mental health. Let’s explore how learning and teaching languages can benefit both learners and educators.

The Mental Health Benefits of Language Learning

Language learning offers numerous mental health advantages. It can significantly reduce stress, alleviate social anxiety, boost self-esteem, and improve problem-solving skills. According to research, it even delays the onset of dementia, making it a powerful tool for cognitive health.

1. Enhancing Focus and Reducing Stress & Anxiety

When you’re focusing on a specific task, it relaxes the nervous system. Learning a new skill gives us a sense of purpose and growth. A team of Harvard researchers found evidence that active learning is actually a more effective stress management technique than passive relaxation.

 2. Combating Depression

Practicing a new language can help distract from negative thoughts and help you feel less isolated. The practice enables you to build social connections, and provide manageable goals, all of which are crucial in combating symptoms of depression.

3. Overcoming Social Anxiety

Language learning helps individuals deal with mistakes and learn how to respond to feedback. By practicing speaking with a language partner, you develop and strengthen social skills. In time, you will become more comfortable meeting new people. Still afraid to speak your target language? Try some of these tips

4. Boosting Self-Esteem

Achieving proficiency in a new language provides a sense of accomplishment that enhances self-worth.

5. Delaying Cognitive Decline

Language learning helps delay mental decline like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Studies suggest that it can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s by up to four years!

“A different language is a different vision of life.”

Frederico Fellini

The Unique Role of Refugee Teachers

NaTakallam’s refugee tutors play a crucial role, not only in educating others but also in benefiting themselves through the process of teaching. Here’s how language teaching aids their mental health and integration:

1. Self-Confidence and Empowerment

Teaching their native language allows refugee tutors to regain a sense of agency and self-worth. They feel empowered as they share their knowledge and cultural heritage with others.

2. Building Social Connections

By engaging with learners, refugee teachers build meaningful relationships, reducing feelings of isolation and fostering a sense of community.

3. Easier Emotional Expression & More Accurate Diagnosis

Teaching offers a structured way for refugees to process their experiences and traumas, which can be therapeutic. Afaf Doumani, a behavioral health navigator, emphasizes the importance of communication in mental health. She notes that speaking in one’s mother tongue allows for better articulation of emotions and more accurate diagnoses.

4. Cultural Exchange and Integration

Teaching their language helps refugees integrate into their new communities by bridging cultural gaps and promoting mutual understanding.

5. Gainful employment and a Dignified Income

Through NaTakallam, displaced and conflict-affected individuals are able to gain economic and social access regardless of location and status. 60% of our Language Partners report NaTakallam as their sole source of income.

“Language at its core is centered around people. Language learning by its nature is opening doors to new experiences.”

Kinda, Arabic Language Partner from Syria with NaTakallam since 2021

A Conversation with Afaf Doumani

Afaf Doumani, a Palestinian mental health professional with extensive experience working with refugees, underscores the critical role of language in mental health. With a master’s degree in social work and a background in developmental studies, Afaf has dedicated her career to supporting displaced individuals. She recalls her motivation to study mental health after witnessing the trauma of refugees following the Syrian conflict’s influx into Toledo, Ohio in the United States.

Afaf highlights several challenges refugees face, including the stigma around mental health in their native regions and the significant language barriers that prevent them from seeking help. “Mental health relies heavily on communication—more than physical health. Articulating emotions and sharing personal experiences are crucial for accurate diagnoses,” Afaf explains.

“Language is the essence of mental health. Explaining your feelings in your mother tongue is always easier—you can speak your heart. It’s about having someone who understands your culture and can help you articulate your emotions accurately.”

Afaf Doumani

Working with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Afaf focuses on MENA populations, emphasizing the need for mental health professionals who speak the native languages of their clients. She points out that the lack of such professionals often leads to mistrust in therapy interpretation sessions, where unfamiliarity with the interpreter can hinder effective communication. “Deprivation of communication undermines their wellbeing. I’m often the only Arabic-speaking person in the mental health field helping navigate and connect them to services,” she says. 

Afaf’s efforts extend to facilitating support groups for women and children, addressing cultural barriers, and promoting the importance of seeking help. “It’s about breaking the barriers and reminding people that it’s okay to ask for help. We meet them where they are, socializing and building trust,” she emphasizes.

Restoring Dignity & Celebrating Expression Builds Trust

Language learning is a powerful tool for mental health, offering numerous benefits for learners and refugee teachers alike. As we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s recognize and embrace the dual impact of language learning: fostering cognitive and emotional well-being for learners while enabling displaced and conflict-affected teachers to express themselves, become more integrated in their communities, maintain and reaffirm their sense of dignity and unique cultural identity and build trust. 

Gain more insights and learn how to Stop Being Afraid to Speak and overcome your fear of utilizing your new language skills in our blog.

NaTakallam also offers Arabic for Professionals. This unique program created in-house by qualified Language Partners from conflict-affected backgrounds is a curriculum designed specifically for students looking to apply their Arabic language skills to their careers – from medical and humanitarian work, to journalism and business – and beyond.

Learn a language, make a friend and support the livelihoods of forcibly displaced persons – from the comfort of your home.

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the Swiss Alps, the Eiffel Tower, and a gorilla

French Slang Around the World

Reading Time: 3 minutes
the Swiss Alps, the Eiffel tower, and a gorilla--French slang around the world

In any French lesson, you’ll mostly be learning standardized French — including with NaTakallam. But one of the advantages of learning from native speakers is that you also have access to all the fun, hip expressions that rarely make it into textbooks. Here’s a smattering for your enjoyment!

 🦁 Belgium 🦁

While you might have learned that the French word for “lunch” is le déjeuner and “dinner” is le dîner, the Belgians call “lunch” le dîner and “dinner” is le souper (you might recognize the English word “supper” here). They also have different words for a couple of important numbers: “seventy” is septante instead of soixante-dix and “ninety” is nonante instead of quatre-vingt-dix.

 🍁 Canada 🍁

When a French Canadian wants to tell you to “hold on tight” — whether literally or figuratively — they might tell you to attache ta tuque! A tuque being a knitted winter hat, a rather important garment in Canada!

 🦍 Democratic Republic of Congo 🦍

Want to visit Congo’s famous wildlife parks? You’ll get extra brownie points if you remember to tell your guide merci mingi instead of merci beaucoup.

 🐘 Côte d’Ivoire 🐘

You might know the standard French word maquis, which means a kind of shrubland and, by extension, a guerilla fighter. (French Resistance fighters in World War II were often called Maquis.) However, in Côte d’Ivoire, this term has come to mean a kind of local fast eatery serving African food.

🥐 France 🥐

If you’ve spent much time in France, you probably came across some examples of verlan, a collection of French slang words characterized by swapping the letters or syllables of the standard French word they’re formed from. Examples include meuf (from femme, woman, but carrying more the sense of a “chick”); relou (from lourd, heavy, and meaning emotionally heavy or irritating); and kanri (from américain).

⚜️ French Guiana ⚜️

French Guiana is officially an overseas department of France, but being located across the ocean in South America, it understandably has developed its own vernacular! One example is djal, which means copain or copine, the French words for “boyfriend” and “girlfriend.”

🐝 French Reunion 🐝

Another overseas French department, Reunion is located in the Indian ocean and is the original source of the famed French vanilla. It too has its own unique version of French, and one lovely word you’ll hear here is dalon, which means ami — “friend.”

⛰️ Switzerland ⛰️

We’ll wrap up this world tour with Switzerland, where French is one of four official languages. Swiss French uses the same numbers as Belgium along with huitante for quatre-vingt (“eighty.”) But a more casual expression you’ll hear is Ça joue ? Which means “Is it playing?” and is the Swiss version of Ça va ? or “How’s it going?”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mikaela Bell is a freelance editor and content writer with a background in anthropology and linguistics. An American based in France, she is also fond of reading, cooking, studying languages, fibercrafts and Irish stepdance.

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Counting in French with two French counting systems:

Counting in French – Two Different Systems

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Carrie had been living in France for several years and was pretty proficient in the language, so when she and another American friend decided to take a trip to French-speaking Switzerland, she didn’t expect to have any language problems! The accent took a little getting used to, but the actual problems came when she went to make a purchase — and encountered a number she’d literally never heard before. “What on earth is…septente-trois?!” she asked.

For those who learned the “standard,” what we really ought to call “Parisian” French taught in most schools, it can be a minor shock to learn that French actually has multiple competing number systems for the 60–90 range. You probably learned to count like this:

Parisian French

If you’re new to French, no, you’re not going crazy — 70 is literally “sixty-ten.” 71 is “sixty-eleven” (soixante-onze), then “sixty-twelve” (soixante-douze), and so on until you get to 80, which is… “four-twenty.” 81 is “four-twenty-and-one” (quatre-vingt-et-un), and so on until 90, which is “four-twenty-and-ten,” then 91 is “four-twenty-eleven” (quatre-vingt-onze), up to “four-twenty-nineteen” (quatre-vingt-dix-neuf) for 99 and then, thank goodness, we’re back to a more familiar system from the moment we hit 100 until 170.

In other words, the French count by tens until they reach sixty, at which point they switch to base twenty. But wait — isn’t this the country that invented the metric system? But they don’t always count in base 10? How did that happen?

As it happens, a base-10 or decimal counting system is far from universal. Many languages all over the world use a vigesimal or base-20 counting system, including Yoruba in Africa, Mayan and Inuit in the Americas, or Ainu in Japan. It’s easy enough to see how it happens: you have ten fingers and ten toes, so why not? (A few languages actually use other systems, like base 12, base 15, or base 60, but we won’t get into that here.) Most Indo-European languages, however, use a base-10 counting system — with one notable exception: the Celtic family. Modern speakers of Welsh and Scots-Gaelic still count in base 20, though they have a decimal system that schoolchildren might learn in, for instance, a math class. (In Irish, the decimal system is used even in everyday speech.)

Linguists theorize that when the ancestors of modern Celts left the Indo-European homeland, they picked up base-20 counting from the Basques, who also count in base 20 and who used to live in a much wider area of western Europe than they do today. And that’s where this little historical linguistics lesson becomes relevant to French, because France, if you think back to ancient history classes in school, used to be a Celtic country. In the year 58 BCE, future Roman Emperor Julius Caesar looked at the Celtic lands to the north of Italy, then called “Gaul,” and decided they needed some Roman roads. His subsequent conquest of Gaul brought the future country of France new taxes, a new language, and a new counting system — because Latin, unlike the Celtic-speaking Gauls, used base 10.

Today, all languages descended from Latin, called “Romance languages,” count in base 10, as you will know if you’ve ever studied Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, or Romanian, among others. Many French speakers, however, never completely abandoned the Gaulish system of counting in base 20, even after the Gaulish language itself became extinct. Over time, however, various base-10 alternative numbers have become more or less common in different parts of the French-speaking world. So a more complete picture of the French counting system looks something like this:

trois-vingts 60 Literally “three-twenty.” This one isn’t used anywhere anymore, but it crops up frequently in French documents from a few centuries ago, so you can see that the base-20 counting pattern used to be more widespread than it is today.
soixante 60 Happily, this is the only number for “sixty” you need to know for any French-speaking country or region.
trè-vingt-dix 70 With trois-vingts gone the way of the French kings, it should be no surprise that trè-vingt-dix is hot on its heels. You may still hear it in some rural areas of eastern France near the Swiss border, but that’s about it.
soixante-dix 70 This is what you’ll hear in most of France, Canada, West Africa and sometimes in East Africa.
septante 70 This, however, is what you’ll encounter in Switzerland, large swaths of rural eastern and southern France, Belgium and former Belgian colonies in East Africa. (While West Africa was colonized by France, East Africa was colonized by Belgium, and today French speakers there might use either Belgian or French terms. Those who are closest to the institutions put in place by the Belgians are most likely to use Belgian expressions! Travel comic artist Itchy Feet did a fun strip on the topic.)
quatre-vingt 80 You get this one in most of France, Canada, Africa and Belgium — but not Switzerland.
octante 80 A lot of French people who use quatre-vingts believe that this is the word for “eighty” used in Belgium and Switzerland — the same areas that use septante and nonante. But as noted above, the Belgians actually say quatre-vingt, just like the French do, and the Swiss mostly use huitante (see below). In fact, while historical documents show that this word used to be more common, the only place you’ll hear it today is scattered parts of rural eastern France and a little bit in rural western Switzerland.
huitante 80 Huitante is the preferred word for “eighty” in Francophone Switzerland, though you might occasionally hear it in some rural areas of southeastern France and southern Belgium. You’ll also hear some variations such as utante and otante.
quatre-vingt-dix 90 This is the word you’ll hear in most of France, Canada and West Africa. Some people in East Africa also use it.
nonante 90 This is used in pretty much the same places you’ll hear septante: Switzerland, Belgium, East Africa and rural areas of France along the eastern and southern borders and coastline.

So, there you have it! And you thought at least learning to count would be easy! The good news is that the system used in most of France and taught in most textbooks — the one that appears in the first table up above — is understood pretty much everywhere, so if you ever decide to take a trip to Switzerland, don’t worry that they won’t be able to understand you! Just brush up on your Latin roots (remember, sept means “seven,” which should be a clue if you come across septante) and be prepared to ask if you come across a number you don’t recognize. You’ll most likely get a good-natured laugh, and the person will be happy to either “translate” it for you or write it down!


Not sure why you should be learning French? Here are five solid reasons! Or maybe you want to learn a few different way to say hello in French? How about a few ways to talk about love? Otherwise, check out this list of French words that made their way from Arabic!

Finally, want to practice your French while making a social impact? Sign up here to kick-start your language journey with NaTakallam. Based on your language-learning needs and aspirations, you’ll be paired up with one of our fantastic, native-speaking Language Partners from displaced backgrounds. Make a friend for life AND discover a new culture. On y va!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mikaela Bell is a freelance editor and content writer with a background in anthropology and linguistics. An American based in France, she is also fond of reading, cooking, studying languages, fibercrafts and Irish stepdance.

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11 Ways to Say Hello in French

Reading Time: 5 minutesOne of the first things we are taught when starting a new language is basic greetings. Textbooks, however, often fail to introduce the variety of ways we can express a simple “Hello!” In reality, a greeting will often change depending on the time of day, the formality of the situation, and the region you are speaking in–this last is particularly true of French! Ranging from Swiss to Haitian, young to old, here are many different ways you can greet someone in French like a true native!

1. Bonjour – across the francophone world

One of the first things we are taught when starting a new language is basic greetings. Textbooks, however, often fail to introduce the variety of ways we can express a simple “Hello!” In reality, a greeting will often change depending on the time of day, the formality of the situation, and the region you are speaking in–this last is particularly true of French! Ranging from Swiss to Haitian, young to old, here are many different ways you can greet someone in French like a true native!

2. Bonsoir – across the francophone world

When broken down, bonsoir literally means “good evening” – bon equating to “good” and soir, to “evening.” As the name implies, the use of bonsoir is exclusive to evening greetings, after about 6 pm and often in more formal situations. For instance, a waiter at a restaurant may approach you at dinner with a bonsoir. The same word can be repeated back to them in response.

3. The Double Meanings of Salut and Ça va ? – across the francophone world

Some of the first greetings taught in school French classes all over the world are salut (meaning “greeting” and related to the English word “salute,” but similar in use to “hi”) and ça va ? (equivalent to “how are you?”). However, many fail to mention their other meanings.

As well as “hi,” salut is also an informal way of saying “bye.” In addition, Ça va ? is another way of saying “I’m fine.” So responding to the question of Ça va ? is very easy; just repeat it! Ça va, et toi/et vous ? (Et toi ? means “And you?”- toi is used with family or friends whereas vous is more formal)

4. Quoi de neuf? – across the francophone world

Used in casual settings, Quoi de neuf ? translates to “What’s up?” or, more literally, “What’s new?” (Note that neuf can mean both “nine” or “new” depending on its context.) This is a very common conversation starter, which has similar implications to “How are you?” Therefore, an appropriate answer, given the informality of the situation, would be Ça va (“I’m fine”).

5. Coucou – France

Without a doubt less formal than the standard bonjour, coucou is a sweet and affectionate way of saying “hi, there.” Coucou’s original meaning translates to “peek-a-boo,” and thus it’s still commonly used when greeting or playing with a child. Although not very typical among adults, many will still use it on the street and in texts or emails to greet friends.

While coucou can simply be replied back, it is also correct to respond with salut or bonjour.

6. Jourbon – France

How good would an article on French greetings be without a little verlan thrown in, just to confuse everyone? The definition of verlan can be found in its name – verlan is the inversion of l’envers, meaning “the reverse.” The essence of verlan is, thus, the act of splitting up a word according to its syllables and switching them around. For instance, if we split up bonjour and swap the two constructions together, we are left with jourbon.

Verlan was originally created as a means to maintain the confidentiality of illegal proceedings. However, it has now evolved and become a common form of slang, first used by young people living in the suburbs (banlieues) of French towns, and has now spread to most young people who continue to keep up with new terms.

7. Ciao – Switzerland

Although this greeting is often attributed to the Italian language, the French-speaking Swiss (who make up about 1.9 million of the country’s population) are also known to say ciao, meaning “hi” as well as “bye.” This greeting is widespread and very casual. The response can be the same back, or the alternative casual greeting, salut.

8. Adieu – Switzerland

Although this greeting is often attributed to the Italian language, the French-speaking Swiss (who make up about 1.9 million of the country’s population) are also known to say ciao, meaning “hi” as well as “bye.” This greeting is widespread and very casual. The response can be the same back, or the alternative casual greeting, salut.

9. Bon matin – Quebec

The dialect present in the Canadian province of Quebec retains many aspects of the French that was spoken in Paris during the 17th-18th centuries. While mainland French uses bonjour to mean both “good morning” and “good afternoon,” bon matin still exists in contemporary Québécois. The word-for-word translation of bon matin is “good morning”; bon means “good” and matin means “morning.”

10. Bonjou and Bonswa – Haitian creole

From the title of this greeting, you might notice that a special element of Haitian Creole is the strong presence of phonetic spelling, meaning that a word is often written the way it’s pronounced.

Starting with bonjou! This greeting derives from its mainland French counterpart bonjour, meaning “hello.” However, while the French bonjour is used to greet people in the morning and afternoon, in Haiti, bonjou would be applied exclusively in the morning.

Bonswa, on the other hand, would be used to greet someone in the afternoon and evening. Its mainland French alternative, bonsoir, literally translating to “good evening,” is only appropriate after sunset. A correct response to both bonjou and bonswa is simply to repeat the greeting back to the other person.

11. C’est comment? – Côte d’Ivoire

This greeting is owed to a type of Côte d’Ivoirian slang, known as Nouchi, which appeared in its capital, Abidjan, in the 1980s. When inquiring about someone’s wellbeing, you can use C’est comment? equating to “What’s up?” This is used regardless of the time of day.

Some common replies include Voilà moi, meaning “Here I am,” a directive for the other person to look at you and see for themselves. Ya foye and Il n’y a rien imply that “Everything is fine.” Alternatively, if things aren’t going too great, you can opt for C’est mou or C’est djinzin.

Anxious to try out some of these greetings? Book a session today with one of our native French Language Partners at NaTakallam and kickstart your linguistic journey. Your interest enables our skilled tutors to support themselves by passing on their knowledge, while also creating friendships beyond borders.

Sign up now! Learn a language, change a life.

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French words from Arabic

French Words That Made Their Way from Arabic

Reading Time: 4 minutes

From the Arabs of Andalusia in the 8th century, who brought immense commercial, scientific, and literary knowledge to Europe, all the way to the more recent Middle Eastern and North African migrations in the last decades, Arabic-speaking populations have had a considerable impact on the French language and culture.

French, an official language in 29 countries and one of the most-widely spoken Romance languages, has over 500 everyday words with Arabic origins (and that’s not even counting slang terms!).

If you take a close look at this list, you will also see that while these terms all entered French from Arabic, some of those Arabic words were borrowed in turn from other languages such as Greek or Sanskrit – and many of the French variants then made their way into English. Even in centuries past, the world was far more connected than we realize!

Here is our list of 35 French words that made their way from Arabic:

  1. ​​Abricot (apricot)from the Arabic word al barqūq (اَلْبَرْقُوق‎), meaning “plums,” which is itself derived from Latin praecoquum, meaning “early-ripening fruit”

  2. Alchimie (alchemy)from the Arabic word al-kīmiyā (كيمياء), derived from the Greek khemeioa which was in turn either a name for Egypt or the Greek word khymatos, meaning “that which is poured out”

  3. Alcool (alcohol)from the Arabic word al-kuhul (الكحول), meaning “darkened with kohl”, a metallic powder used as make-up to darken the eyelids, which itself comes from the Arabic “kahala” (كحل) meaning “to stain, paint” 

  4. Algorithme (algorithm)derived from the surname of 9th-century Persian mathematician Al-Khwarizmi (الْخُوَارِزْمِيّ), whose works introduced advanced mathematics to the West

  5. Algèbre (algebra) – from the Arabic word al-jabr (الجبر), meaning “reparation” or “the reunion of broken parts”

  6. Artichaut (artichoke)from the Arabic word al-khurshuf (الْخُرْشُوف‎), meaning “artichoke”

  7. Assassin (assassin)with a fascinating etymology and story, evolved from the Arabic word hashashin (حشَّاشين), meaning ‘hashish users’, derived from the word hashish (حشيش), meaning ‘grass’ or ‘[powdered] hemp’

  8. Azur (azure, shade of blue) Arabicfrom the Arabic word al-lazaward (اللازُورِدِ), meaning “lapis-lazuli”, a semi-precious stone known for its deep-blue color.

  9. Bougie (candle)taken from Béjaïa (بجاية), an Algerian city/port town where tapered hand-dipped candles were made

  10. Café (coffee) – from qahwa (قهوة), the Arabic word for “coffee”

  11. Chiffre (digit)from the Arabic word sifr (صِفر‎), meaning “empty” and, by extension, “zero”

  12. Coton (cotton) – from quṭn (قطن), the Arabic word for cotton

  13. Douane (customs) – from the Arabic word diwan (دِيوَان‎), meaning “office”

  14. Echecs (chess) – from shatranj (شطرنج), the Arabic word for chess, which is derived from the Sanskrit chaturanga, meaning “four members of an army” – elephants, horses, chariots, foot soldiers

  15. Elixir (elixir) – from the Arabic word al-ʾiksir (اَلْإِكْسِير‎), meaning elixir, which is ultimately derived from Ancient Greek xēríon (ξηρίον), meaning medicinal powder, which in turn comes from the Greek xērós (ξηρός) meaning “dry”

  16. Gazelle (gazelle) – from ḡhazaal (غَزَال‎), the Arabic word for gazelle

  17. Girafe (giraffe) from the Arabic word for giraffe, zarāfah (زرافة), meaning “fast walker”

  18. Hasard (chance) – from the Arabic word az-zahr (اَلزَّهْر‎), meaning “dice”

  19. Henné (henna) – from the Arabic word hinna’ (حِنَّاء‎), the name for the tree used to make henna

  20. Jupe (skirt) – from the Arabic word jubba (جُبَّة‎), meaning “long garment”

  21. Magasin (shop, warehouse) – from the Arabic word makhazin (مَخَازِن‎), plural of the Arabic word for “storeroom”

  22. Mesquin (petty/stingy) – from the Arabic word miskeen (مِسْكِين‎), meaning “poor”

  23. Nénuphar (waterlily) – from the Arabic word niloofar (نِلُوفَر), meaning “lotus, water-lily,” ultimately derived from Sanskrit nīlotpala (नीलोत्पल)

  24. Orange (orange) – from the Arabic word naranj (نارَنْج), which was borrowed from the Persian narang. The fruit naranj refers specifically to the bitter orange and can be traced back to the Sanskrit word naranga.

  25. Pastèque (watermelon)from the Arabic word bṭikh (بَطِّيخَة‎), meaning “melon, watermelon”

  26. Quintal (100 kg) from the Arabic word qinṭaar (قِنْطَار‎), which is ultimately derived from Latin centenarius, meaning “containing a hundred” 

  27. Razzia (raid) – from the Arabic word ghazwa (غَزْوَة‎), meaning “raid, military campaign”

  28. Safari (safari) – from the Arabic word safar (سفر), meaning “journey, travel” 

  29. Satin (satin) – from the Arabic word zaytūn (زَيْتُون‎), the transliteration of Citong, the city  in China where the fabric originated (thought to be around modern day Quanzhou)

  30. Sirop (syrup) – from the Arabic word sharab (شَرَاب‎), meaning “beverage”

  31. Sofa (couch) – from the Arabic word souffah (صُفَّة‎), referring to “a long seat made of stone or brick”

  32. Sucre (sugar) – from the  Arabic word sukkar (سُكَّر), meaning “sugar,” which is ultimately derived from the Sanskrit word śárkarā (शर्करा), meaning “ground or candied sugar”

  33. Tarif (rate) – from the Arabic word t‘aarifa (تَعْرِفَة‎), meaning “tariff”, which in turn comes from “تَعْريف”, meaning “information, notification”

  34. Toubib (doctor, informal) – from the Arabic word ṭabīb (طَبِيب‎), meaning “doctor”

  35. Zénith (point of the sky directly overhead at any place; the highest point or achievement of something) –  from the Arabic phrase samt ar-ra’s (‎سَمْت اَلرَّأْس‎), meaning “path over the head”

Want to learn more about French and/or Arabic? Check out our affordable, one-on-one language sessions for either language! Both are taught by native French and Arabic speakers from refugee and displaced backgrounds.

Through NaTakallam’s language partners, you will not only be able to learn to speak your target language – you will also discover new cultures and see the world without getting out of your chair! Sign up here. 

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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)

(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)

(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!

– 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.

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Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Learn French

Reading Time: 3 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!


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.


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!


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!


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. 


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!

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How People Express Laughter in Different Languages

Reading Time: 4 minutesLaughter is a universal yet culturally-tinted phenomenon. It draws people together and has the power to stimulate physical, emotional, psychological and social changes. Ever wondered how people from different cultures conveyed laughter and humor? Join us as we explore laughter and humor in five different language-cultures!


In Persian, laughter is transcribed as either خخخخخ (khkhkhkhkh), ههههه (hahahahaha), or هاهاهاها (ha ha ha ha). 

Central to Persian popular humor is the figure of Mulla Nasruddin Khodja. Born in Seljuk Sultanate of Rum in the 13th century, Khodja was a philosopher and a wise man who imparted his wisdom through witty jokes and funny tales. A famous Khodja tale that Persian-speakers (and others) chuckled to over generations goes as follows: 

Mulla had lost his ring in the living room. He searched for it for a while, but since he could not find it, he went out into the yard and began to look there. His wife, who saw what he was doing, asked: “Mulla, you lost your ring in the room, why are you looking for it in the yard?” Mulla stroked his beard and said: “The room is too dark and I can’t see very well. I came out to the courtyard to look for my ring because there is much more light out here”.


In Arabic, laughter is written as ههههه (hhhhh or hahahaha), هاهاها (hā hā hā), or even هع هع هع (ha’ ha’ ha’). 

Like Mulla Nasruddin Khodja in the Persian-speaking world, Arabic-speaking countries too have a popular figure who effortlessly combines humor and wisdom. Known as Juha, Djoha, or Goha, this figure first appeared in Al-Jahiz’s 9th-century book “Saying on Mules” (القول في البغال). However, over the centuries, the character of Juha was merged with that of Mulla Nasruddin Khodja. Juha appears in thousands of tales, always witty, sometimes wise, and other times gently absurd – a butt of his own jokes. 

In one story, a man sees Juha across a raging river. “How do I get across?” the man cries. “You are there already!” Juha shouts back.


In Spanish, laughter is expressed as jajajaja (hahahaha). 

The Spanish sense of humor is well encapsulated in Cervantes’ Don Quixote, a mock epic which satirizes early modern obsession with noble knights, ridiculous quests and chivalric attitudes. Published in two parts, in 1605 and 1615, it is considered one of the founding works of western literature. Humor in Don Quixote is subtle but sharp. Cervantes sets his story as follows, before going on to describe the absurd adventures of his titular character:

“En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme, no hace mucho tiempo que vivía un hidalgo de los de lanza en astillero, adarga antigua, rocín flaco y galgo corredor.”

(‘‘Somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing.’’)


In Armenian, laughter is transcribed as հա հա հա (ha ha ha). 

Humor, in more recent times, has been used by Armenians as a form of resistance and empowerment. The famous Radio Yerevan jokes are an example. Popular in the 20th century, these jokes took a Question & Answer format, mimicking that of popular series on Armenian Radio. 

When asked ‘‘Could an atomic bomb destroy our beloved town, Yerevan, with its splendid buildings and beautiful gardens?’’

Radio Yerevan answered: ‘‘In principle, yes. But Moscow is a far more beautiful city.’’


In French, laughter is often expressed with the initials mdr’ for mort de rire (dying of laughter) – equivalent to LOL in English. 

French humor is celebrated in cartoonist André Franquin’s Gaston, a gag-a-day comic strip first published in 1957 in the comic strip Spirou. The series focuses on the everyday life of Gaston Lagaffe (meaning Gaston “the blunder”), a lazy and accident-prone office junior working at Spirou’s office in Brussels. It is much loved not only for its perfectly timed comedy, but also for its warm outlook on everyday life.

Explore humor and laughter in different languages this New Year with NaTakallam’s native language partners! Sign up for sessions here or spread the laughter (it’s contagious!) with a loved one by gifting a NaTakallam session here – an experience like no other.

Gaston comic visual source:

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5 Ways to Say “I Love You” in French

Reading Time: 2 minutes


French is known as “le langage de l’amour”, the language of love! And we believe that love should not be defined by just a day or month. Here are 5 French phrases that you can use to express love this Valentine’s Day (or any day!).

1. Je t’aime
This is the most commonly used way to say “I love you” in French to a loved one, family member or friend!

2. Mon chéri/Ma chérie
Meaning “my darling/dear”, this is another common phrase of endearment used throughout the Francophone world. Fun fact: The term “chéri” is also used in the US as a form of endearment, common in (French-speaking) New Orleans and Louisiana.

3. Ma moitié
While literally meaning, “my half”, this term is better translated in English as “my better half” and understood as referring to a beloved “partner in crime”. This can be used with friends and romantic partners alike.

4. Avoir un cœur d’artichaut
This phrase literally means “to have an artichoke heart,” but refers to someone that falls in love easily or often!

5. Mon cœur bat la chamade
They don’t call it the language of love for nothing! This poetic expression translates as “my heart beats loudly [for you]”, encapsulating the anticipation and excitement in  seeing a loved one.

A fun fact, the word “la chamade” has an archaic use, meaning “a trumpet of signal inviting the enemy to parley”.

Do you have “un cœur d’artichaut”? Fall in love with French with NaTakallam’s unique one-on-one language learning with native tutors from displaced backgrounds.

Ps. Looking for a special Valentine’s gift? The Gift of Language is meaningful and impactful, a gift like no other!

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10 Untranslatable Love Expressions From Different Languages

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Love is a universal language but some days you need a little extra help with expressing your affection to your loved one. Here are our top 10 love expressions in 6 languages.

1. Arabic: Damu-hu/hā khafeef (دمه/ دمها خفيف)
Literally meaning “his/her blood is light”, this expression is used to say that you find someone extremely funny and adorable! Don’t forget that gender matters in Arabic: when referring to a male, use damu-hu khafeef, and for a female, use damu-ha khafeef.

2. Spanish: Eres un bombón
Like the previous expression, this phrase is a way of complimenting a loved one when they look particularly sweet. It literally translates to “you are a bonbon”.

3. French: Mon petit chou (masculine) or Ma choupinette (feminine)
This unique term of endearment can often be confusing. It literally translates to “my little cabbage”! However, you’re not calling your loved one a cabbage here but a “chou” short for ‘chou à la crème’, a sweet French puff pastry!

4. Persian (Farsi): Delam barāt tang shode (دلم برات تنگ شده)
When “I miss you” just isn’t enough, employ this poetic Persian phrase. It literally translates to “my heart has tightened for you”. This expression conveys the physical agony of being separated from a loved one – you miss someone so much that you can’t breathe!

5. Spanish: Me haces mucha falta
Although this Spanish expression is commonly translated as “I miss you”, it has a more heartwarming meaning to it. When broken down, it translates to: you make a big absence in me, or you are lacking from me!

6. French: Retrouvailles
Perhaps more relevant these past two years than ever: the unmatched feeling of joy when finally reunited with a loved one after much time apart – that’s exactly what this untranslatable French word conveys!

7. Kurmanji Kurdish: Kezeb-a min
Go beyond the typical terms of endearment with this Kurmanji expression. Address your loved one – lover, family or friend – with: “kezeb-a min”, literally meaning “my liver”. This expression conveys how vital they are to your life, like the liver to the human body!

8. Arabic: Tuqburnii (تقبرني)

No, we did not mix up our Valentine’s Day and Halloween expression lists! Although this phrase literally means: “you bury me”, it’s used to imply that one would rather die and have you bury them, than live without you! A rather touching expression of love!

9. Persian (Farsi): Doret begardam (دورت بگردم)
Another poetic Persian phrase, this one translates literally to: “let me circle around you”, in effect meaning, “I would do anything for you”. We love the planetary imagery this evokes!

10. Eastern Armenian: Janit mernem (ջանիդ մեռնեմ)
Literally meaning “let me die on/for your body”, this is said to show your profound love and care for someone! A heartwarming expression of love, to be taken metaphorically, of course ;)!


Roses are red, violets are blue, express love in new languages, & meet NaTakallam’s awesome (refugee) language tutors, too! Treat yourself to our unique language lessons or give the Gift of Language to your loved ones, near or far. Available in Arabic, Armenian, English, French, Kurdish, Persian and Spanish.

At NaTakallam, every language session contributes to the livelihoods of our skilled tutors from displaced backgrounds. Learn a language, make a friend, change a life.

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