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Teens of Color Abroad

Study abroad made more accessible: NaTakallam’s partnership with Teens of Color Abroad

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The pandemic transformed our world in a multitude of ways. One of COVID-19’s more positive aspects was the unprecedented access to digital education; from shifting classrooms towards e-learning, to gaining human connection via virtual exchanges. This digital transformation set the scene for an out-of-the-box idea – a virtual study abroad opportunity!

As classrooms went virtual, so did one brilliant organization: Teens of Color Abroad (TOCA). Its founder, Lamar Shambley, launched the award-winning non-profit organization in 2018 in order to provide global language-learning and cultural exchange opportunities for high school students of color in the U.S. With its in-person educational programs – now virtually available, too – TOCA aims to confront the racial disparities that prevail in language-learning and studying abroad. By addressing the underrepresentation of African-American students in study abroad programs, TOCA creates pathways for high school students to become involved in international study. TOCA cultivates the next generation of globally-conscious youth of color with full language immersion study abroad experiences.

Shambley was inspired to start a program of his own based on his educational background and personal experience, as well as those of his students, having taught Spanish for eight years to high schoolers in New York. Despite having maintained straight A’s in his Spanish courses, he neither had a passport, nor was able to afford to study in a different country. Shambley relied on meeting virtual friends in chat rooms as a means to practice his conversational Spanish. It wasn’t until college that he finally received support from an academic advisor, who saw his passion and potential. Shambley shared that, “it took one educator to knock down the barriers that had precluded [him] from accessing international opportunities.” He further explained that thanks to the financial aid offered, he was able to secure his first passport and the chance to travel to the Dominican Republic. It was from this experience that Shambley learned he wanted to do the same for other students like himself.

Back in 2020, as TOCA was preparing to send its first group of students to Spain for a summer program, the pandemic broke out, turning the whole world upside down. Shambley recalled how they “were forced to think outside of the box” amidst the lockdowns and travel restrictions, while staying true to their mission. That was when they joined forces with NaTakallam, along with the support of our long-standing partner, Qatar Foundation International, to create TOCA Online

In response to the ongoing pandemic, Teens of Color Abroad (TOCA) launched TOCA Online, a virtual language learning and cultural exchange program where U.S. high school students study Arabic, Spanish, or French, with NaTakallam’s refugee language partners based around the world.

Since its launch, the program has enabled nearly 300 students from 30 states across the U.S. to enroll in the virtual language learning and cultural exchange program, which now included Arabic, Spanish and French, with fully-funded scholarships thanks to Qatar Foundation International. As part of the immersion, TOCA has hosted virtual cooking classes with NaTakallam language partners, where students were introduced to dishes from around the world, and Fresh Fridays – hosted on Twitch – where a DJ showcased songs from different countries, “leading listeners on a musical journey across borders.”

When asked about his proudest moments so far, Shambley recalled how he was contacted by a parent to share that her “daughter [had] begun studying languages in college after her TOCA Online experience”. He illustrated that through writing recommendation letters, TOCA Online has led to some of its students to be accepted into their dream colleges and universities. In fact, data from the initiative’s pre- and post-program services show that by the end of the program, 96% of students “show interest in learning more about the way of life in different countries,” and 98% are “keen to explore other cultures’ traditions.”

This summer, TOCA was thrilled to host its very first in-person language immersion program in Spain. The students engaged in over 30 hours of small group language trainings and participated in culturally immersive activities, such as the experience of a homestay with a local family. The school in which TOCA students studied, was the same one Shambley attended during his time abroad in college! This full-circle moment was particularly special to Shambley. 

TOCA and NaTakallam’s ongoing partnership is a unique one. While one addresses equitable opportunities for students of color, the other provides employment opportunities for refugees and displaced persons in the language sector. Both organizations illustrate the power that language and conversation have; to form deeper human connections which transcend borders in spite of any circumstances. Furthermore, both TOCA and NaTakallam combat stereotypes and change the limited narratives surrounding marginalized communities.

As the post-pandemic world resumes and classrooms return to in-person modes of instruction, TOCA and NaTakallam continue to find even more creative ways to make language-learning more accessible and impactful than ever.

Are you a globally-minded U.S. high school student of color interested in learning Spanish, French, or Arabic? We invite you to apply to TOCA Online! Keep a close eye on application and scholarship deadlines.

If you are an educator, please help us to widely spread the word.

Stay in the loop by following TOCA on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok.

Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Learn Ukrainian

Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Learn Ukrainian

Reading Time: 3 minutesReady to learn a new language, create a social impact and make a friend along the way? From tasty dumplings to lively dances, from powerful prose to an unexpected connection to popular Christmas carols, here are our top 5 reasons why you should learn Ukrainian!

 

1. Connect with 40 million people worldwide


Ukrainian is the official language of Ukraine. It is the second most widely-spoken Slavic language after Russian, with an estimated 40 million speakers across the globe. Even before the present crisis, Ukrainian diaspora communities could be found in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Kazakhstan, Moldova and the United States.

The increase in migration amongst Ukrainian nationals is set to spark a surge in speakers of the language. Ukrainian literacy is also on the rise as both new and old generations work to preserve their culture, in an ongoing effort to overcome socio-political oppression. 

 

 2. Experience vibrant folk culture


Ukrainian folklore is deeply rooted in ancient Slavic and later Byzantine traditions: from lively dances such as
hopak, hutsulka and kolomiyika to intricate craft traditions like Petrikov painting, pysanky decoration, and rushnyk embroidery. Ukraine is also home to some fantastic dishes such as paska (Easter bread), borscht (beetroot soup) and varenyky (dumplings)!

But perhaps it is through music that we are offered a true glimpse into the soul of the language. Many of these songs have accompanied people in their day-to-day lives, whether it be on the fields at work or during national holidays. One song, in particular, travelled across the ocean and became a Christmas classic in the Western world. It may surprise you to know that ‘Carol of the Bells’ is allegedly a derivative of Shchedryk (Щедрик), a traditional Ukrainian folk song about a swallow foretelling a household’s future wealth the following spring. It is said that its rise to popularity was owed to the Bolshevik purge of the intelligentsia, during which time many Ukrainian Choir members fled to the USA. Upon their arrival, Shchedryk was adopted by Alexander Koshyts, whose choir performed the song in New York for the first time in 1922.

Ukrainian culture is rich, vibrant, and truly an experience to cherish.

 

3. Delve into Ukrainian literature


Ukrainian literature – as well as the history behind it – is simply fascinating! Despite a history of literary oppression and struggle, Ukrainians have produced some of the greatest literary works of all time. Such efforts include Taras Shevchenko’s famous poetry collection,
Kobzar, a tribute to Ukrainian identity, and Ivan Franko’s dramatic masterpiece, Stolen Happiness. Contemporary authors are also deserving of recognition. Writing phenomena, such as Liubko Deresh, are even known to contrast post-Socialist Ukrainian reality with Western pop culture.

Although Ukrainian authors have endured persecution over time, this has made their work all the more significant. As a matter of fact, the term ‘‘Executed Renaissance’’ is used to describe a generation of Ukrainian writers, poets and artists of the 1920-30s who lost their lives for resisting Stalin’s Russification of Ukrainian literature. 

For avid readers and literary enthusiasts, learning Ukrainian will enable a deeper understanding of the country’s rich literary history.

 

4. Gateway to Slavic languages


Ukrainian uses the Cyrillic alphabet and belongs to the Slavic language family. Knowledge of Ukrainian will provide the necessary building blocks to learn similar languages such as Polish, Slovak, Belarussian and Russian. For example, did you know that, statistically speaking, Ukrainian is closest to Belarusian, sharing 84% of its vocabulary? Ukrainian speakers are also likely to understand 70% of Polish vocabulary and about a third of its grammar rules. Slovak stands at number three on the list with 66% common vocabulary.

If your interests lie in the languages of Eastern Europe, Ukrainian is a fantastic place to start!

 

5. Learn from a native speaker AND make an impact


The devastating impact of the war in Ukraine has caused more than 5.5 million Ukrainians to flee the country and over 7.1 million persons internally displaced.

As a response to the invasion in Ukraine, NaTakallam has launched language services in Ukrainian and Russian, providing tangible and immediate support to conflict-affected Ukrainians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians. Each language session directly contributes to the livelihoods of our language partners, enabling them with a sustainable income and sense of dignity through these difficult times.

 

Ready to learn Ukrainian, today? Sign up here and we’ll connect you with one of our highly-qualified Ukrainian language partners directly impacted by the conflict.

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

 

Refugees are Superheroes. Learn languages with them

Refugees are Superheroes. Learn languages with them!

Reading Time: 6 minutes100 million displaced – we marked World Refugee Month in June with this record-high number estimated by UNHCR. That’s more than the populations of Australia, France, and Costa Rica combined.

In fact, if being displaced was a nationality, it would make up the 14th most populous country in the world. This month, Al Jazeera declared the fastest-growing refugee crises of our time since World War II.

But numbers tend to drown the stories and one’s capacity to fully grasp what such a figure means. When or if we do, we tend to feel overwhelmed and somewhat paralyzed.

This month, we’re going beyond just numbers: we are focusing on positive stories around displacement, of loss and challenges, of hope and a#SecondChance – and NaTakallam’s role in the making.

Through these stories, we hope to suggest practical ways of making an impact, notably through your choice of language learning or language services.

At NaTakallam, we see refugees as superheroes, and we want the whole world to learn from them.

______________________________________

 

 

Meet Saeed, from Syria.


Current location
: Brazil
Favorite dish: Shawarma and Shakriyeh
Former profession: Manager of a tourism company
Teaching: Arabic with NaTakallam since 2015.

Hear his story: I’m originally from Damascus, Syria, where I managed a tourism company. Due to the conflict, I had to leave Syria in 2012, and I traveled through Lebanon, Turkey, Morocco, and finally, to Brazil.

In my seven years of teaching Arabic with NaTakallam, I’ve been able to make many friends from all over the world. I finally got my Brazilian citizenship last year and I was able to see my family again while attending a workshop with NaTakallam in Lebanon.

This year, I’m traveling to Turkey to meet one of my students in person, and get engaged to my fiancée whom I met through working with NaTakallam! I’m also going to Greece with a team from “Doctors without Borders” to help refugees in Lesbos.

NaTakallam gave me a chance to show the whole world that we can do so many things and that we are all human in the end.

 

Meet Leila, from Iran.

 

Current location: Germany
Former profession: Actress and a Social Media Community Engagement Specialist
Favorite dish: Ghormeh-Sabzi
Teaching: Persian with NaTakallam since 2020.

Hear her story: My husband and I were forced to flee Mashhad, Iran, in 2015 when he was arrested for DJing at mixed parties (both illegal in Iran), and faced a severe penalty. For three years, we lived in Greece, hopping from one refugee camp to another. My background is in computer science but during my time in Greece, I leveraged my love for performance to make some pocket money. I got the chance to work with visual artist Olga Stefatou on an art project that celebrates the individuality of female refugees and asylum seekers. But we sensed there was no real future ahead of us in Greece.

While we managed to get to Germany, we spent three more years living in six refugee camps in different cities, under-resourced shared apartments, and even a converted shipping container. It was extremely difficult and dehumanizing as we are not allowed to work or study, just waiting and hoping our status will change.

I began teaching Farsi through NaTakallam as a source of income. I’m really inspired by my students – their commitment to learning a new language motivates me to learn German, to be able to restart my life here soon. One of my students even traveled to Germany to visit me!

Today, my dream is to help other refugees as a social worker. Everyone deserves a second chance.

 

Meet Sayed, from Afghanistan.

 

Current location: Indonesia
Former profession: Interpreter and Translator
Favorite dish: Mantu and Qabuli-Palaw
Teaching: Persian with NaTakallam since 2019.

Hear his story: 34 years back, I was born in Afghanistan but I don’t want to say that I belong to a limited place or country. We all migrate to different places for various reasons and ways. I refugeed twice because of security issues. Once when I was child of 9, I fled to Iran, and later on to Indonesia, as a refugee in 2013.

I fled Afghanistan again because I studied French language and literature, worked with ISAF/ NATO and another French NGO for education, helping to build schools and create educational materials – which was criminalized under the Taliban.

I journeyed through India to Indonesia in 2013, only to be detained and behind bars for two years. Exactly like a prisoner, for the crime of being a refugee.

And there’s migrating too – the artistic way, this couldn’t have happened without NaTakallam. Working with this beautiful organization gives me the opportunity to migrate and virtually travel around the world, learn about new cultures, exchange ideas, and share the real experiences of refugees.

NaTakallam is a door of hope and dignity; a home where I can exhale the pains of being forced to leave family and dreams; currently in Indonesia, we are not allowed to work, access formal education, healthcare or travel within the country.

 

Meet Yaroslavna, from Ukraine.

 

Current location: Ukraine
Former profession: English Teacher
Favorite dish: Baked potatoes
Teaching: Ukrainian and Russian with NaTakallam since 2022

Hear her story: I lost all of the people I thought I had. I was born in independent sovereign Ukraine. I’ve always been Ukrainian even though I spoke Russian. Today’s Russia/Ukraine war really had its beginnings in 2014. My hometown Donetsk got seized, and some locals even welcomed and were eager to be part of Russia.

The war left me no choice but to escape to Kyiv. Now I remain here with some of my family members, trying to look forward to the future. The war left no safe place in my country. Every Ukrainian has been affected by it.

During these challenging times, NaTakallam has been a beacon of hope, with unconditional support since the day I met them. Working at NaTakallam has allowed me to provide for my family as well as reconnect with a part of myself I thought I had lost in the war. This is what helps me to move on with my life at the moment – the NaTakallam community, sympathetic students learning Ukrainian or Russian language.

I now look forward to seeing my country rise from its ashes again. With the help of the world, I know we can win.

 

Meet Ghaith, from Syria.

 

Current location: Italy
Former profession: Journalist
Favorite dish: Kibbeh
Teaching: Arabic with NaTakallam since 2015

Hear his story: I’m originally from Hama, Syria. In 2013, I fled the Syrian army while I was recovering from a shrapnel injury. I did what seemed like the best option at the time and fled to Lebanon. But the Lebanese authorities told me to leave Lebanon within one week.

Imagine yourself in a country that is not yours, a stranger, you own nothing, you cannot work and you have no right to do so just because you are a refugee, and, at the same time, you cannot return to your country because you are considered a “traitor”, just because you refused to participate in the killing of your own countrymen.

Then suddenly, someone comes along to help you work remotely, without any problems and without putting you at risk – someone who allows you to live in dignity without needing a grant from anyone.

This is what NaTakallam has done for me, and this is what every refugee needs, someone who believes in their ability and that they can make something instead of waiting for others. NaTakallam gave me an avenue through which I could earn a living – something that was almost impossible in my situation.

In 2016, my NaTakallam student-turned-friend connected me with an organization that helps resettle refugees in Italy. The organization allowed me to move and start a new life in Padua, Italy, where I am pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Political Science at the University of Padua. And last summer, I started a full-time job as a news editor!

To me, NaTakallam is like a window to the world. You just need a connection.

______________________________________

Refugees are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children… and superheroes! This World Refugee Month and beyond, we hope that you consider choosing NaTakallam for your language needs. With 100+ million displaced, creative, tangible and sustainable ways to support refugees are critical.

Contribute to more #successstories and #secondchances for refugees, displaced persons, and conflict-affected individuals with NaTakallam by:

1. Signing up for your favourite language here,
2. Choosing us for your translation or interpretation needs here,
3. Bringing stories of our Language Partners to your community or workplace by hosting a Refugee Voices session …and joining the likes of Twitter, Meta, Ebay, and more!
4. Following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Linkedin.
5. Creating impact through partnerships with us! Get in touch here.

5 Ways to Express Love in Western Armenian

Reading Time: 2 minutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

5 Ways to Express Love in Eastern Armenian

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Blog contributors: Anahid Jouljian, Lucy Davis, and Maria Thomas.

The month of love is coming to an end, but that’s no reason to stop celebrating love! Armenian communities around the world mark the holiday of Trndez, also known as Candlemas Day in some parts of the world, in February. What’s more, these celebrations are followed by another Armenian festival, St. Sargis Day – providing even more reasons and ways to share love.

Learn 5 phrases about love in Eastern Armenian with NaTakallam and find out more about these unique holidays!

1. Իմ պաշտելիս (Im bashdelis)
This phrase, meaning “my adorable,” might be used on Trndez, when it is customary for newlyweds to help build a large bonfire in the church courtyard and leap over it together.

2. Իմ մի հատիկս (Meg hadiges)
This is a beautiful way to tell someone you love them, meaning, “my one and only.” On Trndez, celebrating love is not just for newlyweds but for families and people in all stages of life. During the bonfire, people light candles to bring the fire back to their own households.

3. Թանկագինս (Tangakeenes)
This translates to “my precious” but don’t worry, it’s not a reference to the Lord of the Rings! You can use this expression to tell someone how much you care for them.

4. Սիրելիս (Sirelis)
This one word phrase meaning “my darling” or “my beloved” can be added into any phrase to make it loving. According to tradition on St. Sargis Day, young people should eat a small salty snack called aghi blit before going to sleep, and in their dreams, they will see their future soulmate offering a glass of water.

5. Սիրում եմ քեզ (Seeroum em kez)
This is the most straightforward way to express your adoration of someone in Eastern Armenian, translating directly to “I love you.”

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

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

 

This piece was contributed by Anahid Jouljian, Lucy Davis, and Maria Thomas:
Content support: Anahid Jouljian is a Lebanese-Armenian Language Partner with NaTakallam teaching Western Armenian. As a result of the pandemic and Lebanon port blast, Anahid moved to Yerevan with her family in March 2020. In her 25 years of teaching, Anahid’s lessons have helped the Armenian diaspora around the world get back in touch with their roots. Today, she is also an editor in the Memory Documentation Project of The Armenian Program of the Gulbenkian Foundation.
Copywriting: Lucy Davis is a Communications and PR Officer with NaTakallam. She is currently pursuing a dual Bachelor’s degree in economics and literature. She loves cooking, doing puzzles, and traveling to new places.
Copyediting support: 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.

One story of cross-border love from our Afghan tutor, Sadiqa

Reading Time: 2 minutesSince February is the month of love, we put out a call to our conversation partner community to tell us their stories of love and romance. Sadiqa, one of our tutors from Afghanistan, shared the story below

Sadiqa Sultani, one of NaTakallam’s Dari instructors, is originally from Afghanistan. She had moved to Quetta, Pakistan with her family when she was young to escape the Taliban rule, but soon after, they were forced to leave Pakistan due to persecution based on their ethnic and religious identities, rendering her double displaced.

Now living as a refugee in Bogor, Indonesia, Sadiqa is a volunteer teacher within the local refugee community. She tries to give her refugee students something meaningful to do as they wait out the resettlement process. She also teaches students on the other side of the world online through NaTakallam. 

One morning in October 2018, Sadiqa saw she had received a message from a man named Naeem Royan, a long-lost classmate of hers from her days in Quetta. In his love letter, Naeem wrote that he had loved her since primary school and had searched for her for eight years.

At first, she didn’t believe him! 

Sadiqa was waiting to go back to Pakistan, but she was still in Indonesia because of the slow resettlement process. She began chatting with Naeem online, getting to know each other after so many years apart and slowly falling in love…

When Naeem proposed, Sadiqa had a big decision to make.

Was he serious? Sadiqa wasn’t sure. She discussed the proposal with her parents. She spent more time talking to Naeem before making any decision, as she still didn’t know him very well. Naeem was trying very hard to make her feel his love and respect for her, never missing a single chance to express his feelings and thoughts. 

Finally, Sadiqa said YES and accepted his proposal. 

However, there were many challenges in store for the two lovers. As Sadiqa could not go back to Pakistan, Naeem decided to come to Indonesia. Just as he was planning his trip, the coronavirus pandemic struck, and the world went on lockdown. By this time, Sadiqa and Naeem had been in a relationship for more than three years and were still unable to be together. Last month, they were Nikahfied (married) in an online ceremony. 

They love each other dearly and unconditionally. These two lovers have been able to stand and be together through so many ups and downs. They are still searching for any possible way to start living together and bridge the forced divide between them, just praying and hoping to be together soon.

5 Ways to Express Love in Kurmanji Kurdish

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Blog contributors: Hadiya Ahmed, Maria Thomas, and Baran Hasso.

Valentine’s Day may have just passed but why run out of words to say how much you love someone? This week, we bring you five sweet words and expressions in Kurmanji Kurdish!

1. Dilê min
This expression literally translates to ‘‘my heart’’ and is used to address a loved one – a romantic partner, a friend or a family member – endearingly.

2. Ji te hez dikim
What better way to express your love and affection for a loved one than to say those magical three words – ‘‘I love you’’? In Kurmanji Kurdish, that would be Ji te hez dikim.

3. Kezeba min
Literally translating to ‘‘my liver’’, this phrase is an expression of endearment much like جیگر طلا ‘‘jigar tala’’ in Persian. It conveys their significance to your life!

4. Ronîya çavê min
This expression literally translates to ‘‘light of my eyes’’. It is commonly used to refer to a beloved family member, friend or significant other.

5. Hevalrêya min
Literally translating to ‘‘my way mate’’, this heartwarming phrase encapsulates what love is all about – companionship, a sense of belonging, and warmth! It refers to someone who is your “traveling companion” through life’s journey. Use this expression (and the others listed above!) to tell someone how much you care for them.

Learn how to express words of love, endearment and more in Kurmanji Kurdish with NaTakallam’s native Language Partners, today! At NaTakallam, every language session contributes to the livelihoods of our skilled tutors from refugee/displaced backgrounds.

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

 

 

This piece was contributed by Hadiya Ahmed, Maria Thomas, and Baran Hasso:
– Content support: Hadiya Ahmed is a Language Partner with NaTakallam specializing in Kurmanji Kurdish and Arabic. Originally from Qamishli in Syria, she has a degree in English literature and loves spending her spare time reading, playing basketball and practicing Zumba.
– 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.
– Proofreading support: Baran Hasso is a Language Partner with NaTakallam specializing in Kurmanji Kurdish and Arabic. He graduated from Aleppo University with a degree in Philosophy before going on to study Philosophy for Children in Turkey. Baran enjoys playing music, reading and traveling for recreation.

8 New Year’s Traditions Around The World

Reading Time: 5 minutesAs we ring in New Year 2022, here are different traditions that mark the beginning of the year from around the world!

 

1. Syria & Lebanon: a ‘‘white dish’’


In Syria and parts of
Lebanon, New Year’s is celebrated with a “white dish” representing the hope for all things good for the year. The ‘‘white dish’’ could be a scrumptious plate of shakriyeh, kibbeh labanieh, sheikh el mahshi, muhalabia or just a simple bowl of cereal with milk1. As in several other cultures, the color white is considered particularly auspicious for New Year’s as it is associated with new beginnings, peace and prosperity. 

2. Ecuador: burning the Año Viejo (‘‘old year’’)


In Ecuador, the New Year is ushered in with the burning of effigies of all people/things that represent the year gone by. These effigies could range from that of politicians, television personalities to that of beloved superheroes and cartoon characters. As a part of the
tradition of Año Viejo, revelers jump over the burning effigies twelve times for each month of the year in a symbolic cleansing of the bad from the past year before commencing the New Year.2

3. Armenia: breaking of the ‘‘year bread’’


In Armenia, a sweet bread called the
‘‘year bread’’ (also known as gata, darin, or darehats) is baked to mark the New Year. Although the recipe for this bread varies from region to region, it usually consists of flour, sugar, butter, eggs and often an Armenian yogurt known as matsoni. A coin, walnut, or a button is hidden in this bread and when it is broken (yes, broken not cut)3 on New Year’s the person who finds it in their piece is considered to have the best fortune for the year. 

4. Spain: las doce uvas de la suerte (the 12 grapes of luck)


In Spain, twelve grapes are eaten, synchronized with the sound of the twelve strikes of the bell marking the New Year.
This tradition is believed to lead an individual into twelve lucky and prosperous months. In more recent years, the grapes are stuffed into the mouth all at once and the ringing of the bell is substituted with loud cheers from family and friends.

5. Peru: three potatoes 


In Peru, three potatoes – one peeled, one half peeled, and one unpeeled – are hidden under a chair or a couch before midnight. When family/friends gather at midnight, a potato is picked at random.
This potato is believed to predict the person’s/family’s fortunes for the year to come. The peeled potato signifies bad financial fortune, half-peeled signifies a normal year, and unpeeled signifies a great bounty in the year ahead.

6. France: galette de Rois (‘‘Kings’ cake’’)


In France, New Year celebrations extend to January 6, when the feast of Epiphany – marking the three wise men’s visit to baby Jesus – is celebrated. On this day, people tuck into a sweet pastry called
galette des Rois. Two little figurines are hidden inside the pastry; whoever finds it is deemed King or Queen for the day. 

 

7. Iran: the haftseen (هفت‌ سین), table spread of seven S’s


Iranians celebrate their New Year,
Nowruz (نوروز), at the beginning of spring (on March 20th or 21st). They usher in the New Year with a ‘haft-seen’ table, set with seven symbolic dishes starting with the Persian letter seen (س, S). These may include sabzeh (سبزه, sprouts) for rebirth, sekkeh (سکه, coins) for wealth, sib (سیب, apple) for beauty, samanoo (سمنو, pudding) for bravery, sumaq (سماق, spice) for sunshine, seer (سیر, garlic) for health, and serkeh (سرکه, vinegar) for patience. 

8. From ancient Babylonia to you (wherever you are) today: New Year’s resolutions


The Babylonian
akitu festival is one of the oldest recorded New Year celebrations in the world. It developed from a semiannual agricultural festival to an annual New Year’s national holiday, and reached its zenith in the first millennium B.C.E.4 As a part of the festivities, Babylonians would make promises to gods to return borrowed objects and to pay any outstanding debts – these became an early forerunner to our own New Year’s resolutions today! According to a 2016 study, 41% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. They are, after all, a triumph of hope over experience.

As we see above, different countries and regions of the world usher in the New Year in their own unique ways, however, common to them all is the hope for a new year full of happiness, peace and prosperity. 

If your New Year celebrations this year include a resolution, consider learning a new language or brushing up an old one! If you’re on the fence, check out our top 10 reasons why learning a new language will benefit you. NaTakallam’s language learning is taught by displaced, native speakers and is available in Armenian, Arabic (MSA+ dialects), English, French, Kurdish, Persian and Spanish. This New Year, learn new languages, create new experiences!

Wishing all our readers and learners a happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year 2022!

 


1  Siham Tergeman. Daughter of Damascus: A Memoir. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994. p.52. 
2 This symbolic jumping over flames can also be found in Iranian New Year (Nowruz) celebrations. See, no. 7 to learn more.
3 To some Armenians, bread symbolizes abundance, and hence, it is never cut with a knife (but broken) so as not to curb their good luck. For more, see: Nane Khachatryan, New Year in Armenia: A Festive Dinner, ecokayan.com/armenia/travel/explore/new-year-dinner-in-armenia. 
4 Julye M. Bidmead, The Akitu Festival: Religious Continuity and Royal Legitimation in Mesopotamia. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2004. Introduction.

 

3 Reasons Why The Gift of Language Is The Ultimate Gift

Reading Time: 2 minutes 

On a quest for a meaningful gift for a loved one? Look no further. Online language lessons are the ultimate gift for a culture aficionado or a perennially curious language enthusiast in your life. Perfect for birthdays, holidays, and special occasions.

Plus, it’s shipping-free, impact-driven and starts at only US$25.

1. IT NOURISHES YOUR MIND

Learning a language physically changes your mind – making one a stronger, more creative thinker. A study at the University of Edinburgh demonstrated that young adults proficient in two languages performed better on attention tests and had better concentration than those who spoke only one language. The study also showed that adults who had become bilingual later in life performed better than those who had not – exhibiting more robust general intelligence and thinking abilities. 

Learning a new language can make you a better listener. A study at Northwestern University found that bilinguals are better at juggling linguistic input, instinctively paying more attention to relevant sounds and ignoring irrelevant ones – making them more effective in challenging or novel listening conditions. 

Language learning is essentially a workout for your mind. It challenges it in order to keep it sharp and cognizant. It mustn’t be surprising then that language learning is an effective therapy to help delay the onset of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s.

2. IT NOURISHES YOUR SOUL

Learning a new language provides an avenue to explore new and exciting cultures that ignites the soul! It helps one to interact with people from around the world and acquaint oneself with their experiences. This can help broaden one’s perspective in ways that many other educational experiences cannot. Dan Roitman points out that ‘‘as a language learner, you’ll not only become a more conscious thinker and listener who can communicate clearly and think creatively, but you’ll also gain the most significant benefit of multilingualism: a broader, more global perspective.’’ 

Learning a new language can also help transcend political, geographical and cultural boundaries. It encourages one to try to comprehend experiences that are remote from their own, develop a sense of empathy and work towards the common good, and go beyond headline narratives. The people, stories, and experiences that a new language brings you truly has the potential to nourish your soul!

3. IT NOURISHES YOUR HEART

When you learn a new language on platforms such as NaTakallam, you not only nourish your mind and soul but also your heart! NaTakallam leverages the freelance digital economy to provide income to refugees, displaced persons and their host communities by hiring them as online tutors, teachers, translators and cultural exchange partners, regardless of their location and status. Learning a new language with NaTakallam allows one to connect to local cultures, initiate cross-border friendships and have a holistic language-learning experience that’s good for your mind, soul and heart! 

Give your loved one a unique language-learning experience with NaTakallam’s Gift of Language and Conversation. Available in Arabic, Armenian, English, French, Kurdish, Persian, Spanish, and suitable for all ages and levels.

What’s more? NaTakallam’s language sessions take place virtually from the comforts of home and make the perfect last-minute (yet meaningful) gift that requires no shipping. Gift a language, surprise a loved one, change a life.

Gift Guide: 6 Social Enterprises that Support Refugees

Reading Time: 4 minutes 

It’s that time of year again! This holiday season, kill two birds with one stone by considering impact-driven gifts for your loved ones. Make a difference with our list of 6 social enterprises that support the talents, skills, and livelihood of displaced persons – refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants – through their unique and thoughtfully-collated products that will leave a lasting impression (and impact).

 

1. MADE51 | Starting from £12 

MADE51 is a UNHCR initiative that connects refugee artisans to global markets. It is a lifestyle brand selling beautiful home decor and fashion items that merge contemporary design with traditional craftsmanship. Each product in the MADE51 collection is handcrafted by a refugee artisan who lives in a hosting country in Africa, Asia, Europe, or the Middle East. Whether it is their Amaryllis Basket, crafted by Burundian refugees living in Rwanda, or their Gold Glow Nuusum Statement Earrings, crafted by refugees from Myanmar, Syria, and Afghanistan living in Malaysia – each piece in this collection tells a story of skill and perseverance and would make a perfect stocking filler this holiday season! 

MADE51 offers flat-rate worldwide shipping and free shipping with a minimum purchase spend. Find out more here.

 

2. Migrateful | Starting from £20 | Digital Gift Option

Migrateful is a social enterprise based in London that gives asylum seekers and refugees looking for jobs in the UK a space to share recipes from their countries, their culture, language and stories through cookery classes – in person or digital. They also receive professional training and English-language lessons. Participants in these classes can learn recipes from all over the world from chefs coming from: Afghanistan, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, Albania, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Cuba and Ecuador. Migrateful’s online or in-person cookery classes are an ideal gift for foodies and culture enthusiasts in your life, near or far!

The Migrateful cookery classes can take place in-person in London, Bristol, Kent or Brighton or online on Zoom. Shipping-free and guaranteed fun with impact.

 

3. Sisterhood Soap | Preemptive Love | Starting from US$10

Looking for gifts that are good for your skin, the environment, and the world? Preemptive Love’s Sisterhood Soap, hand-milled by refugees in Iraq, using natural and sustainable ingredients will not disappoint. They use natural ingredients such as 100% pure olive oil and wild grown herbs. Their motto for the latter is: if it hasn’t been grown wild for hundreds of years, don’t use it! Sisterhood Soap does not use any dyes, artificial fragrance, glycerine, sulfates or parabens – making it safe for all skin-types. In choosing their individual soaps, gift sets, or their quarterly soap subscription, you’re empowering a refugee soapmaker and growing the sisterhood! 

Rebuild lives one bar at a time. Preemptive Love ships worldwide from the US. Shipping rates and times will vary according to items, courier and location.

 

4. Anchor of Hope Box | Starting from US$36

The Anchor of Hope Box is a monthly subscription box filled with original, lifestyle items handmade by refugees, survivors of human trafficking and other vulnerable situations. In doing so, they endeavor to give hope and dignity to individuals who are working to overcome poverty and injustice that has impacted their lives. The monthly subscription boxes include well-thought-out and researched products ranging from jewelry, ceramics, art works to home decor and spices. Each month, the subscription box will contain 3 quality, handmade items as well as an information card about the products and the artisans that made them. Gift a loved one an Anchor of Hope Box this holiday season and share the joy of a gift that keeps giving! 

Anchor of Hope Box currently only ships to the US. Shipping rates and times may vary according to the location.

 

5. SEP Jordan | Starting from €35

A Swiss-based social enterprise, SEP Jordan is a luxury fashion & lifestyle business with a social impact focus. Its mission is to bring thousands of refugees, located in the Jerash “Gaza” Camp in Jordan, above the poverty line: by leveraging their skills and talent in hand embroidery. They currently work with over 500 embroidery artists, mostly women, enabling them to regain their economic and emotional independence. Their hand-embroidered keffiyehs (كوفية‎), beautiful cashmere shawls, and bespoke accessories, all packed with love and heritage, would make quality gifts for loved ones. Additionally, they offer Gift Card options starting from €50. 

SEP Jordan ships worldwide via DHL Express. Shipping rates and times may vary according to the location.

 

6. NaTakallam | Starting from $25 | Digital Gift 

Last, but not least, NaTakallam is an award-winning social enterprise that pairs language learners with native tutors from refugee backgrounds for one-on-one online lessons! You can choose from an array of languages – including Arabic, Armenian, Kurdish, Persian, French and Spanish – and gift packages to fit your budget. With NaTakallam’s language sessions you can give your loved one an experience of a language and culture while also supporting the livelihood of tutors from displaced backgrounds and their host communities. It makes a perfect stocking stuffer for a beloved language-enthusiast looking for a life-changing experience (both theirs and their tutors alike)!

Give the Gift of Conversation to a language lover in your life, near or far. Suitable for all levels and ages. This gift is paperless and shipping-free (i.e it can be “virtually” shipped worldwide).

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