NaTakallam (“we speak” in Arabic) pairs displaced persons with learners around the world for language practice over Skype. The platform offers affordable, flexible, tailored language practice with native speakers for language learners while also providing a valuable income source to displaced people mostly in Lebanon, but also in Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, France, Brazil, Italy and Germany.
In the summer of 2014 Aline Sara had just completed her masters in International Affairs at Colombia University and was looking for an affordable way to practice her Arabic—specifically, her native Lebanese regional dialect—from New York City. It was also at that time that Syrians, fleeing the violence from the brutal civil war, were pouring into Lebanon, where today, roughly 1 out of 4 people are Syrian.
Like most Syrians outside of the country, and notably the 5 million-plus who are living in neighboring countries, Syrians in Lebanon cannot easily get work permits, making their capacity to work and sustain a livelihood incredibly difficult.
Aline thought of connecting her need to access conversational Arabic to that of displaced Syrians to access an income…and thus came to life the idea of NaTakallam, pioneering the concept of leveraging the Internet economy and refugees’ language skills to provide language services to users worldwide, who, through their engagement, help support displaced persons’ livelihoods.
Since starting in 2015, NaTakallam has paired almost 130 displaced persons and over 4500 individuals in more than 65 countries who have engaged in more than 20,000 hours of NaTakallam sessions. Displaced people have self-generated over $500,000 through their work with NaTakallam.