Syrian Refugees Earning Money by Teaching Arabic

21 May, 2017

Resettled refugees must learn about their new home, culture and language. They also need to find a job.

For Syrians displaced by fighting in their country, the ability to speak Arabic is helping some refugees earn some extra money.

Now, a New York-based start-up company is connecting displaced Syrians with students interested in learning the Arabic language. Most of the language learners are in the United States.

The company is called NaTakallam. It organizes paid, one-on-one Arabic language training for interested students over the Skype messaging service.

Layla Quran is among a group of students learning Arabic at New York University.

"There's nothing like speaking with someone one-on-one."

When your tutors are Syrian refugees all over the world, there is no shortage of issues to talk about.

Aline Sara is NaTakallam's chief executive officer. She says she created the company to connect students and language experts.

"NaTakallam is an online platform that connects language learners -- and for now we're focusing on Arabic learners -- with displaced individuals, refugees."

For $15 an hour, students can improve their spoken Arabic over Skype with someone like Ghayath.

"We choose to speak together about daily life, about their interests, about my life, their life, about the situation, the news..."

Students sign up for the language training for a number of reasons. Some are studying related subjects in university or college classes. Others are preparing to visit a country whose language they do not speak.

Ghayath has resettled in Italy. NaTakallam gives him the chance to earn money. Finding full-time employment can often be difficult for a refugee.

"I speak English here, it will help me here in finding job, but for people who doesn't speak English or Italian, it's really hard to find a job quickly here."

Ghayath says NaTakallam has helped him, while earning money at the same time.

"I always say NaTakallam is my window to the world, because I travel every day through this small screen."

Aline Sara says it is important to change the way many people think of refugees. She believes her company can show that refugees are "like anyone else and that they have things they can offer us, as well."

I'm Dorothy Gundy.

VOA Correspondent Tina Trinh reported this story from New York. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted her report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

tutor – n. a teacher who works with one student

platform – n. a program or set of programs that controls the way a computer works and runs other programs

focus – v. to cause (something, such as attention) to be directed at something specific (+ on)