NaTakallam (“we speak” in Arabic) pairs displaced Syrians with Arabic learners around the world for language practice over Skype. The platform offers affordable, flexible, tailored Arabic practice with native speakers to language learners.
On the other end, NaTakallam offers a valuable income source to displaced Syrians mostly in Lebanon, but also in Turkey, Egypt, Armenia, France, Brazil and Germany. Alongside language instruction, users and Syrian conversation partners engage in an intercultural exchange as well, frequently developing transatlantic friendships between worlds that are often polarized in the media and political spheres.
To date, some 35 Syrian conversation partners and over 950 individuals worldwide have engaged in NaTakallam sessions. Arabic has long been popular among students, members of the Arab Diaspora interested in maintaining their spoken skills, and professionals working in or on the Middle East. In the US alone, Arabic’s popularity, has increased two-fold over the past decade, making it the fastest-growing area of foreign language study in the country. As conflict continues to affect the Middle East, the need for Arabic speakers is becoming more urgent. Moreover, NaTakallam creates an opportunity for people to directly contribute to enhance the situation of displaced individuals. NaTakallam is growing rapidly- London-based venture philanthropy fund Al Fanar has invested $55,000 USD to support efforts to scale the model. The program is currently looking into expanding its services to other languages (Farsi in the works) and also including other refugee communities (Iraqis, Palestinians, Yeminis, and others).
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CEI approaches in action
- Displaced people have earned over $110,000 USD through the platform
- NaTakallam has received over $120,000 USD in venture philanthropy investments and grants from social entrepreneurship competitions
Started in July 2015 with a pilot with 5 Syrian refugees and approximately 10 students.
NaTakallam’s current goal is to increase its user base given that this automatically increases the number of refugees who benefit from a rewarding livelihood. We would ideally love to become a required addition to the typical Arabic course in major universities around the world.
Beyond being a complement to students in Arabic programs, NaTakallam aims to become a standalone option for people wanting to learn Arabic, beyond the conversation aspect. For individuals who are not in university programs, and who are interested in structured classes, NaTakallam is working in partnership with the Cornell University affiliated Al-Mashriq Center for Arabic Instruction in Jordan to implement the integrated (colloquial/MSA) Arabic curriculum developed by the director of Cornell University’s Arabic program. This will give beginner level students a fully recognized, Ivy-league used curriculum, with the structure and necessary exam taking to get credits that can then be transferred or recognized in other Arabic Language institutions. To ensure the curriculum’s value is maximized, NaTakallam conversation partners will partake in a training by the author of the curriculum, who teaches at Cornell University’s Arabic department. He will prepare the Syrian refugees to use the curriculum on a one-on-one context and for teaching over the internet. The refugees will in turn become certified instructors who have been approved by him, thus enhancing their CV and providing worthwhile capacity building for them. NaTakallam hopes to have the training in December in Beirut, Lebanon, and to launch this option in 2017.
Monitoring & Evaluation
NaTakallam assesses sign ups through a platform that tracks number of users, their demographics, and the frequency with which they take sessions. Additionally, there is qualitative assessment through a survey for feedback that is regularly sent to users. NaTakallam will soon be creating a survey for the Syrian conversation partners to assess their students and their general interaction. They conduct regular check ins with the Syrians to assess their satisfaction with NaTakallam. Additionally, the program monitors:
- - The total number of unique users per month
- - The loyalty rate
- - The average number of hours used per customer
- - The total hours sold per month
- - The total number of university partnerships and number of students they are bringing on board
On the teacher/conversation partner end, NaTakallam Measures:
- - The total number of Syrian Conversation Partners (CPs) per month
- - The total number of loyal Syrian CPs (3 months+ working for NaTakallam)
- - The average monthly income from NaTakallam for each CP
We have the results of 208 users’ feedback survey.
The average rate was 4.53/5 on the question “How satisfied were you with your conversation session”.
The average rate was 4.69/5 on the question “How satisfied were you with your conversation partner”.