NaTakallam provides on-demand language learning, translation and cultural exchange services delivered by refugees. To date, more than 130 displaced persons have self-generated $420,000US through remote translation jobs or by connecting with over 4500 unique users, who sign up as individuals or through university + school partnerships (including Emory, GW, Tufts, Duke, NYU and more) for language but also cultural exchange. Our translation clients include the International Rescue Committee, Malala Fund, BuzzFeed and the Danish Refugee Council.

Where: Headquartered in NYC and Paris, but operating online with refugees in over 15 countries and users in more than 65.

Since when: 2015

The target: Individual language learners, cultural exchange seekers, translation clients, educational institutions.

The Problem

In the summer of 2014, I had just completed my masters in International Affairs and was looking for a way to practice my native Lebanese dialect of Arabic. At the same time, thousands of Syrians were fleeing the violence from the brutal civil war, 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.

The Solution

NaTakallam provides an income to refugees by connecting them to remote work opportunities in the language sector as conversation partners and translators. To date, more than 140 displaced persons have self-generated $420,000 through remote translation jobs and by connecting with individuals through university partnerships for language practice, but also cultural exchange. Our solution provides refugees with a sustainable form of income, and gives our language learners a chance to learn about the experiences of displaced persons, while learning Arabic, Persian, and soon, Spanish and French.

The Product

NaTakallam is an award-winning social enterprise that offers language tutoring and cultural exchange as well as translation services, delivered by displaced persons and refugees. We cater to individuals, educational institutions, communities, NGOs, and corporates in need of affordable and flexible language practice, cultural exchange, and translation services through the direct access to native speakers on the one hand, while providing displaced individuals with a source of income, marketable skills, and enriching work opportunity on the other.

The impact on the life of refugees

NaTakallam provides displaced individuals with economic opportunities in the language sector, purpose, and re-gained dignity – in an effort to combat the workforce restrictions faced in their host communities. We provide cash disbursements to our displaced language partners and translators to support the livelihood of displaced individuals as we try to change the narrative of refugees being passive recipients of aid to incredibly resilient people trying to rebuild their lives.

To measure our impact on the lives of refugees, we mainly calculate the total disbursement, number of people reached, and median payment. To date, over 110 displaced persons and over 4000 individuals in more than 65 countries have engaged in more than 20,000 hours of NaTakallam sessions. Since August 2015, displaced people have self-generated over $420,000 through their work with NaTakallam.

Our Team 


Aline Sara
Founder and CEO
New York, NY, USA
Founding member


Reza Rahnema
Founder and COO
Paris, France
Founding member

Lydia Bassaly
Translation and Interpretation Coordinator and Growth Manager
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Joined NaTakallam July 2017

Carmela Francolino
Conversation Partner Pairing and Community Manager
Paris, France
Joined NaTakallam July 2017

Minji Hong
Program Officer
Ottawa, ON, Canada
Joined NaTakallam December 2016

Hannah Weitzer
Director of University and K-12 Partnerships

Our Results

NaTakallam has now connected over 4,000 people, young and old, from diverse countries and walks of life, with Syrian conversation partners. We have not only provided an avenue for language practice, but also a unique cultural experience which fosters friendships. Additionally, our wide variety of partnerships and clients is unparalleled in the market. Through university and K-12 collaborations, we are reaching interested students directly. Our university partnerships include Georgetown, Duke, and Yale, Columbia, and more. We also have many NGO partners, including The Aspen Institute, the International Rescue Committee, and Qatar Foundation International. Our translation clients include the International Rescue Committee, Malala Fund and Danish Refugee Council. We are also in discussions with companies like Starbucks, Microsoft, and Samsung to determine strategies to reach more users.

Our future goals, thanks to your donations

NaTakallam’s main goal for the future is to increase the number of languages we offer. As NaTakallam’s platform grows larger, we want to expand our services to include French and Spanish. Due to the frequency of global conflicts, there are refugees worldwide who are fluent in a plethora of languages. The more languages that NaTakallam offers, the more income we can provide to displaced people around the world. This will also engage more language learners who are interested in mastering languages other than Arabic. Spanish and French are two of the most commonly spoken languages in the world, and as such, there are many people NaTakallam could benefit who want to learn these languages. With the generosity of donors, we will be able to fund staff to recruit, train, and onboard refugees from South America, Haiti and Francophone Africa to be able to offer sessions in French and Spanish.

More about us … : 
Our website

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