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Arabic Language Students Carry Conversations Across the Globe

Bolles upper school students enrolled in Arabic 1 and 2 put their language skills to the test on May 9 with an immersive experience through نتكلّمNaTakallam (we-speak) – an organization that hires displaced persons as online language tutors and cultural exchange partners.

Upper school French and Arabic teacher Sara Phillips-Bourass said her students worked individually or in small groups to interview a “mystery” speaker from somewhere in the Arab World, using questions they workshopped ahead of time and working on using as much Arabic as possible. They connected with speakers from Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Iraq and Yemen who have resettled all over the world, including in Lebanon, Canada, Greece, France, Turkey, Malaysia and Ethiopia.  

Bolles students were able to see how NaTakallam builds bridges and changes the narrative around global displacement by creating a personal connection and learning firsthand from their experiences and in their own voices. View a list of the individuals the students spoke with during the activity here.

Carmine Levy ’23 said the exercise only made him want to go to the Arab World even sooner.

“I gained a better understanding of what people experience on a global scale,” he said. “I was shown a new perspective other than the American one.”

Sophomore Abby Bradley ’25 echoed Levy’s sentiments after her “eye-opening” conversation with a Syrian refugee who is now living in Canada and hasn’t seen any of her family in 10 years.

“I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation because of how engaging and enlightening it was,” Bradley said. “It was quite difficult sometimes to comprehend her answers, but I was surprised that we could sustain a conversation in a foreign language. That was the first time I had done that!”