Established in 2015 by two graduates of Colombia’s School of International and Public Affairs, NaTakallam is an award-winning social enterprise that connects refugees and displaced people to remote work opportunities in the language sector. To date, more than 150 displaced persons have self-generated $520,000 through translation jobs or by connecting with over 4500 unique users, who sign up as individuals or through K-12 and university partnerships (including Yale, Georgetown, Columbia, and others). NaTakallam has been featured in dozens of media outlets, notably in Fast Company, PBS, NPR, Al Jazeera and Reuters and by the UNHCR in a recent video. Translation services are delivered by refugees in 9+ languages (past clients include the International Rescue Committee, Buzzfeed, and Malala Fund). Conversation partners are also available to join your next company brown bag, or any other kind of event, as a virtual guest speaker to give a personal, first-hand perspective on the global refugee crisis.

Investment thesis:

NaTakallam offers high quality, curated language learning, cultural exchange and translation services, delivered by refugees/displaced persons, providing them with training, income, community and links to the community on the one end, and providing paying clients with a much-needed service that has impact in addition to its affordability and flexibility.

Customers include:

  • Individual language learners
  • and university administration and faculty
  • NGOs/corporations/government agencies looking for language learning for their staff or for translation services.

Services include:

  • Individual Conversation Sessions in Arabic, Persian, Spanish and French.
  • The Integrated Curriculum: A complete beginner’s course (Cornell University’s) in colloquial (spoken) and Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) delivered by one of our conversation partners over three bundles of 25 hour-long sessions.
  • Academic Programs: A variety of semester-long language lessons or guest speaker sessions addressed to K-12 schools or at universities accommodate small or large group conversation sessions delivered in a selected target language for language practice, or in English for cross-cultural exchange related to the refugee experience, migration, displacement, and other topics.
  • Translation Services: professional translation and interpretation services offered in over 9 languages with previous clients including the Danish Refugee Council, Buzzfeed, and the International Rescue Committee.

Potential refugee impact:

NaTakallam innovatively leverages the internet economy and refugees’ native languages skills by vetting, hiring and training them as online language partners and connecting them to language learners worldwide. NaTakallam thus provides displaced persons, with access to an income, marketable skills and a restored sense of dignity/purpose. On the other end, users have access to affordable language practice with native speakers while directly contributing to the livelihood of their refugee partner. Some refugees have earned up to $1500/month –twice the minimum wages in Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt. To date, some 150 displaced persons/refugees and 4500+ individuals in 80 countries have engaged in thousands of hours of NaTakallam sessions, and displaced people have self-generated over $520,000 through NaTakallam (tutoring and providing translation services) often using the income to self-sustain themselves while pursuing higher education or a new language when resettling. Additionally, a majority of these refugees are urban refugees who reinvest their income in local local host country economies.


Aline Sara – Founder & CEO