Why a language partnership program?

The English language is an invaluable asset that can improve employability and foster integration. As a social enterprise that works with international clients and partners, we ourselves have experienced the importance of being able to communicate clearly and effectively in building relationships and developing intercultural understanding.

That is why our foundation recently partnered with Tuk-Tam’s U.S. Alumni Club and ran a language partnership program where members of our community and a member of the U.S. Alumni Club were partnered with each other.

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Meet our graduates

During this language partnership program, the participating pairs met online or in person once a week for a period of four months with the aim of using English to get to know each other and their cultures. In addition to providing an opportunity to use and improve their English whilst discovering each other’s background and culture, these partnerships also gave opportunities for both partners to meet new people and learn about each other’s life experiences.
In this blog post, we are featuring 5 of our language partner pairs in order to give an impression of what our language partnership program is like. Please note that we were not able to take photos of the participants due to the online nature of the program, which is why we have used other photos to illustrate their stories.

Aleksandra & Yamama

Yamama, who comes from Syria, has been a part of our community since 2018 and started learning English two years ago. Currently working in a customer support role, she knows the importance of clear communication. She has been working on being more confident and less shy when speaking English. 

Her partner was Aleksandra who is a Sofia native currently residing in New York. Aleksandra started learning English as a teenager before moving to study and work in the United States and knows what it is like living and working in a foreign language. Yamama was able to gain a lot of English knowledge from Aleksandra over the four months of the program through their discussions on verbs and grammar, as well as reading skills thanks to the resources that Aleks shared with her. They also shared stories about their lives and cultures, such as Yamama sharing stories about her mother’s cooking exploits and her art and Aleksandra sharing her experiences moving to America.

As Aleksandra is based overseas, they had to meet virtually, using WhatsApp calls and Google Meet. They got along really well and Yamama is looking forward to when Aleksandra is in Bulgaria to meet her in person and even introduce her to her family!

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Monika & Yasmeen

Illustration shows two people talking

Like Aleksandra and Yamama, Monika and Yasmeen had to meet virtually as Monika, too, is based in New York. For their language partnership, they would video call on WhatsApp. Monika works as a Human Resources professional in New York and knows how valuable it is to be able to speak English conversationally. Having been a mentee in similar programs in the past, Monika thought that in our program, she could offer the knowledge she had gained to her partner, Syria-native Yasmeen.

Despite not being able to understand each other some of the time, they managed to get to know each other discussing topics such as their daily activities, hobbies, and religious occasions such as Ramadan, and the rituals involved. Sometimes they were even joined by Yasmeen’s son who would pop up in the background of the video call! Monika also shared some learning resources with Yasmeen in order for her to continue developing her language skills. They are planning to stay in touch and have said that they would be interested in participating in the language partnership program again in the future.

Eva & Lana

Lana, who is originally from Syria, has been a part of our community for a while now and recently worked for us as a teaching assistant for a HITL Stars training program. She was paired with Eva who works as a teacher in Sofia. Eva and Lana met mostly virtually over Zoom but capped off their partnership program by meeting in person! During the program, they would talk about their cultures and a recurring topic was that of food. It made sense then that their meeting in person was at a Syrian dessert shop where Eva tried a Syrian dish for the first time!

Other than sharing their cultures with each other, they also bonded over shared experiences that transcend cultures and countries such as spending a day talking about their experiences wearing braces or discussing the cultural traditions around new-borns such as baby showers in American culture. Eva was also really impressed by Lana’s passion for learning languages: not only English but also German and Bulgarian. They are planning to stay in touch in the future and feel like they have made a new friend through this language partnership.

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Violeta & Fatima

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Violeta is actually one of the organizers of the program from the Tuk-tam side who decided to take an active role in the program as a participant! She studied graphic communication at Baruch College CUNY and is currently working as a graphic designer, as well as in quality monitoring at a call center. She was partnered with Fatima, who comes from Iraq and is a recent graduate of our HITL Stars training program. With the both of them being based in Sofia, Violeta and Fatima met both virtually and in person, visiting each other a couple of times during their partnership.

During their language exchange they would converse in English talking about their daily lives, their cultures, their families, and their interests. Fatima and Violeta developed a friendship over the course of the program with Violeta offering to and assisting Fatima in her search for a job! They are planning to stay in touch outside of the program in the future and are interested in participating in this program again, whether or not they get matched.

Geri & Lida

Geri and Lida never ended up meeting in person, but they had regular Zoom calls once a week. Geri studied Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon and is currently the Chief Operating Officer of her own company here in Sofia. Lida is from Lahijan, Iran, and used to work as a science teacher before migrating to Bulgaria with her family. She currently works as an annotator for Humans in the Loop and is also a graduate of our HITL Stars training program. 

During their partnership, they would focus on a different topic each week such as their dreams, travel stories, jobs, music they liked, their culture and traditions, and cooking over the course of the four-month program. They were very surprised to find that their culture’s had similar traditions! They also talked about each other’s families and background such as Lida having been a science teacher in Iran and Geri’s Bulgarian and Russian roots. They got on really well and are planning to stay in touch with each other after the program. They both enjoyed the program and are planning to participate in a future program as well!

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