15 Nov 2021
By: IOM Turkey

Learning a local language is vital in migrant and refugees’ integration into their new homes. Because the ability to communicate in a local language eases the daily lives of migrants in many ways. Moreover, it builds their self-esteem as they feel more confident and get used to a new country faster. As they learn the language, they get to know the local culture, make friends with locals, and develop a sense of belonging to a host community.  

In Yayla, one of the districts of Istanbul, those women from migrant and refugee communities who are willing to learn the Turkish language signed up for a two-month online speaking club organized by IOM Turkey. The club's sessions helped them to learn the basics and lay the foundation for practising in daily life, gradually building on the vocabulary. Lessons inspired women to continue learning and practising Turkish with more confidence and enthusiasm.

One of the participants-- 27 years-old Nadia -- mentions that before joining the sessions she kept refusing invitations to any social gatherings with her Turkish friends: she felt very uncomfortable as she mostly listened and could say only a few words. Now she can surprise her friends with good Turkish and even idioms and colloquial phrases and words that Turkish people naturally use. 

“The Turkish speaking club improved my communication with my children in Turkish. Before, my Turkish was relatively poor, so I did not want them to pick up wrong words or pronunciations. But now, I can communicate with them fluently and we spend more time together learning from each other!”

, shared Nadia about another side of the sessions’ impact. Indeed, one of the goals of the Turkish Speaking Club activities was to strengthen mother-child relations through a shared learning experience. 

Another participant Samer, who also lives in the Yayla district learned about the language sessions from her neighbours. She participated in all speaking club sessions, and she says that she continued practising every day after the sessions. She adds that each time she goes out to do her groceries or meet her Turkish landlord, she feels grateful for the team who made the sessions possible as well as all the participants.

Asking for an address, arranging a doctor appointment, describing physical features or doing groceries and the like are the basics that the course curriculum comprises to ease the daily routine of migrants. However, some of the participants took more from the course. For instance, 47 years old Servan, who works as a tailor uses his newly-developed language skills to develop her business and interact with Turkish customers and her employer.

As a breadwinner migrant woman, Servan advises all migrants that they try harder to overcome challenges and love and respect the people around them. In this way, she adds, migrants can make their dreams come true in their new home and be respected.  

One of the IOM’s social workers who conducted the online activities adds that they wanted to create an environment that would encourage women to continue their learning journey and empower them to share their experiences. At the end of the program, the social worker realized that participants did not see sessions as just language classes, but as a creative and safe space to express their emotions freely.