Many Syrian citizens have sought refuge across the border in Turkey, most of whom do not speak Turkish. The Turkish Program helps navigate linguistic, cultural and circumstancial barriers in a new country through virtual lessons.
A Language in Need
Language for Survival
Turkey is currently hosting nearly 3 million Syrian refugees, the vast majority of whom did not speak Turkish before crossing the border. More work is needed to ensure Syrians have access to basic goods, services, education and employment in Turkey. Being fluent in the local language helps refugees navigate the Turkish legal system, engage with businesses, participate in local communities and complete educational goals. Helping Syrians integrate into Turkish communities is critical not just to the stability of Turkey, but for the dignity and future stability of Syrians now living there, and having conversational Turkish skills greatly contributes to this effort.
We match Syrian students with vetted Turkish tutors, who meet once a week over Skype to practice the Turkish language. Paper Airplanes’ approach is through instruction tailored to each student. Although the Turkish government also provides free Turkish lessons, many centers are overcrowded or inaccessible for those not living in major cities. Further, rising anti-refugee sentiment is becoming a major problem in Turkey (see here and here), one that will fester unless people interact with one another to clear misconceptions. We view Turkish language training as one of many ways to help communities build trust and understanding.