Learning languages on the move

Malika* is 11 years old and she speaks four languages – Arabic, Turkish, Greek and English

Selma Kapic
Learning languages on the move
UNICEF/Kapic
26 October 2020

Malika* is 11 years old and she speaks four languages – Arabic, Turkish, Greek and English. The languages she speaks tell the story about her childhood and her determination to continue learning, despite the difficult circumstances and the obstacles she faced, together with her family.  

Arabic is Malika’s mother tongue. She was born in Iraq, where she spent her early childhood. The family left Iraq and went to Syria, but returned to Iraq after few years, fleeing the conflict. The worsening situation in Iraq forced them to leave again, this time to Turkey, where they stayed for three years, during which time Malika learned Turkish.  After the family left Turkey and arrived in Greece, the girl was enrolled into school, where she learned Greek to be able to talk to her schoolmates.

Unfortunately, building new life in these countries wasn’t possible for Malika’s family, so they continued the journey, and, through Albania and Serbia, they arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The girl, her sister and her mother are now staying in a reception centre in Bihac, in north-western Una-Sana Canton, where the majority of refugees and migrants are arriving hoping to continue the journey to one of the Western Europe countries through Croatia. Malika’s father is still in Greece.

“Travelling with daughters is very challenging, because it’s difficult to protect them from all the risks they are exposed to”, says Malika’s* mother. In Bosnia, the key country on the Western Balkans migration route, where up to 10,000 refugees and migrants are currently staying, the family found shelter and support.

Malika* was eager to continue learning, and she started attending workshops run by Save the Children’s education in emergency team. This summer, with support from UNICEF, the education team introduced non-formal education activities into the reception centres hosting families in Una-Sana Canton, among which is using the Akelius Language Learning Course for children’s language education. This platform for language learning was developed by UNICEF and Akelius Foundation as a language course that anyone can use in order to learn a new language, independent of language skills or languages spoken, and it available on computers, tablets and smartphones.

During her stay in Greece, Malika* was learning Greek by using the Akelius Language Learning Course, and she curiously started using the platform to learn English.

Malika* was eager to continue learning, and she started attending workshops run by Save the Children’s education in emergency team
UNICEF/Kapic

“I love learning languages. In Greece, I was happy to learn Greek because I made many friends in school and I wanted to communicate with them. The platform is easy to use and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn languages. You can use it on your own.”

 Malika* has a great relationship with the education team as she would also like to be a teacher one day.  “And if you do need help, you can always ask the teacher”, says the girl.

 

 

       

*Names are changed in order to protect children’s identity