Migration can be a challenging process: starting a new life, adapting to a new culture, and finding a new community.
Language barriers, in particular, can be a formidable obstacle to social cohesion.
Zeynep and Nadira, who live in Türkiye’s southeast province of Gaziantep where hundreds of thousands of Syrians live, are aware of how valuable it is to have a sense of community.
In such communities, accessible language courses and community support can play a significant role in helping migrants and refugees overcome the language barrier, facilitate longer term harmonization and enhance access to formal labour markets.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) supports Arabic courses through its six Municipal Migrant and Community Centres (MMCCSs), the Ensar Community Centre in Gaziantep being one of them. The courses are part of the Centre's informal education programme, among other services and activities offered by the centres.
Zeynep, who wants to learn Arabic, finds what she is looking for thanks to this programme. She is studying theology at Maraş Sütçü İmam University, and she says that the Arabic language course contributed to her study.
“Learning Arabic has benefited me in many ways,” she says. “After learning Arabic, I have started communicating better with my friends. It brings energy to my daily life,” she says, emphaszing her excitement at being able to learn the stories of people from different backgrounds.
Zeynep's Arabic learning journey exemplifies how learning a language can provide a sense of belonging and enhance personal growth.
Another participant, Nadira, has been living in Gaziantep for eight years and is familiar with the challenge of finding a community. She used to walk past the Ensar Community Centre without knowing what was taking place inside. “I did not even know that there was an Arabic language course being offered there. Then, curiosity led me to the centre. I made friends here who came to the centre, in this community."
Explaining that she can now engage in small conversations in Arabic, Nadira is pleased with the new friendships she has made friends with her classmates in the Arabic course.
“I have friends here who speak Arabic. We do not communicate well yet, but we can make small talk. Overall, I love the friends I made at this centre.”
Overcoming language barriers ultimately bridges cultures.
“By speaking more than one language, we begin to better understand and appreciate other cultures,” says Aceyla Sungur, IOM Senior Project Assistant who oversees the Centre in coordination with the Municipality. “This helps people establish solid relationships with others from diverse backgrounds – which is our key motivation at the centre.”
Zeynep’s and Nadira’s language learning journeys speak to the importance of the Centre’s language courses – helping people find a common thread and weave together stories of shared experiences.
The Centre is run by IOM in cooperation with the Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality, with the generous support of the U.S. Department of States’ Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. The Centre also offers counseling and psychosocial support services and organizes initiatives aimed at building social cohesion between migrant, refugee and local communities.