International English Club
A recent study by the Harvard Business Review found that English has become the universal language for the modern workforce and over 70% of employers say prospective employees need English in order to be successful in their jobs and hence require a mid to advanced level fluency in the language. But these ‘requirements’ rarely account for local realities of many populations in the Global South. Such realities include a long history of colonization and the legacy it leaves behind.
The legacy of colonization is acutely evident in Lebanon, where the French went out of their way to promote French as the main language for education and business for over 20 years. Today, Arabic and French remain the main languages taught in schools, and with the economic crisis ravaging the country in the past few years, the job market has become almost non existent for young people who do not speak English. Many students wait until after graduation to learn English and others migrate to countries where French is accredited to find employment, like France or Canada.
Loujaina, a young woman from Lebanon, has experienced this issue herself, struggling to compete in the job market without proficiency in English. Undeterred by her experience, she took online classes and taught herself the language. Through that process she not only learned English, but learned the value of experiencing different cultures. The process inspired her to start The International English Club which aims to teach English for free or for a symbolic fee. The learning happens online through workshops and cultural exchanges with students from all over the world.
Loujaina began by collaborating with English teachers and nonprofits in Lebanon to build a cohort of educators that would teach interested young people, and within weeks, she was able to enrol 220 students from over 14 countries. The program targets all ages regardless of ethnicity or nationality. If a person has an internet connection, they can have access to the program. In addition to teaching English, the Club aims to promote cultural exchange, networking, building international relationships and providing students with opportunities for professional development.
“What makes us special is that we offer our graduates with intermediate or advanced English skills the opportunity to come back and volunteer to teach beginners,” notes Loujaina, hence building a community that extends beyond the duration of the class.
Peace First’s MENA team provided extensive mentoring helping guide Loujaina through her project plan, and provided a mini grant to support initial marketing and design efforts.
Watch Loujaina speak about her project in this episode of Peace First in Arabic.