One of the biggest challenges of working with refugee clients is language. Most volunteers don’t speak the languages of our clients–Karen, Chin, Burmese, or Nepali. For a new volunteer program, Dardasha (meaning “friendly conversation” in Arabic) language is less of a problem.
Dardasha is a newly formed group of students who are studying Arabic at Duke University. The students, both undergraduate and graduate, have been studying Arabic for several years and are able to speak to the newly arrived Iraqi clients in their native language. But Dardasha is not simply a chance for Arabic practice. Instead, the students work on an exchange model. For the first portion of their visit, they practice English with the Iraqi refugees, helping them to learn useful phrases which they need for integration into US culture. For the second portion, the students learn from the clients. They are able to talk about Iraqi history, culture, and even the differences between Iraqi Arabic and the Modern Standard Arabic which they learn in the classroom. It is our hope that Dardasha is a friendly conversation in which everyone learns something.