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Razan: Learn the language so no one else speaks for you

LLL participant and teacher Razan explains her motivation to learn English and why it’s so crucial for people to learn the language of their new country.

"We knew we would eventually be granted sanctuary in the USA, so I built up my English whilst we were in Spain where my youngest daughter received medical treatment. I spoke to the doctors in English so I could learn about her treatment. Every day she was in the hospital I started to find new English words and tried to have long conversations with the doctors. This helped me learn a lot.

"When I first arrived in the USA interpreters worked with our family.  I didn’t want to tell them that I already knew some English. However, the interpreter we had wasn’t very good - a lot of what we said in Arabic was lost during the translation.  I didn’t feel that they shared our feelings or understood our suffering. This gave me the motivation and the power to learn more English.  I do not want anyone else to speak on my behalf.

"It took me one year to start really improving my English. I used to stay at home, and I didn’t want to meet other people. I was absorbed in thinking a lot about my past and all the reasons that had forced us to leave Syria.  Ultimately my father, who is still in Syria, encouraged me to take the step to learn, to gain that power. Language is very important: you are the only one who can truly understand or explain what is going on inside yourself."

Razan lives with her husband and four children in Syracuse, N.Y., USA. She and her family are originally from Syria and spent time in Jordan and Spain before they resettled to the USA four years ago with the support of Reed Smith.

About the author

Sophie McCann

Sophie McCann is a program director and advocate with experience in international development and human rights advocacy in the UK and internationally. She specializes in refugee and migrants’ rights and community-based mental health and gender programming. Sophie is part of the Lamp Lifeboat Ladder team focusing on organizational development and communications.

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