Nataliya Ivanova is co-founder of SPEAK London, language and cultural exchange programme for migrants and refugees living in London. Having presented her business at Regent HE Student exhibition, Head of Strategic Development for TiC, Akosua Bonsu here interviews Nataliya to find out more about the motivation and operation of SPEAK.
“A socially conscious innovator: Nataliya is an inspiration who organically exemplifies the core values of Thinking into Character! I look forward to seeing what this young lady delivers next.”
What is speak?
SPEAK connects migrants, refugees and locals living in the same city through a language and culture exchange programme in an informal environment. SPEAK is all about learning and sharing a language while meeting new people and getting to know different cultures.
Our language groups are informal, highly affordable (£29 for 18 hours-course) and nobody is left out for to financial reasons!
As a member of SPEAK you can participate in our language groups, make new friendships and share your world
Everyone has a story: What’s yours?
My name is Nataliya, I’m Bulgarian and moved to London 7 years ago. When I first arrived I wasn’t very confident with the language and was afraid I wouldn’t fit into my new home country.
I started my journey by working hard and going to the local church for free English lessons. The lessons helped me not only to improve my language skills but also to meet people and to feel more integrated. I have always been fascinated by the diversity in London and getting to know different cultures has been incredibly interesting.
When I was introduced to SPEAK, which is a language and culture exchange programme that gives you the opportunity to make new friends and share your world with others, I immediately wanted to bring it to London.
So how did SPEAK London, the Limited company, begin?
SPEAK was founded in Portugal in 2014. I got to know the Portuguese team one day and they introduced me to an amazing Brazilian girl called Ingrid who had just moved to London with a goal to be fluent in English and to experience another culture. While she was living in Lisbon, she wanted to meet new people and learn English on a low budget therefore, SPEAK caught her attention.
A month later we got to know Inês – passionate and mindful Portuguese girl who just moved to London and wanted to start a new chapter in her life. She always wanted to build a social project that will have a positive impact on the community. In Portugal when she heard about SPEAK it was love at first sight.
Last but not least, our London’s team was joined by Mariana, a very positive Portuguese girl who shared SPEAK’s vision: Bringing people together by sharing a little bit of their world.
The adventure SPEAK London has just begun for us!
How has the business developed and grown?
SPEAK works as a culture and language exchange program where anyone can apply to learn or share their language and culture with others. To reinforce the bond between people and the community, we also organise events which are representative of the different cultures and are open and free to everyone.
Why was a focus on cultural exchange so important?
There are about 260 million migrants worldwide. Most migrants face difficult challenges such as not speaking the local language, lack of social networks, and discrimination. As migrants we understand those issues and through SPEAK we would love to give others the support and help they need to feel at home in London.
What is the best part of your job?
It has been amazing to see people who have been living in London for a long time and didn’t speak any English joining our language groups.Their feedback has been great: “When I arrived in London I didn’t speak English at all. A friend of mine told me about SPEAK and I enrolled in a language group. I really enjoy the sessions and I have met a lot of friends. It is very nice.” – Shirin. Shirin is Bulgarian and has been living in the UK for 6 years. She enrolled in an English Basic group and it is very impressive to see that her confidence has increased and she has even started to help others learning.
We have been running English, German and Portuguese language groups.
We have been involving different communities in a number of language exchange events with great success.
Where do you envisage the business going in the future?
We believe that building meaningful relationships and learning languages in an informal and effective way will help newcomers integrate themselves in a new place but will also bring down barriers to building a vital support network. We expect SPEAK to become more well known and a ‘place’ that people can call ‘home away from home’.
Who has supported you in your journey to set up SPEAK?
The implementation of this project has been a great challenge. All of this is possible because we have a lot of support the central Portuguese team.We would love to reach every person who needs SPEAK in London and be a platform for them to learn or share their language,get to know other cultures and feel at home in London.
Do you enjoy diversity? Are you interested in learning or sharing a language and culture in an informal environment? Do you want to make difference? Then join us! Sign up — www.speak.social
Learn more about SPEAK