Language and Cultural Activities

nmc-cesi-1NMC-CESI Language and Cultural Exchange Workshop between UofT Students and Newcomer Syrian Youth

NMC-CESI’s weekly language and cultural exchange workshop between UofT student volunteers and newcomer Syrian youth is comprised of several activities that facilitate conversations among participants to help them improve both their speaking and writing skills in both Arabic and English. Additionally, the activities are meant as a way to introduce both parties to different aspects of Canadian and Syrian culture. Every Saturday we select a new topic and provide each participant with their own worksheet based on the requisite language (either Arabic or English). Each worksheet contains a short vocabulary and phrase list along with a few questions to get the conversation started. After engaging with reading and speaking, we have our student volunteers and Syrian newcomers write a short paragraph about a certain topic. Depending on the aptitude of the participants, these activities vary slightly, and more attention may be given to basic vocabulary and phrases suited to their individual stage of the learning process.

The typical schedule for our workshop is as follows:


Introduction to the day’s activities and matching between Arabic-learning students and newcomer Syrian participants.


Reading and speaking practice: During this time the participants are required to read the assigned words and phrases on their respective worksheets and start a conversation with their partners about the assigned topic for the week using these words and phrases. The primary goal of this exercise is to help participants practice their oral communication skills, and to make sure that every person has time to practice speaking in private, where they will not feel shy about making mistakes! Participants are allowed to ask their partners to translate or explain a word in the event that they don’t understand it. After 20 minutes, partners switch roles to practice the other language.


Writing practice: During this exercise the participants are required to read a sentence and write a short paragraph about what they think of the assigned topic. During writing, participants are allowed to ask their partners about the translation of words they don’t know, yet would like to incorporate into their writing. When they finish, their partners need to show them where they made mistakes. After 20 minutes, partners alternate.


Group Activities

2:20 -4:00pm

Lunch and outdoor activities

Lunch is usually made by a newcomer Syrian women who cooks traditional Syrian food for our workshops. After our picnic we often play badminton, soccer, dodgeball and other group activities which help to form strong social bonds and encourage both teamwork and group participation.

Arabic Speaking Assistance

CESI has been working closely with Arabic speaking volunteers in order to match them with sponsor groups helping Syrian refugees in the GTA.

We encourage all Arabic speakers looking to get involved to email us at with their name and availability.

For sponsor groups at any stage of their sponsorship program, please do not hesitate to contact us at and inquire about our services! We already have an extensive list of volunteers ready to help in communication, as well as answer culturally sensitive questions you may have to the best of their ability.