Linguistic Act of Kindness: Canadian Youth Pay It Forward

This blog discusses a story from myKarma.com about a class that created an English/Arabic dictionary for Syrian families moving into the area and how language dictionaries enhance one’s ability to learn a new language.

The Syrian refugee crisis is one of the largest issues facing the modern world, even in the eyes of a group of second and third graders. A story posted on June 21st by myKarma.com discusses how Seilagh Bourassa-Young’s class created an English/Arabic dictionary in order to help Syrian families who recently moved into their surrounding area of Peterborough, Canada. The students thought of words that someone living in their community might need to know, specifically those relating to food and transportation. The dictionary, which contains roughly 100 words, is built from the list generated by the students, and also includes illustrations, sample sentences, and the Arabic translation. The dictionaries were given to Syrian families at their English language class at the local Fleming College.

These young students gave these families an amazing resource and gift that will enhance their ability to learn the English language. Dictionaries are one of the best tools in helping someone to learn and understand a language if used properly; they have the capability to serve a variety of functions. The most obvious purpose of a dictionary is to provide definitions and characteristics of words, including spelling and pronunciation. They are also used to find grammatical information. In the case of the Syrian families, it will mainly be used to study and find unknown words that are read or heard in a day-to-day setting.

The dictionary that the students provided to the Syrian families may even be more relevant than a larger, mainstream language dictionary. One of the tips that many linguists provide to students of a new language is to learn what the most common words are first because they appear on a daily basis. That is exactly what the students provided the Syrian families with, words that will regularly appear throughout the community. Understanding words that are used at a high frequency will enhance one’s to communicate effectively in their daily lives. Moreover, when people are able to communicate effectively, they will have more opportunities to speak with native speakers of the target language. In turn, people will gain new vocabulary words and grammatical knowledge.

What are your thoughts on the above story? Do you think language dictionaries are effective tools in helping one to learn a new language? Comment below!



Nisar, the dynamic force behind Translation Excellence, stands tall as its founder and CEO. This isn’t just any company—it’s a global heavyweight in boutique language services. Hailing from the vibrant city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Nisar brought his passion and expertise to the U.S. shores in 2001. In the realm of languages, he’s a titan. With 19 years under his belt, he’s worn hats from a linguist and instructor to a cultural bridge-builder and curriculum craftsman.

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