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How SPEAK connects newcomers and locals in times of COVID-19


Our network partners regularly have their say on our blog. In this article, SPEAK – a social start-up that connects migrants, refugees and natives living in the same city – reports on the restructuring of its language courses due to the Corona pandemic.

With the COVID-19 pandemic under full swing many are feeling more isolated than ever before. With limited movement being the norm across Europe and other regions, the social and economic consequences are devastating, particularly to the most vulnerable groups of our society such as migrants, refugees and elderly. 

Due to the forced isolation measures, we adapted our methodology to an online model where anyone can sign up to learn a language for free from anywhere, and if available, they can also share their own language, thereby actively contributing to combat social exclusion and loneliness and helping SPEAK community members build relationships of support, trust and loyalty. 

SPEAK went to work and transformed their whole business model from an offline to an online model. Hugo Menino Aguiar, CEO and co-founder at SPEAK stated that “we believe, now more than ever, it is fundamental to stay connected and take care of each other” and under the present situation, we are all facing a form of social isolation, therefore “from now on we will run online language groups open and free for everyone.”


SPEAK decided to host daily 90-minute language sessions with 4-7 participants, on a “pay-what-you-want” model. The thought behind online intensive language groups is that it would allow daily human interaction, while not decreasing the quality of the sessions that SPEAK has instilled to date. 

With this new model, we have seen more than 4.000 people sharing languages and cultures over the last two months, staying connected, and thereby breaking the isolation barrier they faced. 

A doctor working in a public hospital dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak daily, shared that SPEAK is her way of keeping a sound mind during these difficult times. Shirin, another participant, shared:

“I come from Bulgaria. 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!”.



SPEAK is also helping around 200 refugees and asylum seekers from Greece, Italy, Spain, Syria, the UK and Portugal with integration via the exchange of languages and cultures, online. Ahmed, from Iraq, shared the following testimonial with his buddy:

I am grateful that SPEAK is helping me, and my family learn a language. The sessions you offer are great and you make learning become easy. You made us enjoy learning the language. We love how you host sessions and appreciate you making us feel comfortable. We are very thankful for your help”. 


We will keep working with refugees and refugee organizations to help them have a smoother interaction process. Presently we are working together with over 15 different organizations to support refugees and scale our impact. 

SPEAK is a fun way of interacting, reducing loneliness, sharing knowledge and travelling without leaving your home. You meet people from all over the world and share a bit of happiness with everyone in these testing times.

Everyone can join the ever-growing SPEAK community as a buddy or a participant under

SPEAK connects migrants, refugees and natives living in the same city through language courses and events open to the entire community.

You want to read more about the work of SPEAK? On their blog you will find many more exciting articles.

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