Getting WISE in English

For many of the women enrolled in TYO’s Women’s Incubation Services for Entrepreneurs (WISE) program, the opportunities offered at the center are the difference between progress and stagnation; between success and failure. Without TYO, some of the women would not have been able to draw up business plans, receive trainings, find funding, and launch their businesses. For my WISE beginner English class, I have the chance to work with two sisters, Afnaan and Reena, who have already seen the benefits of the WISE program as well as TYO's earlier program, Fostering Women's Entrepreneurs in Nablus (FWEN). Afnaan and Reena started a coffee business together, and the English class I teach them is just one of the many opportunities they receive through their involvement in WISE.

Reena (L) and Afnaan practice writing English in WISE beginner English

Though we’ve only had a few classes so far, the progress that Afnaan and Reena have already made has been clear and impressive. We started our first class by going over the alphabet, and discussing simple greetings, questions, and phrases in English—like “hello,” “how are you?” “thank you,” “goodnight.” Pronunciation and understanding spoken English proved challenging for them, as did some of the alphabet. Letters like “g” and “j” and “b” and “p,” which sound similar or do not have easy equivalents in the Arabic alphabet, were difficult for them.

Even when they encountered a difficult concept or word, or I struggled to explain something to them, Afnaan and Reena stayed upbeat and focused; they sounded out words and letters again and again until they got it right, and dutifully completed every in-class example and homework assignment I gave them. Now, just a few classes into the semester, both sisters are already writing and speaking complete English sentences, integrating basic vocabulary into their conversations, and moving on to more advanced topics like verb tenses and conjugation.

The example of Afnaan and Reena in my WISE English class is indicative of the situation of many women that TYO works with: they have the drive, the determination, and the desire to do many things—learn English, launch a business, serve others, and more. With its resources and services, TYO empowers these women to achieve goals and ambitions that would otherwise not be possible.


Alex is a TYO intern in Nablus.