For girls to learn English and conquer the World…
Young women practice English speaking thanks to the 'Strong Girls' program, founded by the high school student Defne who lives in Switzerland.
The ‘Strong girls’ of Turkey are learning English
The 'Strong Girls' program, founded by the high school student Defne living in Switzerland, opened the doors of the world to young girls in Turkey. The interest in the program, which brings together those who want to improve their English speaking skills with volunteer tutors from all over the world, online and free of charge, is growing day by day.
Defne Tangulu is a 17-year-old high school student and continues her education in Switzerland. Believing that women should stand on their own feet, Defne founded the 'Strong Girls' program in 2019, knowing that being able to speak English is especially important for success in business life. Within the scope of the program, volunteers from all over the world offer free English speaking lessons to young Turkish girls and women. Defne Tangulu answered our questions about the program.
How did the story of the "Strong girls" begin?
Today, in many parts of the world, women are not equipped to stand on their own feet and live an independent life. Women do not always have the same educational opportunities as men, and this can hinder them from living an independent and successful life. I started the Strong Girls social service organization in May 2019 to help women reach their goals. Initially, it started as a small website that I created myself, which we announced by word of mouth. After we developed the mobile application, it has become much larger than I had anticipated. To date, 200 volunteers have given lessons to more than 1000 young girls and women.
How did you dare to implement such a project when you were 14-15 years old?
To be honest, I never expected it to grow this big yet I did not hesitate to ask for help in the process.
How did your parents react when you told them about the project?
My family was very happy when I came up with such an idea. They always stood beside me. I got a lot of help from my brother and my parents.
What was the reaction of the people around you?
People around me didn't take it seriously at first. Afterwards, when they understood what the program was and its purpose, they were very supportive. I receive lots of great feedback that keep me motivated to continue.
Who are the volunteer tutors? What is the age group and occupation?
Those who teach in the program are people who join us voluntarily and speak English at a good level. There are volunteers of all ages in the program, I can say that the average age of a volunteer is between 20-60. Volunteers participate in the program from many countries such as Turkey, USA, UK, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, France, Denmark, and Switzerland. The occupations of the volunteers are very different from each other. They vary from teachers, high school / university students, lawyers, business women, engineers, housewives, musicians, artists, and sports teachers.
Who are the students? Age, city of residence?
There are students of all ages in the program, but the majority are university students or recent graduates. The average age is around 25. Students attend the program from almost every part of Turkey: Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Balikesir, Urfa, Adana, Burdur, Diyarbakir, Elazig, Gaziantep, Giresun, Kahramanmaraş, Mardin, Samsun, and Bilecik.
You live abroad, how is the English speaking level of young women there?
Especially in northern, western, and central European countries, they start teaching English in schools from a young age. There are several English lessons per week, and they are usually taught by teachers who speak English as a native speaker or at that level.
Why is it important for young women to speak English?
I think that English knowledge is a necessary skill to be successful, especially in the business world. When I first moved from Turkey to Switzerland, I realized that speaking was the most difficult part, despite knowing English before. When young women know English, they can follow the world news, study abroad, and communicate when they go abroad.
What are the conditions for participation in the program?
The program is completely free of charge. Matching takes place via a mobile application, which is available on the App Store and Google Play under the name "Strong Girls – Guclu Kizlar".
Feedback from students
“I am a final year civil engineering student. I want to improve myself in my field of study and it is very important for me to learn English at this stage. Thanks to the Strong Girls application, I met my volunteer. She encouraged me to speak English. Thanks to her feedback, I identified my mistakes more easily and she supported me with my grammar issues as well. Thanks to this program, I became more motivated to learn English. I recommend the Strong Girls app to all my friends.” A.U., Izmir
“An amazing person entered my life thanks to the Strong Girls program! Every minute my volunteer spends with me is very precious. My major at the university is totally in English and I was struggling a lot at the English prep class. I passed the prep class thanks to my volunteer’s support. I was not able to speak in English much before I met her. I am now improving my English conversation skills thanks to her patience and support. Thank you Strong Girls Team for providing us with this opportunity!” K.K. Adana
Feedback from volunteers
“Joining 'Strong Girls' has been a very rewarding experience for me. I get to meet strong, intelligent girls from all around Turkey. I’ve had five students so far and am actively teaching two at the moment. Both of my students are smart, driven and bright young ladies. It’s such a delight to be able to have a positive impact on their lives, while getting to know them and learning from them at the same time. Thank you ‘Strong Girls’ for providing such an empowering platform!” A.A., NYC, USA
“I'm very glad to be a part of this program. During our sessions, we talk about our lives, different cultures and experiences. It’s rewarding to support a young educated girl, who doesn’t have enough resources but has a huge capacity and faith in herself, and who is trying hard and does her best.” N.B. Doha, Qatar
“It has been an amazing for me, I am so happy to be a part of this program! During our sessions, we speak about their lifestyle and future plans. They are also curious to learn about my journey of life and find clues to reach their goals. We try to with English throughout the sessions, but depending on their level, I teach them how to put it in a better way in English. The most important part of this program is that both volunteers and students are on it just because they want to be there. It is that willpower that makes the sessions more exciting and beneficial for everyone.” Z.D. London, UK
How many lessons are there in total? Is English teaching done according to the levels?
When the speaking level of the student is determined at the first lesson, they plan the lessons accordingly. The duration of a course is 10 lessons, but it is possible to continue by matching with the same person, or someone else, after the course is over, depending on the preference of the volunteer and the student.