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Somalian Refugee Launches Interpretation Company in Minneapolis

Khadija Ali
CEO, Global Language Connections

Former child refugee Khadija Ali is a natural advocate. “I believe everyone has a voice,” she says. “And I didn’t want a language barrier to be a deterrent for anyone’s well-being, which is what happened to my family members.”

Ali came to America at 13, after her family fled civil war in Somalia. None of them spoke English and no language resources were available in the San Diego community where they first landed, before moving to Minnesota. It wasn’t until Ali entered high school and started working a retail job at Nike, that she started to become fluent.

Eventually, she served as her family’s interpreter and translator, but she couldn’t always be there to help. On one occasion, a family member’s inability to communicate with her dentist resulted in him extracting the wrong tooth. After this, Ali decided she needed to use her fluency for the greater good. In 2015, she launched Global Language Connections, a consulting, translation and interpretation company that offers services in over 200 languages. “With personalized language services, our clients can make the most of American opportunity,” Ali says.

Almost half of Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants. They give us a competitive edge and are workhorses. They also fill jobs that other people may not want to do. But they need to be able to communicate.

Khadija Ali

Ali has received awards from the Minnesota-based International Leadership Institute and the City of Minneapolis for her work. But she believes local governments and businesses must do more to support and promote not only language access and education for newcomers, but also empower people of all faiths. “I’d like to see Minneapolis expand ESL classes and tutors for students and interpreters for parents,” she says. “It’s important that parents can be included in their children’s education,”

Ali feels that language services are key to helping newcomers achieve success. “People face a lot of discrimination especially when they’re not understood,” she says. “But immigrants bring ingenuity, fresh ideas and culture. We all deserve support and equal access to opportunities. For many people, that means providing language services. They will thrive with the right tools.”

About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…