Bilingual Muslim Woman From New York Amplifies Voices Through Speech Pathology

Seated in the middle of 45 other students in The College of Staten Island’s CHEM160 evening class was Yasmin Talbeh. Her patience was running out as she watched the clock arrows leisurely turn. The class began at 6:30 pm and ended at 9:10 pm. Talbeh walked out at 7:30 pm. It was 2018, during the fall semester of her second year on the pharmacy track, that she decided: this was not for her. Three years later, Talbeh, 22, is a graduate student at Long Island University working on her Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology.

As a Muslim woman in her field, Talbeh faces some challenges in terms of proving herself. Sometimes she is questioned for even considering that position due to stereotypes around her background. Talbeh further explains, “People never assume I was born and raised here, that English is my first language. I’ve gotten comments like ‘How are you going to teach another person to speak when you can’t even speak English?’” Despite her fluency in English, she knows she will always have to go an extra mile as the only hijabi in the room.

Talbeh’s ethnic background also played a significant role in her decision to study speech in her undergraduate years. Being a Syrian-American Muslim born and raised in Brooklyn, she noticed the stigmas around speech impediments in her community. “Many cultures regarded these disorders as illnesses instead of something that could be fixed through therapy,” stated Talbeh. These misconceptions fueled her ambitions towards providing speech therapy for bilingual speakers in her community and beyond it.

Her interest in this profession began when she was browsing the majors offered at CSI during her sophomore year. She saw that SLP was a minor, interested in it, she made an appointment with a speech advisor and changed her major that same day to start working on the requirements for that degree. Through her classes, she realized she had a passion for language and communication. She also minored in Arabic because she noticed that there weren’t many bilingual SLPs.

Despite the rigorous coursework she has to endure for the upcoming two years of graduate school, Talbeh will give them her all. These years are essential in her educational and professional knowledge, and they will be the guiding steps to prepare her to be the best in her field. She is motivated by her passion to help those in need and represent Mulsim women in any workplace. 

Talbeh will continue to take any additional steps towards her goal of proving to the world that Muslim speech-language pathologists are credible resources for those in need of their expertise. “I want to help make a change,” she said. “To speak up, not only for the voiceless but for those who need some help having their voices heard”

Photo credit: Picture of Yasmin Talbeh in graduation cap & gown. Photo provided by Yasmin Talbeh.