Had you asked me at the beginning of our project about the language barrier, I don’t know what I would have said. To be honest, when I made my first phone calls for research, I didn’t even really think about what I would do if the person who picked up the phone on the other side of the world didn’t speak English. Fortunately, she did, and so did almost everyone with whom I spoke. To start, this was a very lucky result, since we would not have been able to gather the information and research that we did if a language barrier had stood between us and the people we called. While most did have a British accent, leftover from colonialism, everyone spoke English flawlessly and was usually excited to speak to someone from the US. The only situation where I was not so lucky was when I had to call an investor in India. After a few lines back and forth in what we both likely thought was pure gibberish, we both just concomitantly gave up and ended the call. At 3:00 in the morning, it was honestly pretty amusing, even though I likely missed out on some valuable information if only I had known his language.
This realization also reminded me that I was somewhat ignorant about Zimbabwe and inexperienced with international work. This situation reminded me that I needed to be prepared for challenges on the project and be less anglo-centrically minded in my expectations. I am working an internship this summer at a globally active company, and there are many international experiences possible on projects in their offices around the world. While English is a requirement for employees of the company, I think that my learning experience on this project with Zimbabwe will allow me to have more realistic and humbler expectations going into any international projects “in the real world” after I graduate.