Microfinance: Lost in Translation

By Bernice Yalley
In a lot of circumstances, I am confident. I walk with an easy glide, I am not shy in meeting new people, and when the moment is right, I can even dance a little jig in the middle of the supermarket. But in managing this savings and lending project, I sometimes get the feeling that I am play acting and figuring stuff out as I go along. Kind of like, the real project manager took a year off but before that her computer crashed with all of her meeting agendas, budgets, scheduling and planning notes lost into the great internet ether. And now I am filling in for her.

So far, everything is going well. Even the things that aren’t, I’ve got a plan to remedy. We all remember the bosses that we liked and those we could have done without. Some bosses tell us exactly how they want things whereas some are more open-ended. In leading this SILC project, I am taking the latter approach and letting my successful field agents design their own course. In part because they are intuitive and their efforts are succeeding as if in a dream; yet also because as this is the first project of its kind that even I have seen, I cannot dictate how things should look.

Does uncertainty reflect weakness? I’m a girl; maybe I should act tougher than I am. Is my voice too high and accent too American? Am I being culturally sensitive? Wait, am I supposed to be dogmatic? What Would Gordon Gecko Do?
The one thing that I have learned is that miscommunication is universal. Add into that mix a different dialect and culture, bad phone reception, thick accents (mine and theirs), no wireless network, no email confirmation, no fax machines, no street signs, house addresses or electricity and a lot gets lost in translation.

Bernice Yalley is a CRS fellow working in Liberia on savings-led microfinance projects. Her posts appear Mondays on Voices of CRS.

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One Response to “Microfinance: Lost in Translation”

  1. Microfinance: Lost in Translation « Translational Communication News Says:

    […] SOURCE: http://crs-blog.org/microfinance-lost-in-translation/ […]

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