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Learn to speak the language

I broke one if my rules by agreeing to do births in Tanzania- I agreed to work in an environment where I couldn’t really communicate with the women.

If I cannot communicate, I am very little help. Actually I can be worse than little help because asking questions takes too long, I cannot get good information from the women and if I am in a situation with an immediate need I can’t let those around me know.

It us very American to assume the entire universe speaks English. While I don’t doubt there are English speakers in every country, they will tend to be your wealthy, not those in a public hospital in a poor part if town.

Anyway, for what its worth, take the time to learn the language before you go.

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Jennifer Vanderlaan CNM MPH is the author of the BirthingNaturally.net website. She has been working with expectant families since 2000, training doulas, childbirth educators, and midwives. She has worked with midwives in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her interest in public health grew in 2010, and she is now a PhD student learning to become a producer of knowledge.

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