If she does not speak English, you can usually arrange through the local marriage agency to have a translator on the call. This may cost you ten to twenty dollars per hour, but at least you will be able to converse with each other.
Other resources are local universities that have university students who are studying English. Usually their services can be arranged fairly inexpensively.
I used translation services from the marriage agencies a few times with widely varying results. One of the worst was an agency in Polatsk, Belarus. This was, hands down, the worst marriage agency I ever encountered. It was the agency run by Olga Narkevich.
The young girl who did the translating was an English student. She did her best, but she could barely speak English. She belarus telephone could only remember about five to ten words at a time before she had to do a data dump and translate.
Sometimes this was in the middle of a sentence and it was difficult, if not impossible, to get anything but the simplest concepts translated.
The basic message got through, but a conversation that should have taken fifteen minutes took over two hours. On top of that, the phone connection was so bad, we were both screaming at each other on the phone to be heard.
The telephone system in the CIS countries is about fifty years behind the telephone system in the West. I have noticed that in the winter, particularly, the quality of the phone lines suffer dramatically. This is probably due to the extreme cold.
I found myself feeling more and more upset by the act of screaming into the phone, even though no words were said to make me angry. My frustration with the slow pace of the translation added to that feeling. When I hung up, I was drenched in sweat and ornery enough to take on a biker gang.
To understand why I ranked this marriage agency as the worst that I encountered, you need to hear the rest of the story.
At first, my telephone conversations took place between a Russian woman who was a client of Olga’s and myself. At some point in the translated conversation, it was obvious that Olga had inserted herself.
I was peppered with questions about my income and other personal questions. In addition, pressure was being applied for me to use their service in Belarus at what I thought was a ridiculous usurious rate.
For example, the translator asked if I would like to come to Polatsk to meet the woman who I was conversing with. I answered that that would be nice.
The translator then said that they would send a driver to pick me up at the train station in Minsk. Polatsk is about a two-hour drive north from Minsk. I inquired about the fee, which the translator said would be about $200.00.
I told them I would take the train to Polatsk by myself. The translator then asked, “How will we recognize you at the train station?”
I described myself. The translator responded, “Why don’t you carry an American flag so we can identify you?”
I responded dryly, “Of course. And I will be singing ‘God Bless America,’ as I march through the train station, waving the flag.”
As an aside, I found a pair of boxer shorts made out of the same material and in the same pattern as the American flag. I brought them with me on my trip. I was going to wave them as I made my way through the train station in Polatsk.
The translator said that they would take care of all hotel reservations, meals, and other arrangements. I asked how much. After consulting Olga in Russian, she replied to me, “About one thousand dollars per day.”
I said, “Congratulations, Polatsk has become the most expensive city in the world in which to visit.”
I asked the translator, “How could I possibly spend one thousand dollars in a day in a country where the average income is one hundred dollars per month?”
After conversing with Olga in Russian again, the translator answered, “You may want to go boar hunting.”
Her response was so hilarious to me, I burst out laughing. I said to her that the only thing I was there to hunt was for a delightful woman to become my wife.
I thought to myself, “And the only thing I was likely to shoot is a greedy, unethical, evil owner of a marriage agency.”
Needless to say, I declined their offer. My only reason for going to Polotsk was for the benefit of the woman I was to meet. I had already made my mind up about Olga.
After my laborious conversations with the translator, you can imagine how I felt when I called up Olga’s agency on my way through Belarus, and Olga was able to converse with me in perfect English.
She had put me through hours of tedium to train her translator at twenty dollars per hour, plus the cost of the telephone calls, while she could have spoken to me without problem in perfect English in a fraction of the time.
It was with a certain delight that I told Olga that I would not be stopping in Polatsk. The thought that Olga was imagining bags of money flying away brought joy to my heart.