Instead of epigraph:
I am corresponding with a lady from chanceforlove.com. She's almost exactly the kind of girls I am looking for. However, I do have serious concern about whether the language barrier could be overcome. I do not speak Russian, and she only understands written English text with help of dictionary. I can communicate with her with your translation at this time, and we would not be able to get any help in our daily life if we got married and lived together.
What is your opinion? How other couples overcame the language barrier?
Any advice you might give me is truly appreciated.
Good and timely question, guys! Let’s talk today about that wonderful time when your virtual for the present time bride from Russia will come into your house in the most real way and say…hmm, what will she say? “Hello, John, how are you?» And what’s next?
Next the couple thinks good of our agency: how wonderful it was when someone translated accurately all your thoughts. No language barrier! :)) It is a joke.
Next the couple simply doesn’t understand how to communicate further. With gestures? With the help of a dictionary?
“My darling, I will show you our house. This is a dining room, do you understand? It is where we eat (shows with gestures), and this is a bedroom, here we will sleep (shows)”.
It is amusing to imagine all this, but it is not so funny to find yourself in this situation! And now imagine, what a girl feels. To feel at least a little in her boots, move yourself mentally into the jungles, into the wild tribe and imagine yourself married to one of those beautiful girls in animal skins. Imagined?
“I am deaf and dumb. I watch TV and don’t understand a word! I look at the ad, but see only a sequence of symbols! Even a one-year old child can explain to his parents what he wants, and me – an educated European girl, mother, and just sociable person can’t even choose dishes in a menu! All the life experiences I have (education, culture, traditions and customs) are of no use here, everything is different!!! I go with my husband even to the gynecologist and he comes as a translator between me and the doctor”.
These are lines from the interview with Lena – our former client, who moved to the USA three years ago. We told about her in the summer 2004. Well, do you feel in her boots now? You are deaf and dumb in this tribe, you don’t know local customs, you don’t have friends and relatives, only a husband who you know by correspondence and a couple of meetings.
Secondly, you feel hunger for information. You dream about lying on the couch and watching TV in your native language, being calm and relaxed, but not in constant tension trying to understand what all these flashing pictures and odd sounds mean. You dream about talking to someone who speaks your mother tongue. You are tired of constant 24/7 study.
You are inadequate, people either laugh at your actions or criticize. Because they turn out to be inappropriate in this society.
You are close to going mad!!!
That’s what those women, who marry a man from another country and don’t know the language of the country, feel for the first time. But I’d like to emphasize “for the first time”. If it continued forever, there would be no sense in international marriages. Step by step the situation is improving! Here is how one of the lucky men who married a Russian woman describes it:
“My wife spoke no English at all when I met her. We had our correspondence translated through an agency, and we spoke with a translator on line when we spoke on the telephone. When I visited her in the Crimea we used an Ectaco electronic speaking dictionary, which was quite effective and a lot of fun, and occasionally a live translator.
She's been here three and a half years now. She speaks quite well. We bought a business for her about a year and a half ago and she has no trouble dealing with customers all day. She still has a way to go to be truly fluent, but she is relaxed about language now and completely independent.
At times she is now able to explain my faults to me in great detail, in English. :-0”
So, all these problems are overcome. Lena and many other women agree in opinion that the most difficult time is the first year. If you overcome it, it becomes much easier then. But are there any possible ways to ease the first year?
Here is what you can do while she is still in Russia and waits for a fiancée visa.
1. Pay for her English classes.
«She tried to take some English classes while she was still in Ukraine, but they were not very effective», - writes the same man in the forum.
Don’t expect that after classes she will start to speak fluent English at once.
- Her task at this stage is to broaden her vocabulary and practice grammar. It’ll also be very good if a teacher manages to take off her fear to speak the foreign language.
- The classes should be as often as you both can afford. It will help her to prepare better to the reality she will meet in another country. Remember - 24/7?
2. After you made a decision to marry and submitted the necessary documents, your fiancée should use the service of translators as less as possible. She must understand your vocabulary, get used to your way of thinking. If she meets unfamiliar words or expressions, then she can consult translators. We always support women in that in the agency and help if necessary. We explain how to translate this or that so that she could do it by herself then.
3. Phone her and talk as often as possible. Tell her the subject of your next conversation beforehand, then she can get ready to it with the tutor and hold conversation with you.
4. Probably, you will start learning Russian?
When she comes to you:
1. In many countries there are special language classes for immigrants from non-English speaking countries. Here is what Lena says about them: “Education there goes very slowly. No, veeeeery slowly. We repeat the same things over and over again. I would like to learn quicker. However there is one plus in such study: you get very firm knowledge and never forget it. Of course! We repeated it so many times!”
Such classes are free of charge – it is one more plus. Anyway if she doesn’t like them, she can go to any other classes. One of our girls even entered the University!
Here is what one man tells about their experience: “When my wife arrived here we tried both expensive private classes in small groups, and the ESOL classes at a local community college. She did not learn much at the ESOL classes at the community college. Many other people do very well at these ESOL classes, but we did not have that experience. But she learned well at the private classes. The group that provided them was called English Now. It was about $600 a month as I recall for group lessons. It took her about a year to become fluent enough to be independent out in the world. We stopped paying for lessons at that time and she just learned by living and speaking”.
2. Communication with Russians.
There is an opinion that it is necessary to limit the communication with Russians. Some men are afraid that a Russian wife may find another man among local Russians, others – that she will be lazy to speak English and will wish to talk in Russian with her country fellows all the time. Well, what can I say? Apparently these fears are not ungrounded. The problem of jealousy can be eliminated if she communicates with Russian women who are also married to foreign men. Probably, these couples will become your family friends. As it happened to one of our clients who regularly gathers all international families in the neighborhood at their house and husbands communicate in English and their wives in Russian and all are happy!
To forbid her outright the communication with Russians is unwise. Put yourself in her shoes all the time. Don’t forget that she sacrificed everything to be with you!
3. It is very good if she has a child. First of all, she always has someone to talk in Russian with! :)) Secondly, it is a well-known fact that children adjust very quickly, they acquire friends and learn a new language much easier. Nataliya, our former client who lives in New York now, wrote to us: “My daughter is doing very well at school here, even though her English is still far from perfection. But with each day she knows it better and better. In the shops she always talks to shop-assistants as my personal translator”. :)
4. Be a patient tutor, not only a husband, but also a friend to your wife. You are the only close man for her in this country and you must become her guide and teacher.
5. Stimulate her. The main stimulus is your relations. Keep telling her how much you love her. Take care of her, defend her and never laugh at her mistakes. Then she will always know that her efforts are not lost and her learning will go much faster!
Did you have any stories about misunderstanding caused by the language barrier? Do you have any questions on this subject? Let us know about them so that we discuss and solve them while we still have time to do it!