Russian is spoken in many of the republics of the former Soviet Union as well as by immigrants who are clustered around the East Coast cities of the United States. Communicating with speakers of the language may prove difficult if they do not know English. To get around this barrier, you can learn to speak Russian, which is costly and time-consuming, or you can translate English to Russian using several resources.
Begin with a free online translator such as Babel Fish, which is linked under Resources. Enter a block of text that you want to translate. Choose “English to Russian” in the language dropdown and then click “Translate.”
Though you may not speak Russian, you can check the quality of the translation by pasting the translated version into the entry boxes and choosing “Russian to English” in the language dropdown.
When you click “Translate,” you may get some incorrect and humorous interpretations. For example, “My wife is with child” is mistranslated to “My of husband with the child.” This highlights the main disadvantage of this free method. The site does not understand the context of the statement. It mechanically replaces words based on their dictionary meaning or their relationships to nearby words.
Buy and use a handheld translator like the Ectaco Partner ER900 Deluxe, which is linked under Resources. Not only does it contain a dictionary of over 1.2 million words, it translates in both directions and can convert phrases as well as words. You can also carry it with you when you travel and have it speak the translation. This minimizes misunderstandings and saves you from having to learn the Cyrillic alphabet just to read the Russian version.
Hire a human translator using the website under Resources. People can understand not only the meaning but the intent of any communication. They are aware of the cultural context that lies behind any sentence and can adjust for slang and colloquialisms. They can translate full documents by remote or individual conversations by phone or in person.
A big disadvantage is cost. Translating personal documents starts at 7 cents per word, while phone conferences cost $1.35 a minute or more. Rates go up for more technical efforts such as those involving the law, medicine or computer technology. Obviously, taking a translator on a trip is not cost-effective except for the most well-heeled tourist.
If you want the advantages of a professional human translator but at lower cost, try hiring Russian language students, whom you’ll find at major universities. They may even perform lengthier services for free, in exchange for putting the experience on their resume or for earning college credit.