Ada Böhmerová: Enjoy the search for beauty

22/03/2011 17:42

Doc. Ada Böhmerová (Photo: Kristína Kallová)


Luck means getting the opportunity to do what you love; happiness means being able to love what you do. Doc. Ada Böhmerová, an instructor of Lexicology, Phraseology and History of English in the Department of British and American Studies, seems to be both lucky and happy. She enjoys being a teacher, doing research and translating at the same time. She has recently gained an associate professorship for her work in the field of word formation. Perspectives talked to her about her work and her attitude towards it.

PP: You have recently become an associate professor. Was the way to it long?

AB: Well, the way to it was long in many ways (smile). It took some time, it took some effort. Recently I had the chance of working quite intensively, also in connection with attending conferences and giving presentations. Within my recent research I decided to work on an area of word formation which has been quite dynamic – on blending – and it was the theme of my habilitation monograph.

PP: Do you specialize in word formation?

AB: I specialize in linguistics and word formation is what is closest to my heart (smile). It deals with the wonderful long-time heritage of the means of language, their coexistence and the endless possibilities of contributing to them so that they can also serve many new needs and purposes in communication. Words have chances to arise all the time and the lexical systems of languages are extremely complex, so that is an area where much research can be done all the time.

PP: You teach lexicology and for the students the subject may seem to be not as exciting as for example literature or other subjects. What would you recommend so that they would be able to see the beauty of the science?

AB: Well, literature is certainly very exciting, but mind you, what would it be without words? It is true that linguistics is more about data, but these and their relationships can also be most exciting. Lexicology used to be considered a science that is too boring, full of details, full of data, and non-systemic. Actually, there were authors at the beginning of the previous century who said that morphology accounts for regular phenomena and lexicology for the remaining ones, the irregular ones. But that was before lexicology as a modern science was born, which then brought optimism into vocabulary research. I think I give most of my recommendations to my students at the seminars, so the first thing for them to do is to come and be with it and enjoy the search for the beauty of words, their histories and current functioning. Well, it certainly is hard work at times, with lots of information involved, requiring an analytical mind, but very soon it can offer many charms.

PP: You are a very enthusiastic teacher. Do you enjoy teaching students?

AB: I’ve been teaching for the whole of my professional career, teaching was something that I always wished to do, and I have become intimately familiarized with what it involves. I’ve taught here since I graduated. I studied English and Russian. Well, to me teaching is exchanging ideas, sharing, getting ready for questions on both sides and trying to search for answers in an atmosphere that is challenging. I like being with young people, I like seeing their reactions, I like to empathize with their differing views of matters, with their experience, trying to contribute to it as well as I can within the given situation. I enjoy the personal contact and the shared work.

PP: What is your source of energy for teaching and for your everyday life?

AB: Well, certainly the sunshine, like today (laugh). Then getting together with people. And also travelling is something that has always been attractive for me and I have done some. I spent two years in the United States as a Fulbright lecturer of the Slovak Language and Culture at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio, which was a most interesting experience, and we also managed to see some parts of the United States. I happened to write there a textbook of Slovak for speakers of English, so that speakers of English, whose language I have been teaching, can also have a chance of getting acquainted with the language of us Slovaks, here in the heart of Europe.

PP: What is your favourite way of relaxing? Do you prefer sitting at home and reading books, or travelling?

AB: I like all these things, but I have not been relaxing much recently (laugh). In a way, my relaxing was mostly professional reading. But I definitely like fiction. Actually, my diploma thesis was on fiction – on Joseph Conrad’s exotic themes of personal experience. I used to do quite a bit of reading, but recently mostly only when I translate some fiction. Now, what is next on my agenda is Lisa See’s novel Shanghai Girls, which has been quite a success, both as to its critical acclaim and also with the readers. It is a powerful story about two Chinese sisters who in the mid 20th century during WWII happen to be bought as wives and shipped to the United States and strive to manage their dramatic fates there. So that has been my most recent reading.

PP: What do you translate mainly?

AB: I have translated quite a bit of fiction. Some time ago for example F. S. Fitzgerald’s Tales of the Jazz Age, and recently John Grisham’s The Associate. I also translate non-fiction, from various thematic areas. One of the recent books I co-translated is called Atlas of the Lost Cities of the World. It’s not really an atlas though, but a charming book full of archaeological, historical and cultural information combined with legend, and wonderfully visualised with unique pictures of those lost and found ancient civilizations. Mine were above all the chapters on Indian cities like Machu Picchu or Tenochtitlan, which was a nice job to do. Translation can certainly be a very exciting activity and those students who intend to do it in future are heading for a lot of thrills and enjoyment. For me combining teaching, research and translating seems just the right thing to do.


Kristína Kallová