Dominika Uhríková: Be Not Afraid!

09/11/2011 20:38

Dominika Uhríková (Photo: Katarína Koreňová)

 

The semester is in full swing, and you’ve probably noticed some new faces among the teaching staff at the department. Some of you might already have had some experience with them and formed your opinions of their teaching skills. For those of you who haven’t been so lucky, PERSPECTIVES brings an interview with one of them, the postgraduate student Dominika Uhríková, who started reading for a Ph.D. in Linguistics in September and currently teaches Practical English Usage and Simultaneous Interpreting from English. Yet she does a lot more. She works as a translator, interpreter, writer... Let us introduce this ultimate multitasker.

 

PP: You meet new people on a daily basis. How do you usually introduce yourself?

Well, that depends, of course, on the particular situation, but generally after stating my name, I mention my profession. Being a translator and interpreter has become a part of me – at least for the last two months since I graduated. (laughs)

 

PP: What do you find beneficial about your work for The Slovak Spectator?

In the first place, the job taught me to express myself in English properly. My communication skills developed with every published article thanks to the work of competent and accomplished copy editors, who check the articles for grammatical mistakes and adjust them to sound native-like. The second advantage of the position was the human dimension. A journalist, like an interpreter, meets many new people, new perspectives, new problems and challenges. It really widens your horizon in ways you can’t even imagine unless you try. However, all that glitters isn’t gold. I sometimes stare at a blank page and know that if I don’t write a sound article in the next four hours, I can lose my column. That takes the fun out of professional writing and makes translation my safe haven. When translating, one can fully focus on the original text and just follow it.

 

PP: Given your journalistic experience, what advice would you give to the student magazine Perspectives?

I actually co-authored the idea of having the class “Mimoškolská činnosť” so that students would get credits as motivation and evaluation for their efforts. With more contributors, you automatically get more readers because everyone is tempted to read their own articles. Another thing would be changing the homepage of our department to incorporate Perspectives. (If there are any computer-skilled students who could do that, please contact Perspectives.) You can also be sure that I’ll continue to work on the partnership with The Slovak Spectator so that the best articles will get published and distributed to a wider community of readers.

 

PP: Your love for writing is what we could call a life-long relationship. You published your first book at the age of 16. What inspired you to write “10 deka dekadencie”?

It was my first literary work, and, to be honest, I don’t really see myself publishing another one soon because I don’t write as much. My inspiration was, probably as for most poets and authors in general, some inner need to convey a message, find a new view of the world and partly express some kind of weltschmerz, an unclear feeling of discontent. One can have that even without having a particularly difficult life.

 

PP: Your bachelor’s thesis about the past perfect was awarded “The Rector’s Prize” in 2009. Could you describe the process of writing the thesis?

It was a challenge. I’m not a native speaker, so I found it sometimes a bit difficult to identify the nuances in the use of this particular grammatical tense. On the other hand, I truly enjoyed writing the thesis because I feel strongly for morphology and syntax, and linguistics in general. I have always admired how we have all achieved this state of consensus of what language is, what letters and words mean, how they connect. Even without imposed codifications, language has crystallized into a regular system. We have all participated in its creation. It’s the masterpiece of the human race.

 

PP: Is there anything you would like to change about our department?

It seems a little that the English department is, after the Bologna harmonisation, “an old building under new management”. Its structure is somewhat confusing. On the other hand, I have found every single class valuable and useful. I even used to quarrel about it with my classmates at lunch. (laughs) I wouldn’t change the content of the classes, but maybe the credit evaluation system. Workload is definitely tense, and the attention of students then splits too much. I would encourage translation seminars to be thematic, which we are currently trying to do with my colleagues. On the whole, students are provided quality education by very competent teachers.

 

PP: So you mostly help your students with practical exercises?

Yes, definitely, but it’s also important to have a system in place. I personally believe that we should strengthen the co-operation among subjects. We tend to lose focus of what was already taught and what will be dealt with at a later time.

 

PP: Is the system of work in Bratislava any different from the school system you experienced in Prešov?

The biggest difference is the entrance exam. In Prešov there is none. It reflects on the “quality” of students; their language skills verge toward lower standards than in Bratislava. The quality of teachers is, on the other hand, comparable at both universities. Each place has its pluses and minuses.

 

PP: Was there anything surprising about translation an interpreting that you didn’t learn at school?

It is completely different. My problem as a student was that I never felt the stress of interpreting in class. We only pretended to interpret, played with the equipment, could even stay quiet for a minute or two... When you experience the real thing and go blank for 5 seconds, the audience starts to squirm and wriggle. You feel enormous responsibility which cannot be simulated in class. Such an environment may be partially created only during an oral exam because your grade is at stake. Therefore, I would encourage students to take part as interpreters in ŠVOK, the Summer School of Translation in Budmerice or similar conferences and practice in authentic conditions, even if the targeted audience understands English and interpreting into Slovak is a little redundant.

 

PP: How should students prepare then?

(laughs) Interpreting is like driving – you have to do some actions automatically. You can’t think about which way to shift the gear and you can’t hesitate about what information to note or leave out. But acquiring these skills takes a lot more time than one class a week. This is a cliché but practice makes perfect. And be not afraid! You probably shouldn’t interpret for an international organization negotiating peace in a war zone on your first day, but other than that, you shouldn’t turn down any opportunity. Accumulating expertise in any field is very important even before you get your degree.

 

PP: What did you really enjoy at school? What was especially helpful?

Univerziáda. It is virtually the only time when your translation is reviewed as a whole. In seminars you dissect each sentence and focus less on the overall cohesive and coherent aspects of the text. And interpreting? Maybe gaining a little arrogance. Despite the fact that you are clearly not professional when you begin interpreting, don’t lose confidence and keep talking.

 

PP: What are your plans for the future?

I’m finishing my studies at the University of Prešov, so I’m focusing on writing my thesis and passing my state exams. My next adventure is the postgraduate programme – I will delve into my field more theoretically and deeper. I have already started teaching classes. My secret desire is to translate all the works by Kate Chopin one day. I would probably have to own my own publishing house or be exceptionally skilled or lucky to make that dream come true. I’ll do my best to prove my qualities.

 

Mgr. Dominika Uhríková is currently reading for a Ph.D. in English Linguistics at the Department of British and American Studies at Comenius University and finishing her Master’s degree in French at the University of Prešov. She also freelances for a national bi-weekly TELE plus and writes for The Slovak Spectator, where she was assigned the Countrywide Events column. She’s a dedicated, yet strict teacher, a skilled translator and interpreter, and a gifted author.

Eva Majerčiaková

 

Comments

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Date: 09/11/2011

By: Romco

Subject: schoolmate

In bocca al lupo! Wish you luck, Dominika! :)

Date: 10/11/2011

By: Dominika

Subject: Re: schoolmate

grazie :DD

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