Ferdinand Pál: I Have No Wishes

16/12/2011 21:12

Dr. Ferdinand Pál (Photo: Katarína Koreňová)


All students of interpretation know who Mr. Ferdinand Pál is, as he has been teaching interpreting at our department for about two decades. Many of them heard him interpreting for TA3 or in a Youtube video. However, almost nobody really knows that, for instance, on the day he interpreted the judge in the case of Breivik for TA3, Mr. Pál had been originally called in to interpret something else, and that since he came to the studio earlier, they also asked him to do the case of Breivik. Similarly, hardly anybody knows that the mentioned YouTube video from the summit of NATO defence ministers was recorded after he had been interpreting for eight hours, without even having a lunch break. In spite of discouragements, Mr Pál continues interpreting as he thinks that the situation can't be worse than it is now; therefore, we can expect that it can only get better.


Perspectives (PP): Who is your favourite singer/performer?

Ferdinand Pál (FP): The first name that comes to my mind is Michael Bolton, but I quite like Bruno Mars too.


PP: What styles do you prefer?

FP: I prefer blues but also some decadent genres such as country and western. I’ve discovered that there are many beautiful voices in these genres. Usually singers and performers whose career is more or less over start singing country and western in America, and this is the point when I start liking them.


PP: What book are you reading now?

FP: Now I am reading short stories by Stephen Leacock, a Canadian writer. I read these stories some years ago and now I’ve returned to them because they’re very funny. I enjoy returning to what I used to like in the past.


PP: What one word comes to your mind when I say...?

December – FP: Snow and skiing.

School FP: Comenius University in connection with my studies.

InterpretingFP: An activity that I like to do. Not always and not now anymore [laughs] because of the conditions interpreters are supposed to work in in terms of organization. People don't understand what is important for interpreters.

Free time – FP: I am too lazy to spend free time in any reasonable way [laughs], so I mostly watch television, but on the other hand it is good because there are so many channels available nowadays that there's always something to watch. I like, for instance, Animal Planet and Discovery.

Best movie – FP: Blade Runner probably, as it's the movie I like very much but I have never seen it complete because they always show it at 11 p.m. I have no chance to survive until the end of the movie, so I always see the same part. So it's not my favourite movie but it is the movie I long to see complete one day.


PP: If you knew that tomorrow you were going to be left to live alone on a deserted island, what three things would you take with you?

FP: Maybe the Internet connection would be good even though I am not a friend of the latest technology. Anyway, it would be good to be hooked up on the Internet and then probably also order some other essentials.


PP: What are the most important three things for you?

FP: The most important thing for me is my family, then house and ... well, what is the third? Money! So family, house and money mutually combined.


PP: If your fairy godmother gave you three wishes to change three things, what would your wishes be?

FP: I've just realized that I have no wishes. I am a bit pessimistic. My colleague has just told me a joke: “Three developers were sitting on the bank of Štrbské Pleso Lake and fishing. All of a sudden the Golden Fish came swimming. It was looking at them and they were looking at it, and at last one of the developers asked, “Oh, my dear, what wish can I fulfil for you?”

I am not quite sure that I am the one who can ask for any wish to come true. But probably the first wish would be a good skiing trip to the Alps, then a good trip to the seaside in summer and the third one, something good to eat – at once. [Mr. Pál was interviewed shortly before lunch time.]


PP: What’s your life motto or your favourite quotation?

FP: I like one saying, which was written by Lasica and Satinský in the 1960s in a brochure enclosed to a magazine. It could be translated into English in a decent way as “It does no good to beat a dead horse.” It’s a saying that has stuck in my memory since then.


PP: Can you tell us what the worst interpreting experience in your life has been?

FP: It was two years ago at the summit of NATO defence ministers in Bratislava. There was an Afghani reporter who spoke very good English but with an accent which I was not ready for. That’s why I didn’t understand a single word. He had been talking for about five minutes and I wanted to pretend there was a technical problem with the interpreting booth. [laughs] However, Mr. Rasmussen, the Secretary General of NATO, had the same problem and asked the reporter to repeat his question. The journalist repeated everything once more and in a different manner, so not only Mr. Rasmussen but also I was able to understand. I remember feeling so desperate. And moreover, it was a live broadcast by TA3 Channel, and thank God, I didn’t know it at that moment.


Anna Kosperová


Mr. Ferdinand Pál has been teaching at the Department of British and American Studies at Comenius University since 1990. He was born in Bratislava and studied English and Russian. He has much experience in interpreting in various fields and he has interpreted for many agencies and companies at both national and international level.



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