Miroslav Bázlik: Things Came on Their Own
He had not intended to devote his life to English morphology when he joined the Department of British and American Studies, yet he became one of the most prominent Slovak scholars in the field. For 43 years he has helped to raise new generations of translators and English teachers. According to our magazine’s alumni survey, he is one of the top 5 most appreciated teachers at our department. Earlier this year he turned 65 years of age. Assoc. Prof. Miroslav Bázlik.
PERSPECTIVES decided to bring you an interview with him on the occasion of his anniversary.
Perspectives (PP): What are your memories of student life?
Miroslav Bázlik (MB): Well, with some nostalgia, student time is the best time of one’s life. Of course, while being a student, one was always troubled with examinations and duties and similar things, so life was not that easy as it seems now. And it was the era of Communism, so there were some things that we had to do, which we hated, like Marxism, and still, we just had to do them.
PP: The Communist regime is also part of our next question. You translate not only from English, but also from Spanish. What was it like to learn these languages during Communism, when it was not easy to be in touch with the Western world?
MB: Well, I always tried to have some information on what was going on elsewhere and not just in my country. I thought foreign languages could give me access to radio stations speaking about things we didn’t learn about. And I had French at secondary school, apart from Russian. I thought French was not something with good prospects. Perhaps I realized that France was not a country too interested in changing the situation. I used to listen to Radio Free Europe as much as possible. Of course, I thought English would be a language of importance, so I went to a language school and learnt some English. I thought it would be good to learn some languages. I also had a chance to follow a Spanish course broadcast by a Czech radio station at that time. So when I applied for university, I wanted to study two Western languages and the only two choices were French and Spanish or English and Spanish. I applied for English and Spanish as the first option, and Spanish and French as the second option. When I came to the entrance examinations, I found myself in a group of students who had applied for Spanish and French as their first option. I thought there must have been a mistake. Fortunately, there was a man responsible for organizing the exams (his name was Števček as I later learnt), and I told him what had happened. I wanted to be in the other group. He asked my name, and when I said Bázlik, he said, “Oh, I know that family. As a student, I used to live in the house of your grandparents.” Of course, they had a different surname, but he knew the family. He took me to the English department and made sure I could do the test there. At that time I wasn’t very good at English because I had only learnt it for two years in the language school, where people came just for fun, not so much for work. It was kind of a club for older people. I was the only young person in that group. So, my English knowledge was not excellent, I must say, but I could speak some Spanish and the students who wanted to study English and Spanish didn’t know any Spanish at all. So it was Spanish that helped me to be admitted to this university and gave me an opportunity to study English. It’s kind of a good thing that happened in my life that I had learnt some Spanish so that I could study English.
PP: Why did you primarily concentrate on the English language and not on Spanish?
MB: Well, English was taught in English and Spanish was taught in Slovak, so it was more interesting to do a language where you had some better input. Perhaps that may have been the reason and also chances for working with English were higher. As a student, I taught in a primary school where English was taught on a daily basis. It was an experimental school. I got some practice in teaching as a fourth-year student and as a fifth-year student I was offered a teaching post at the department. Things came on their own. I didn’t have to make any special effort. I just took on what was offered to me.
PP: Where does your love for morphology spring from?
MB: Love for morphology... it’s difficult to say whether it’s love. I didn’t choose morphology. It was something they asked me to teach, so I had to go through it in detail to know enough when students asked me, so somehow, it came by itself.
PP: What do you think of translations that appear on TV, in books and magazines nowadays?
MB: Well, it’s not only translations, but also things which are not meant to be translations. Things they say in the news, for example, “welcome back” in English and they say “Vitajte späť!” in Slovak, which was something we had never said before. So the influence of English is not only felt in real translations, but also in these quasi translations, where things are translated when it’s not necessary to translate anything.
PP: You are a contributor to various magazines and you publish as well. What is your daily routine more about – teaching or translating?
MB: I don’t contribute to magazines so often, so it wouldn’t be part of my daily routine. Only when I see an interesting area of grammar and language, which I think would be worth writing about, and I decide to think about it and put it on paper and work on it. Like when I first heard, “A s kým bankujete?” It occurred to me that I could compare it with “Who do you bank with?” So I decided to play a bit with it and an article is going to appear in our department’s publication.
PP: What does teaching mean to you? And are the students nowadays different than when you started teaching?
MB: Essentially, students are the same, but they come with some more knowledge these days, especially of English, because they have had English for many years. When I came here, I couldn’t learn English in my native town, which was Banská Bystrica, where there was only one school where English was taught. It was a secondary school of economics and only girls went to that school, so there was actually hardly any chance to learn English at school.
PP: How would you summarize your years at this faculty?
MB: I think it has been a very good life. People are nice and there are no bad relations, unlike in other departments. Sometimes I hear that people do not like each other in certain departments. I do not know whether it’s true or not but we have had excellent relations in this department with one or two exceptions, which I’m not going to comment on. Some people are dead now, so it’s not appropriate to say bad things about them.
Zuzana Borová and Veronika Kálnová
Doc. PhDr. Miroslav Bázlik, CSc. (1946) studied translation and interpreting of English and Spanish at the Faculty of Arts, Comenius University. He is a co-author of A Grammar of Legal English (Iura Edition, 2010) and Súdny preklad a tlmočenie (Iura Edition, 2009) and also a contributor to various journals, e. g. Linguistica Pragensia. The book Pravidlá výslovnosti britskej a americkej angličtiny, which he has written with PhDr. Jolana Miškovičová, CSc., is now to be printed.