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3 April 2023

How Joey from Swamps brought Bence to Prague

One day, Bence Bolla spotted a notice on the website of the Loránd Eötvös University of Budapest that the Erasmus+ application process was open and students could submit their applications. He decided to test his knowledge of Czech Studies and applied for an internship at the Institute of Language and Preparatory Studies Charles University, where he has been working for almost a year under the auspices of the Methodological and Professional Centre. His programme is very diverse and he not only gets the opportunity to hear live Czech every day, but also to try out different positions and activities within the university. We talked with the Hungarian teacher not only about the motivation to learn Czech.

Did you choose ILPS for your internship by chance?

When I was considering taking up a voluntary ten-month ERASMUS scholarship after my graduation, I already knew several people at ILPS CU. At the International Conference for Students of Czech I competed three times in the Translation Contest, even online during the pandemic of covid. It was a very enriching experience for me and I was very lucky that the first person I could meet at ILPS was Mrs. Marie Poláčková. I must emphasize that Mrs. Poláčková really contributed a lot to the fact that I chose ILPS CU.

Why did you decide to pursue Czech Studies?

By pure coincidence I found the song Joey from Swamps (Jožin z bažin) on the Internet and somehow I grew so fond of the song that I became interested in the language itself. Originally I had no idea what it was about, I just liked the melody and also Ivo Pešák’s movements in the video clip. Then I found out that for some reason the song is also known in Hungary, and there are even multiple Hungarian versions on YouTube with a pretty good Hungarian translation. In Hungarian, Jožin is called Joži Báči, meaning old man or Mr. Jožin and also Uncle Jožin.

While still in high school I learned a few useful phrases in Czech and for my eighteenth birthday I wished to start learning Czech on a regular basis. My parents arranged a private tutor for me in Budapest, and that actually decided my future career - I graduated in Czech Studies in Budapest. My bachelor's programme was in Slavonic Studies, while my master's programme focused only on Czech language and literature. For my master's thesis I chose a linguistic topic and analysed phraseologisms in "We Were a Handful", perhaps the most famous novel by Karel Poláček.

Jožin z bažin was also the topic of your presentation in the ILPS translation contest …

I explained why as a Hungarian I started to learn Czech and I told a long story about Mr. Mládek and the song. Then a miracle happened and Mrs. Poláčková arranged a personal meeting and a talk with Ivan Mládek, who brought me all of his so far recorded and signed CDs as a gift.

Have you been surprised by any word during your stay in the Czech Republic so far?

I was intrigued by a word in a shop window advertisement where a drink is referred to as a chřipkobijec (flu killer) because it kills the flu, and I love that kind of wordplay.

Do you study Czech at a European university?

Come to the Institute of Language and Preparatory Studies Charles University for an internship!

Experience the wide variety of work within the university. Improve your Czech, live like the Czechs.

Email us at moc@ujop.cuni.cz.

Text: Petra Köppl

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