Spotlight on Dr Yordanka Velkova
8 May 2019
Dr Yordanka Velkova is a lecturer in Bulgarian Language, Literature, and Culture in UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies. In 2018 she won a Student Choice Award for her Inspiring Teaching Delivery.
What is your role and what does it involve?
I am a lecturer in Bulgarian Language, Literature and Culture at The UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies. I am also a lecturer at The Faculty of Slavonic Studies at Sofia University, Bulgaria, and a teacher of Bulgarian at The Bulgarian Cultural Institute London.
How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
It is my fifth year at SSEES. Before UCL, I worked at The Faculty of Slavonic Studies at Sofia University ‘’St. Kliment Ohridski’’ where I taught Phonetics and Morphology to students studying Bulgarian Philology and Balkanology, and I also taught Bulgarian as a foreign language to international students. While doing my master’s, I taught language and literature at a secondary school in Sofia.
I feel blessed that teaching is the only thing I have ever done.
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
I think ‘being proud of’ is tied to the ego. Ego can set unhealthy boundaries, it can disconnect … but I like connections.
One of the most joyful highlights of my working life was definitely being honored with The 2018 UCL Student Choice Awards for Inspiring Teaching Delivery. I remember every single minute of the Ceremony. It was so exciting – a moment of great happiness for me!
Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?
I am working on something which I call Pieces of Grammar through Pieces of Art. It is about developing effective mnemonic techniques which assist students in remembering new things. I use famous paintings to teach the basics of Bulgarian grammar. Visual art can have a considerable effect on memorising words and grammar rules. Gender endings, the definite article, and prepositions of location in Bulgarian are more easily remembered if students associate them, say, with items from Van Gogh’s painting The Yellow Room.
What is your favourite album, film and novel?
It is difficult to say which novel. I have many favourites but I I would single out ’’Dangerous Liaisons’’ by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, ‘’Crime and Punishment’’ by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Wolf, and ‘’Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values’’ by Robert M. Pirsig.
My music preferences depend on mood and activities. I listen to the album Tango around the World while doing my workout. On my way to work or when relaxing, I like listening to ‘’The Liberty Years’’ by Julie London, ‘’Mãe Carinhosa’’ by Cesaria Evora, and ‘’The Best of Sade’’. (Wow! I have listed only female voices. This is because Jeremy Irons is not a singer.)
My favourite films are One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Pianist, A Single Man, and most movies directed by Stanley Kubrick.
What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?
I hardly remember jokes. I laugh a lot if something is funny and laughing is all I remember from a joke. Next question, please!
Who would be your dream dinner guests?
What a lovely question! In an imaginary world, my dream dinner guests would be Winnie- the-Pooh and his pal Piglet together with the Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. It would be a remarkable eclectic gathering, sparkling with conversation and wisdom about life and its meaning. I love it when language becomes art.
It would also mean an easy dinner preparation, just simple food – plenty of honey, olives, bread and cheese, and we would all be happy.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Slow down, Yordanka, take it easy! Don't sweat the small stuff!
What would surprise people to know about you?
That I am very shy. When I am shy, I am a bit awkward and ridiculous (but not a bit). I was even more shy in my younger years. I remember that when I was 14, I had to recite a poem in French at a big school celebration. I walked up onto the stage, recited two lines, froze up and went completely quite. My silence was a statement. I looked around, saw hundreds of people, felt their looks on my skin, got extremely shy, then turned back and left the stage. Without having finished the poem, without having excused myself. It was so ridiculous of me but people were generous and applauded me.
Teaching has had a ‘healing’ effect on this particular shyness of public speaking. Teaching is a performance, a show sometimes but I am never shy when I teach. Teaching gives me freedom. It speaks of my passion and enthusiasm about life.
What is your favourite place?
Any place where I feel at home - under a tree, by water, in the sun, in the mountains…
In London, I have developed a very special relationship with Hyde Park. We ‘’see each other’’ almost every day. It is my peaceful niche in this huge metropolis.
In Bulgaria, my favourite place is a chair in my parents’ garden. It has a magnificent view of the mountains. I often miss this chair, my chair…