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Favour Chisimdi on Being a Polyglot, Founding Empress Linguistics & Transforming Businesses Through Languages

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When Favour Chisimdi Nwobodo‘s friend introduced her to Korean movies, little did she know she would fall in love with the language. But it took one more event to set her on the path to being a polyglot: her uncle marrying a Zimbabwean. From learning Korean (known in the language itself as Kugo) to Shona, Favour set out to learn more languages. Today, she can speak nine.

At first, Favour simply basked in the thrill that came with learning something new and different, but many years down the line, she realised there was more to just learning and speaking different languages. In 2019, she established Empress Linguistics Services – an initiative that helps companies penetrate international markets with a full range of professional language and content solutions. It’s been uphill since then.

We gisted with Favour about Empress Linguistics, speaking nine languages, schooling and working and everything that makes her Favour Chisimdi Nwobodo. And, hey, if you’ve been struggling with learning languages, there’s something for you here.


Hi Favour, how are you today?

Hi BellaNaija, I’m good, thank you.

First things first, let’s talk about you speaking not one, not two but nine languages. It’s major! Where did the love for languages come from? 

I loved movies and one day my friend recommended a Korean movie to watch. That was the beginning of my love for languages. As I started learning the language, I changed my laptop’s keyboard to Korean. When my uncle married a Zimbabwean, I fell in love with Shona, and then other languages followed.

When I was at the Federal Government College, Enugu, I would save my lunch fee to go learn languages in a nearby cyber cafe. Later, I enrolled in a language school to learn more. My dad supported me and got me a modem to learn every time. My mum, on the other hand, did not like the idea of learning languages; she was interested in me getting good grades in school and becoming a surgeon. I did the two – I graduated with a great result and still learned different languages.

After I was done with school, I started learning more foreign languages to help me in my medical field, especially with listening to my non-English speaking patients. Along the line, the goal changed. I started working towards helping people’s businesses thrive through languages, strengthening international trade in Africa with languages through Empress Linguistics Services, and also wrote about how linguistics is aiding businesses.

I joined some top companies in Nigeria as their business specialist, helping their businesses function well with linguistics. ELS also started working on strengthening the international trade sector for some banks in Nigeria. Tomorrow, when I leave to focus on the health sector, my work in the business sector will be forever remembered.

Empress Linguistics Services moved from a side hustle into a company, what was that turning point?

I knew ELS had potential when people started coming to me for language services, but the turning point for me was finding out something different that made us stand out in the linguistics sector. Others are into translations only but ELS is into transforming businesses with a focus on companies’ finances. ELS’s goals are to strengthen the international trade sector in Africa, to help improve the finances of businesses and companies and help in curbing linguistics barriers across borders.

Many hotels in Nigeria have contacted ELS concerning imputing languages in their business systems. I also had the opportunity to also pitch to the Eko Atlantic City partners concerning how this system could help them to dominate the hospitality industry. With this, I have been able to collaborate with top business schools in the world. It’s amazing.

Some international organisation partner with ELS to strengthen their international trade sector by helping their customers around the world get to do business. Some banks use ELS to help improve their academy by translating, subtitling and transcribing their courses into various languages, thereby making their academy enrol more non-English speakers from various countries. ELS also imputes the Linguistics in Business System (LIBS) in various companies, and works as a linguistics aide for African conferences in Nigeria, providing translations, interpretations and all.

Amazing indeed! Please walk us through your operations, from when brands/businesses reach out to you for your services to the execution stage.

So for any service a business or company is interested in, they chat with the ELS customer service to tell us what they want and we take it up from there. I’m the director of Empress Linguistics Services and I direct the affairs of the company to the execution stage. I give my 100% and ensure at ELS, we always give a 100%.

I can be a perfectionist sometimes, and was even nicknamed “Empress Perfect.”

Haha, Interesting! Let’s talk about you, Empress. You’re a student, founder, mentor & you’re on the board of Women With Kids Win (WWKW). How have you been able to juggle all these?

Discipline, that’s the answer.

Tell us more

I am a very disciplined person. I believe in giving everything I do 100%. I have teams in Empress Linguistics Services (ELS), Women With Kids Win (WWKW) and the Tony Elumelu Foundation. It’s not easy but I try to juggle everything well. Some days, I get so exhausted but I am proud of the work I do. My works are super great and that alone pushes me to do more. This year, I got to collaborate with Harvard Business School and Lagos Business School for Empress Linguistics Services to be used as a case study and it’s just amazing, you know.

I’d say my great work encourages me more. Sometimes, it doesn’t give me the desired results but I keep trying my best.

Your transition from being a medical science student to a polyglot and then offering linguistic services is quite wild…

Haha, yes, the transition is wild.

Tell us about your journey

While learning foreign languages in secondary school, my plan was to help my non-English patients when I became a surgeon, but along the line, a redirection happened. When I was done with secondary school, I went to the University of Nigeria to study biotechnology and then I applied for change of degree to medicine. There, I started teaching some students languages without pay. I volunteered for Rotary International and that was the turnaround. After the translations, my ex-manager asked that I start a linguistics brand.

While on that, Aisha Yesufu gave me a shout-out on social media, people started visiting my page and I started teaching them foreign languages. That was how it started. I didn’t have a direction when I started and so I joined a bandwagon of language providers. I kept doing the same thing over and over again until I found out about Linguistics in Business Systems (LBS) and since then, ELS has been doing great jobs in various companies’ finances across Africa. It has helped many Nigerians expand their business beyond Nigeria into various countries. The journey hasn’t been easy but it’s worth it.

What would you say is your biggest challenge so far as a polyglot and as a student-preneur?

There’s a lot. Managing staff members across the world isn’t beans. But they are talented and I’m proud of them all. Sometimes, I deny myself sleep just to do a perfect job. Sometimes, I miss classes. It hasn’t been easy but it’s worth it and that is all that matters.

On the flip side, what’s the best part so far?

Having a collaboration with Harvard Business School and Lagos Business School, being nominated for Forbes Africa 30 under 30 under Business, ELS working for various top organisations and companies across Africa, and Women With Kids Win landing partnerships with the biggest tech companies and cryptocurrency companies and a cryptocurrency academy to train 10,000 women in various digital skills. I can’t count so many.

All these made my year. I screamed when I got my Forbes nomination notification via email. I felt fulfilled; finally, my work is being recognised. It gives me the strength to push for more.

Congratulations, Favour. We can’t wait to see you on the Forbes list come 2023

Thank you.

Speaking 9 languages is a difficult feat for many. What’s the easiest way for people to become polyglots? 

Honestly, language (physical) classes work wonders. You get the opportunity to ask questions and learn more. While learning foreign languages, please work more on grammar. It strengthens and helps you attain your fluency faster.

Should we be expecting any project from Favour or ELS in the coming months/years?

Of course. I’m currently trying to secure a partnership with the Federal Republic of Nigeria to work on the project ‘Raising Bilingual Nigerians.’ Hopefully, it gets to work. My dream is to help make the world better by proffering solutions to problems in any sector I find myself in tomorrow – maybe as an ambassador to any country or the next director of the World Health Organisation or a surgeon. The sure thing is that I’m coming with the best of myself. A 100%.

You’ve got big dreams, Favour, and we’re rooting for you. Thank you for having this conversation with us.

You’re welcome, BellaNaija. Thank you for having me.

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