In this exclusive interview with Emmanuel Akaolisa of The News Chronicle, Lionel Npayong, CEO and founder of Lingua Global Academy, a foreign language education and consulting institution located in the city of Abuja, speaks on the aim of the academy and its journey so far.
TNC: Thank you for according us this moment to speak with you on your academy and activities. Tell us a little about yourself.
Lionel: The pleasure is mine to have this platform and discuss about the Lingua Global Academy. My name is Lionel Npayong, I am from Cameroon, the Western Region. I am from the Bamileke sub group and our mother tongue is called Medumba. I have a Bachelors degree in Linguistics and African Languages, with a masters in translation and interpretation. I speak 4 languages; English, German, French and a bit of Arabic. Apart from being a professional linguist, I am also a fashion designer and a musician as well.
TNC: Tell us more about your company, what does it do? Why did you venture into that line of business? How has it been so far?
Lionel: When I came to Nigeria in 2019 I started thinking on how to have a unique language center here in Nigeria, though there are already foreign language centers, I thought of doing something different and uncommon. The idea was to have a language center that will not only teach language but also do interpretation and translation, so by 2020, I came up with what we have today as Lingual Global Academy.
There is an increase in the awareness of the importance of foreign languages, even among Nigerians, unlike in previous times, this is one of the gaps we work to fill through the activities of Lingua Global Academy.
TNC: . How did the COVID-19 pandemic impact your business since it was set up around the same time when COVID-19 was ravaging the world?
Lionel: Actually COVID was a blessing in disguise. We had a lot of classes online during that period of people staying indoors. Many people discovered that they could learn online, as in have home lessons without moving to the tutor and so we were engaged in a lot of tutelage even beyond the shores of Nigeria, teaching French, German and other languages.
TNC: What has been the challenges since the inception of Lingua Global Academy? How do you generally raise the funds to sustain and grow your business especially during downturns?
Lionel: It wasn’t easy from the onset, what I will say has kept me going from the beginning till now is confidence. I started from the home lesson; online and physical classes. There is the issue of people paying peanuts for services rendered, these meager payments could not even cover for the logistics of moving across the length and breadth of Abuja. It was just expenditures no profit.
Despite these challenges, I kept on going, knowing I had to build trust as it is a very important aspect of human relations of any kind, especially in a country like Nigeria. To gain trust, I have to be just and upright knowing that with time these challenges will be overcome.
TNC: How would you describe your journey to establishing the Lingua Global Academy as a force to reckon with? What are the things you do differently that stand you out from the crowd?
Lionel: At Lingua Global Academy, our main goal is not the profit, our main goal is to satisfy the customer. We believe if customers are satisfied, they will refer others. It is not like language institutions were fees are paid without ensuring that students actually learn. We make sacrifices, there are sometimes we incur losses just to satisfy our customers. We offer what other centers do not offer; like workshops where we partner with institutions worldwide for the students to have access and interact with native speakers.
For example, most French speakers in Nigeria do not have a good standard in conversational French, because they learn from French teachers here in Nigeria who themselves were thought by Nigerian instructors who have never been to a Francophone country and so it becomes difficult for them to speak good French.
TNC: What message do you have for the Nigerian Government?
Lionel: The message is simple. The Nigerian Government should put more effort in tackling the security challenge facing the country. It will do well also to listening to the voice of the people to know their pressing needs. Nigeria is a great country and will surely come out stronger.