My name is Lydia Machova, I am 27 years old and I am a professional conference interpreter and language mentor. I speak 7 languages fluently (besides Slovak and Czech) and I have learnt all of them without living abroad.

Over the course of 16 years learning 8 non-native foreign languages, I devised a system on how anybody can learn a language to a level where they feel confident and don't have to think much. Learning a language doesn't have to be a complicated, lengthy process, and it definitely doesn't have to be unpleasant. Quite the opposite, you can learn languages in a very enjoyable and relaxed way.

Me as a polyglot

The languages I can speak:

Slovak

native

English

C2

German

C1 - C2

Spanish

C1

French

B2

Polish

C1 - C2

Esperanto

B2

Russian

B2

Swahili

A1

Language levels (for those who know the European Framework of Reference for Languages) are informative only – according to my judgement. For me, the most important thing is that I can speak all of these learned languages (with the exception of the Slovak Sign Language) in everyday communication - I can easily speak with native Germans or Poles, read any book written in Esperanto, watch any Spanish movie without subtitles, etc.

In the case of English, German, Polish, Spanish and Esperanto, I have a good command of grammar and spelling, and I can use these languages for written communication without any problems.  But I always put the greatest emphasis on speaking – after all, this is why we learn languages, right? :)

Want to see me speak in all my languages? Have a look:

Slovak

English

German

French

Espernato

Russian

A multilingual video

This is an excerpt from my webinar in January 2018 which was seen live by over 1,500 Slovaks and Czechs. I often start my presentations in several languages. This time, I was wondering why people had signed up for the webinar.

Me as a language mentor

Language mentoring is my own approach to language teaching. Since I was 15 years old, I have taught English and German to hundreds of people - in private lessons, language schools, companies, elementary schools, at university...

After all these years, I have realised that you cannot teach somebody a language. You can only learn a language by yourself.  A good teacher can help you, but nobody can ever get the language into your head on your behalf.

That's why I started to look for methods to help people learn languages by themselves. 

It all started with language learning lectures...

In 2013, I started to give periodical lectures on language learning. The first lectures were aimed at students of Comenius University. Later, I started to give tips and advice on language learning to my friends, travelers, English teachers, etc. I have given lectures not only in Slovak but also in English and Polish.

At the Comenius University, the lectures became an annual event due to their success. The number of people interested has been increasing yearly. 

When lectures are not enough

During my PhD studies at Comenius University, I taught not only simultaneous interpreting but also the course in advanced English. Gradually, I tried to integrate the elements of language mentoring into my lectures. The reactions from the students were very positive.

So in the last year, I extended my experiment to 100 students from the translation and interpreting courses. I asked them to try to improve their language skills on their own, outside of classes, in a way which they would enjoy.

Experiment with 100 students and 13 languages

In spring 2016, I carried out an intensive language mentoring program at the Faculty of Arts, Comenius University, for the students of translation and interpreting. Again, almost 100 students from all study years were involved. They were improving their skills in 13 different languages, 8 of which I don't speak (Croatian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Swedish, Dutch, Finnish, Italian, Portuguese). We were meeting once a week and everyone had their own individual plan based on what exactly they wanted to improve. Everyone was learning at home by themselves, and we supported each other (I myself was learning Russian together with the students).

The results of the experiment were incredible. The students were telling me after several weeks how much their language level had risen since we started: they understood much more, were able to express themselves more freely and they became almost addicted to learning and improving their language skills. 

And I was not the only one who noticed the difference. This is what one of the teachers at the Spanish Department said at the end of the mentoring program: 

 

It was fascinating to watch the students fall in love with their languages anew, and to learn English and other languages with such passion. Learning the language changed from a must to a hobby. But the best thing about it was how much the program helped them improve in their respective languages in just two months. This is what they said at the end:

Me as an interpreter

As an interpreter, especially in English, I worked my way up to a very high level of language proficiency.  Besides English, I also studied German and had opportunities to interpret in Polish and Spanish as well.

Interpreter for the First Lady of Slovakia

One of the most interesting events I worked at as an interpreter, was the summit of five presidents – Slovak, Czech, Polish, Hungarian and Ukrainian – in 2013. I was an official interpreter for the first lady, Mrs. Gasparovicova. I accompanied her for two days on an official program and interpreted for her from English and Polish.

It was fascinating and enjoyable to fly in the special government aircraft from Bratislava to Polish Beskids and then from Beskids to Krakow in a helicopter. Also to be in a special convoy in Krakow, surrounded by police cars and especially to see and hear the high-level political meetings.

(Source: prezydent.pl, Photo: Piotr Molęcki)
(Source: prezydent.pl. Photo: Wojciech Gradzinski)

Interpreter for Slovakia's former prime minister

As an interpreter, I had a chance to meet many other high-ranking politicians, whether during talks at the ministries, at the press conferences or conferences. One of them was our former prime minister, Iveta Radicova.

Interpreter for Tony Robbins

Businessmen surely know one of the most sought-after speakers in the world, Tony Robbins, whom I had the honour to interpret for during his two-day seminar in Poland.  It was demanding, but the view was priceless from the interpretation booth located above the crowd of 8000 people and above the stage with Tony.

The most overwhelming moment came at the end, when suddenly, one of Tony's four bodyguards appeared in the booth, followed by Tony himself.

He shook hands with each one of the interpreters and said thank you for bringing his words to the people who don't understand English.  People at his seminar cried, laughed, yelled, roared...believe me, the atmosphere was better than at any concert of the biggest rock stars. :)

This gesture made by such a well-known personality is the best reward possible. 

Interpreter for Peruvian shaman

One of my most unusual job experiences to date was the two weeks I spent in a camp of local shaman in the Amazon rainforest in the north of Peru. The shaman healed people with a jungle drug called ayahuasca. It stimulates the purgative process, usually in the form of several hours of vomiting accompanied by different hallucinations.

It was a new experience to sleep on the terrace of a simple house made up of a couple of wooden pieces. To spend two weeks in an environment with 98% humidity, take a bath in the Amazon River, taste grilled larvae and experience the life of local inhabitants was amazing. The most interesting part, however, was the night ceremonies. I participated in two of them and I even tried ayahuasca myself. Remarkable experiences :-)

Interpretations of various kinds

Usually, as an interpreter, I don't get to go to many exotic places like this. My main workplace is Bratislava where I attend different conferences, meetings, talks, festivals, etc.

I interpreted at conferences about growing corn, about support of the LGBT community in the workplace, about the fight against human trafficking, about coaching, about fund-raising, and many, many others.

I participated at talks between ministers and ambassadors, at press conferences after signing important agreements, at business talks where big contracts were agreed upon.

The profession of interpreting is very exciting, but demanding too. I revealed a lot about this profession in my lecture at the Polyglot Gathering 2015 in Berlin. Using practical examples, I explained what makes a good interpreter and what crosses the interpreter's mind when they have to listen to the speaker and say it in a different language at the same time.

Lecture from Polyglot Gathering in Berlin

The Pleasures and Pains of Working as an Interpreter

Me as an enterpreneur

I started my Language Mentoring business on 2 April 2016 (symbolically, on my birthday) and was happy to see it grow ever since. First, I held half-day and whole-day live seminars in Slovakia (14 times) to teach effective principles of language learning, both for beginners and intermediate (and above) levels. As they were all hugely popular and always sold out (often within two days), I created online courses with the same know-how. Besides, I provide two-month online language mentoring courses where I help 50 people learn any language by themselves. The participants are improving their language skills immensely using my techniques and many come back for another two-month program, which makes our whole team extremely happy.

I was very grateful to receive a special prize for innovation in a big Slovak competition called Female Entrepreneur of Slovakia 2017. The prize was awarded by Slovakia’s vice prime minister Peter Pellegrini in person, who found my project highly inspiring.

Me as a Polyglot Gathering organizer

Polyglot Gathering is one of the two biggest world events for polyglots and language lovers held annually. After three years of this event in Berlin, the organizers and initiators of the event Judith Meyer and Chuck Smith asked me and Peter Baláž, a well-know Esperanto events organizer, to take over and organize the Polyglot Gathering 2017. We moved it to Bratislava, Slovakia, and it was an amazing event with over 460 participants from 50+ countries. Polyglot Gathering 2018 is going to take place in Bratislava again and it is open to anyone who loves languages and enjoys learning them. No need to know a certain amount of languages “fluently” (what does that mean exactly, anyway? ...) so don’t hesitate and join us! :) www.polyglotbratislava.com

     Me in my private life

When people find out that I can speak 9 languages self-taught (including my mother tongue Slovak and the closely related Czech language), they usually think that:

  • I have no other hobbies
  • I have no free time
  • I am not human.

Actually, it is all about good time management. :) I hardly ever spend more than an hour learning a language and even that is not time spent with books. I incorporate language learning into my everyday life. With a little persistence, one can find a lot of time to practice a language. 

Besides languages I have other significant hobbies: travelling and dancing. In the last two years, I have travelled across several continents. I travel mostly with Couchsurfing (staying as a guest at a host's home for free) so that I can get to know the locals and their lifestyle. Languages make this type of travelling the world much easier for me :)

Here are some of my "traveling scarf pictures" that I take everywhere I go. Each is from a different country.