• Maximilian D. Berlitz

  • The organization now known as Berlitz International, Inc. was founded in 1878 by Maximilian D. Berlitz in Providence, Rhode Island, USA. Descended from a long line of teachers and mathematicians, Maximilian Berlitz grew up in the Black Forest region of Germany. He emigrated to the United States in 1872 and arrived prepared to teach Greek, Latin, and six other European languages according to the strict traditionalist grammar-translation approach.

    After building a successful career as a private teacher, Berlitz joined the Warner Polytechnic College as a professor of French and German language instruction. The college, however, was less imposing than its name, and Berlitz found himself at once owner, dean, principal, and only faculty member.

    Needing an assistant to teach French, Berlitz hired a young Frenchman who appeared to be the most promising candidate, possibly because of the impeccable French in his letter of application. The applicant, Nicholas Joly, arrived in Providence to find his new employer ill and feverish from overwork, a condition that only worsened when Berlitz learned that Joly spoke no English! Desperate to keep the school running with Joly at the helm, Berlitz instructed his new assistant to point at objects and act out verbs as best he could. He then took to his bed.

    Berlitz emerged anxiously six weeks later prepared to face the wrath of his neglected students. Instead, he found them engaging in lively question-and-answer exchanges with their teacher, in elegantly accented French! The seriousness of the formal classroom was gone, and most importantly, the students had progressed further than any ever had under six weeks of his own tutelage.

    Berlitz quickly concluded that his emergency measure held the seed of an innovative teaching technique. By replacing rote learning with a discovery process that kept students active and interested, it solved many of the problems that had plagued language instruction in the past.

    Expansion and Diversification

    As the company moved into the 20th century, increased international trade and the rise of multinational corporations stimulated a new period of growth for Berlitz. In Europe, Latin America, and the Far East, the demand for English soared, replacing French as the accepted language of the business world. The demand for language instruction increased in English-speaking countries at the same time.

    In the 1950s, Berlitz opened its first Latin American language center in Mexico, following shortly with locations in Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, and Chile. The Tokyo language center came in 1968, the first of what are now approximately 50 Berlitz centers in Asia. Berlitz has a strong presence in Europe, with more than 126 Berlitz centers there, and of course in North America, with more than 70 centers in the US and Canada. The current number of Berlitz centers worldwide is more than 400, and that number is certain to grow with continued expansion into new markets.

    A Changing Student Body
    From the founding of the company in 1878, Berlitz was geared primarily to the needs of travelers and those studying for personal enrichment. In the 1950s, however, it found the composition of its student body changing. Berlitz was increasingly confronted with business people, professionals, and technicians headed for foreign posts and needing language skills for their new assignments, and major corporations seeking to enroll large numbers of personnel - and their families - to learn languages as quickly as possible.

    To meet this need, Berlitz accelerated the changeover from conventional classes to private and small group instruction and instituted a research program to develop new techniques of intensive instruction. After several years of research and testing, Berlitz created a stir in academic circles with the introduction of its Total Immersion® (T.I.) instruction program. Total Immersion is geared for students with an urgent need, such as an impending relocation overseas. The program immerses the student in language instruction more than eight hours a day, for two to six weeks, with quick and successful results.

    Faster-paced learning demanded by the marketplace led Berlitz to develop home study materials to allow students to supplement their classroom lessons through vocabulary review and pronunciation. These were introduced in 1970, and today include books, cassettes, videos and CD-ROMs. Berlitz's curriculum and training department is constantly developing and updating materials to keep pace with changing technology and student needs.

    Berlitz keeps on top of changing student needs with innovative program offerings that complement traditional language center courses:

    Berlitz Study Abroad™ offers complete travel packages and the opportunity to study a new language in its country of origin.
    In 1988, Berlitz acquired the Language Institute for English™ (L.I.F.E.), now known as ELS Language Centers, which provides intensive English instruction, recreational opportunities, and accommodations for foreign studentson U.S. college campuses.
    Berlitz Jr. offers special foreign language programs for U.S. elementary, middle, and high school students both "on site" at schools or camps and at Berlitz language centers.
    Berlitz Cross-Cultural® was established in 1994 to augment language learning with cultural expertise.
    In 1996 Berlitz launched a franchising program that strengthened the company presence and capabilities all over the world.
    Berlitz GlobalNet offers traditional document translation, and is a leader in software localization. It offers clients full production capabilities including foreign language word processing, desktop publishing and typesetting, graphics and layout, and a full range of audio-visual services.
    Berlitz books and audio products enable millions of people to study independently at home, and at their own pace. Berlitz-branded publishing products, such as travel guides, phrase books, dictionaries, and CDs, are recognized throughout the world for their quality, accuracy and ease-of-use.

    Corporate History

    After Maximilian Berlitz died in 1921, his son-in-law and associate, Victor Harrison, assumed leadership of the organization. Harrison died in 1932 and control passed briefly to his son, Victor Harrison, Jr. Next to head the company was Jacques Strumpen-Darrie, a man who had built an outstanding career with Berlitz in Europe and the United States for more than 30 years. Jacques' son Robert succeeded his father as president in 1953.

    In 1966, Berlitz became a subsidiary of Macmillan, Inc. Robert Strumpen-Darrie continued as president until his retirement in 1970, and Elio Boccitto led the company through most of the 1980s.

    In November of 1988, Maxwell Communication Corporation took over Macmillan, and just a year later, Berlitz was made public.

    Berlitz was subsequently acquired by Fukutake Publishing Co., Ltd., now known as the Benesse Corporation. Benesse, a leading Japanese publisher of correspondence courses and other educational materials, is Berlitz's ideal partner, adding substantial expertise in education, database management, and correspondence marketing.

    Benesse assumed ownership of Berlitz in 2001, and the company once again became privately held. Berlitz and Benesse together are uniquely positioned to provide for the language needs of the global marketplace