The Berlitz story
Maximilian Berlitz grew up in the Black Forest region of Germany, the son of a family of teachers and mathematicians. He emigrated to the United States in 1878. Always a language fan, Maximilian taught Greek, Latin and six other European languages there, using the strict, traditional "grammar-translation" method.
After he had successfully taught as a private tutor for a while, he joined the Warner Polytechnic College in Providence, where he became Professor of French and German. However, the college was not as impressive as its name. Professor Berlitz was soon the owner, dean, head teacher and the only member of the faculty, all rolled into one.
As he needed an assistant for French, Berlitz employed a young Frenchman named Nicholas Joly, who obviously came with top references. When Joly arrived in Providence, he found that his employer was completely exhausted, feverish and very ill. The situation only worsened when Berlitz found out that his new assistant did not speak a single word of English. Desperately trying to find a way to use Joly in his teaching, Berlitz instructed him to explain objects using gestures and to act out verbs as well as he could. He then returned to bed.
The birth of the Berlitz Method®
Berlitz returned to the classroom six weeks later, expecting his desperate students to be angry with him. Instead, he found them engaging in an animated exchange of questions and answers - in elegant French. The normal venerable atmosphere of a traditional classroom had disappeared. His students were also much further ahead in terms of what they had learned than Berlitz would have achieved in the same period of time. Berlitz came to a significant conclusion: the "emergency solution" had formed the basis for a completely new method of teaching. The strict learning method had to give way to an animated process of discovery.
Innovation: right from the beginning
After a few years of research, Berlitz caused a sensation with the launch of the Total Immersion teaching programme. Total Immersion imparted new language skills extremely quickly, for example, for business people about to embark on an assignment abroad.
The faster pace of learning called for by the students also led Berlitz to develop a new application for his basic teaching method. Thus, additional supporting material was also introduced for vocabulary training and pronunciation exercises, for example. This is a development that Berlitz students around the world continue to benefit from today.
A changing world
From the founding of the company in 1878 onwards, Berlitz focussed primarily on the needs of travellers and private individuals. However, customers' demands changed in the 1950s. Berlitz, the company, found itself faced with a growing number of business people, professionals and technicians preparing for assignments abroad and needing language skills for their new tasks. Large companies were booking courses for many of their employees and their families, where rapid learning was top priority. Berlitz developed new programmes which were then run in addition to traditional language training. The company has continued to innovate, updating its methods constantly and adapting course delivery to create today's versatile range that includes flexible scheduling of courses, in-company courses, telephone and Internet delivery of teaching - in short, a programme to match every language learning need.