The Berlitz story
Maximilian Berlitz, the son of a family of teachers and mathematicians, grew up in the Black Forest region of Germany. He emigrated to the United States in 1870. A language enthusiast, Maximilian taught Greek, Latin and six other European languages 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 as a Professor of French and German. However, the college was not as impressive as its name. Berlitz was soon the owner, dean, head teacher and only member of the faculty, all rolled into one.
Needing an assistant for French Berlitz employed a highly recommended young Frenchman by the name of Joly. When Joly arrived in Providence, he found his employer completely exhausted, feverish and very ill. The situation seemed even worse when Berlitz found out that his new assistant did not speak a single word of English. Desperately trying to find a way to have Joly do his teaching, Berlitz instructed him to explain objects using gestures and to act out verbs as well as he could. He then returned to his bed.
The birth of the Berlitz Method®
When he returned to the classroom six weeks later, he expected his desperate students to be very dissatisfied with him. Instead, he found them engaged in an animated exchange of questions and answers - in elegant French. The normal atmosphere of a traditional classroom had disappeared. His students were also much further ahead than they would have been had he not been ill. Berlitz came to a significant conclusion: the "emergency solution" had become the basis for a completely new method of teaching. The strict teaching method had to give way to an animated process of discovery.
A changing world
From the founding of the company in 1878 onwards, Berlitz concentrated on the needs of travelers and private individuals. However, customers' demands changed in the 50s. The Berlitz 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. They had to learn fast.
Berlitz developed new programs to augment traditional language training. After a few years of research, he caused a sensation with the launch of his Total Immersion® program. Total Immersion imparted new language skills extremely quickly to business people about to embark on an assignments abroad.
The faster pace of learning called for by the students also led Berlitz to develop new applications for his basic teaching method. Additional supporting materials were introduced for vocabulary training and pronunciation exercises as well as other inovations. A development that Berlitz students around the world continue to benefit from today.