Berlitz Corporation

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Berlitz Corporation
Type Subsidiary of Benesse Corporation
  • Global Leadership Training, Language Services
Founded Providence, Rhode Island
July, 1878
Founders Maximilian Berlitz
Number of locations 548
Area served 70 countries
Key people Mark W. Harris (CEO)
Parent Benesse Corporation

Berlitz Corporation is a global leadership training and language education company with headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey. The company was founded in 1878 by Maximilian D. Berlitz in Providence, Rhode Island. Berlitz Corporation is a member of the Benesse Group, with more than 547 company-owned and franchised locations in more than 70 countries.[1]


First Berlitz Language School in Providence, Rhode Island (1878)[2]

Berlitz started in 1878, when Maximilian Berlitz was in need of an assistant French instructor; he employed a Frenchman by the name of Nicholas Joly, only soon to discover that Joly barely spoke English, and was hired to teach French to English speakers in their native language. Several weeks later Berlitz returned to discover the students responded positively to Joly's instruction given only in French.[citation needed] This made way to the development of the Berlitz Method[when?][citation needed] and the opening of the first Berlitz language school in Providence, Rhode Island, July 1878.

By 1888, Berlitz moved to Boston, Massachusetts and opened additional schools. Soon after Boston, he opened schools nearby in New York and in New Jersey and in 1886 he moved the headquarters and his personal residence to New York City. Before the year 1900 Berlitz opened another eight schools across the country. It was also in the year 1900 that Nicholas Joly sold his interest in the company to Berlitz. Once Joly sold his share in the partnership, Berlitz made his son-in-law Victor Harrison-Berlitz General Manager.[citation needed]


By the time of the start of World War I in 1914, there were over 200 Berlitz Schools worldwide.

Maximilian Berlitz died in 1921. His son-in-law and associate, Victor Harrison-Berlitz, assumed leadership of the business. Not long after, Harrison died in 1932 and control passed briefly to his son, Victor Harrison-Berlitz, Jr. The control of the company was thereafter passed to Jacques Strumpen-Darrie. Jacques' son Robert succeeded his father as president in 1953.[3]

In the 1950s, Berlitz also opened its first Latin American language center in Mexico, following with locations in Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, and Chile. In 1966, Berlitz reached Asia, starting with a language center in Tokyo. Today there are more than 90 Berlitz centers in Asia.[4]


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 1988, Maxwell Communication Corporation took over Macmillan, and just a year later, Berlitz was made public.[5]

In 1993, Fukutake Publishing Co., Ltd., now known as the Benesse Corporation, a Japanese publisher of correspondence courses and other educational materials, began purchasing Berlitz stock. In 2001, Berlitz became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Benesse Corporation.[6]

In 2009, Berlitz acquired Phoenix Associates Co., Ltd.[7] Since 1980, Phoenix Associates has been helping professionals in leading multinational companies in Japan attain goals and advance their careers through improved communication and 'soft' business skills by providing business language skills training and innovative business communication skills programs. With offices in Tokyo and Osaka, Phoenix Associates Co., Ltd., is recognized as the leader in communication skills training throughout Japan.[8]

In November 2010, Berlitz changed its name from Berlitz International, Inc. to Berlitz Corporation.[9]

Berlitz acquired Second Language Testing, Inc.(SLTI) in March 2011. SLTI specializes in the development of second language proficiency tests and the translation and adaptation of standardized achievement tests to students’ native languages and cultures.[10]

In August 2011, Telelangue/World Speaking, a French-based company, accepted an offer by Berlitz Corporation to acquire its stock.[11]

On January 1, 2013, Berlitz merged Phoenix Associates Co., Ltd. into Berlitz Japan.[12]

Maximilian D. Berlitz[edit]

Maximilian Berlitz was born in Germany in 1852, the son of a family of teachers and mathematicians. He immigrated to the United States in 1870, settling in Westerly, Rhode Island. In 1877 Berlitz moved to Providence, Rhode Island where he was an instructor of languages at the Bryant and Stratton National Business College, later to become Warner's Polytechnic Business College after an ownership change. It was one year later, in 1878, that he developed the Berlitz Method[citation needed] and opened the first Berlitz language school.

The Berlitz Method[edit]

"The Berlitz Method" pioneered[citation needed] the direct method and focuses on using language as a tool for communication. The direct method, as opposed to the traditional grammar translation method, advocates teaching through the target language only – the rationale being that students will be able to work out grammatical rules from the input language provided, without necessarily being able to explain the rules overtly. Today, there are a variety of derivative methods and theories which find their beginnings in the natural and communicative elements that were pioneered by Berlitz.[13]

Total Immersion[edit]

In the 1950s, Berlitz found the composition of its student body changing. Berlitz was increasingly confronted with business 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. After several years of research and testing[citation needed], Berlitz created a stir in academic circles[neutrality is disputed] with the introduction of its Total Immersion instruction program in 1964.

Financial results[edit]

For the fiscal years 2004 to 2010 (in millions of US dollars):

  • 2004: 395.2
  • 2005: 423.4
  • 2006: 464.9
  • 2007: 529.7
  • 2008: 607.9
  • 2009: 527.3
  • 2010: 563.4

The total number of language lessons given during the year 2011 was 6,506 thousand. The number of language centers was 563 as of December 31, 2011.[14] As of early 2013, 75% of its revenue was from English language lessons.[15]


In Japan, teachers at Berlitz are represented by several unions. In the Kansai region they are represented by the General Union,[16] and in the Kanto region they are represented by Begunto, the Berlitz Tokyo General Union, part of the National Union of General Workers.[17] Both unions belong to the National Trade Union Council.

In Germany, teachers and office staff are represented by the GEW: The Union for Education and Science[18] who achieved the first collective bargaining agreement in company history following month-long strikes in 1990. In November 2010, management attempted for the first time to claw back the employee gains of the past 30 years in order to substantially reduce the conditions guaranteed in the collective bargaining agreement, threatening to lay off up to half of the contract teachers if the givebacks were not agreed to.[19]

Industrial action[edit]

Union members and supporters hear the details of the Tokyo District Court ruling on February 27, 2012.

While the situation at Berlitz is different from country to country, in Japan there has been substantial industrial action, including the Berlitz Japan 2007-2008 Strike organized by Begunto, which grew into the longest and largest sustained strike among language teachers in Japan.[20] Berlitz filed suit against the union for damages it says it suffered during the strike, but the claim was rejected by the Tokyo District Court on 27 February 2012.[21] Within a week Berlitz had appealed the ruling to the high court,[22] with the first court date being on May 28, 2012. The final hearing was held on December 27, 2012, when an agreement was struck between Berlitz and the union. Berlitz withdrew their high court lawsuit and new rules for collective bargaining were also established. They will again be conducted in English, after the language was changed to Japanese previously. Berlitz also promised to disclose more financial information to the union. The company also agreed to pay a base-up raise to current union members plus a lump sum bonus to the union.[23]

In 2010, employees of Berlitz language centers in Germany experienced a major labor conflict, as management planned to lay off nearly 70 contract teachers in order to economize with a staff of freelancers.[24]

On February 8, 2011, the German management team signed a new collective bargaining agreement with the GEW, The Union for Education and Science, settling all issues.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About Berlitz". Berlitz Languages. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 
  2. ^ "First Berlitz Language School" Picasa Web Album [1] Retrieved 21 February 2010
  3. ^ "Berlitz 120 Years of Excellence: 1878–1998", Berlitz International, Inc., 1998, ISBN 2-8315-6194-9, page 27-30
  4. ^ Berlitz UAE Website – The World of Berlitz
  5. ^ Berlitz UAE Website – The World of Berlitz
  6. ^ Benesse Corporation Website "History – About us – Benesse Corporation" Retrieved on September 2nd 2010
  7. ^ Berlitz Corporation Press Release [2]
  8. ^ Phoenix Associates Website [3]
  9. ^ Berlitz International Inc. Announces Corporate Name Change
  10. ^ Berlitz Corporation Press Release "Berlitz Corporation Acquires Second Language Testing, Inc.
  11. ^ Berlitz Corporation Press Release "Berlitz Corporation Acquires Telelangue
  12. ^ Berlitz Corporation Press Release [4]
  13. ^ "Find better language courses: Impartial reviews of 70 self-study programs". Retrieved 2013-08-23. 
  14. ^ Benesse Corporation Review of Fiscal 2009 Results [5] Retrieved on 7 July 2012
  15. ^ Linguists online
  16. ^ General Union website Berlitz Branch Retrieved June 17, 2014
  17. ^ Berlitz General Union Tokyo website Homepage Retrieved June 17, 2014
  18. ^ The GEW Website
  19. ^ Frankfurter Rundschau, Peter Dietz: 7 December 2010 GEW: Berlitz will Lehrer feuern
  20. ^ Japan Times "Berlitz launches legal blitz against striking instructors" February 17, 2009
  21. ^ Hongo, Jun, "Berlitz loses suit over union teacher strikes", Japan Times, 28 February 2012, p. 1.
  22. ^ McCrostie, James, "Berlitz court ruling unequivocal on basic right to strike", Japan Times, 6 March 2012, p. 14.
  23. ^ Japan Times Berlitz union wins raise, bonus in suit settlement January 1, 2012
  24. ^ Frankfurter Rundschau, Peter Dietz: 7 December 2010 GEW: Berlitz will Lehrer feuern

External links[edit]