Berlitz Corporation

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Berlitz Corporation
Subsidiary of Benesse Corporation
Industry Leadership training, language services
Founded Providence, Rhode Island
July 1878
Founder Maximilian Berlitz
Headquarters Princeton, New Jersey
Number of locations
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 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]


The 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. The first Berlitz language school opened in Providence, Rhode Island in July 1878. A decade later, Berlitz moved to Boston, Massachusetts and opened additional schools. Soon after, he opened schools in New York and New Jersey. 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.[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. 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 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.[4]

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.[5]

In 2009, Berlitz acquired Phoenix Associates Co., Ltd.

In November 2010, Berlitz changed its name from Berlitz International, Inc. to Berlitz Corporation.[6]

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.[7]

In August 2011, Telelangue/World Speaking, a French-based company, accepted an offer by Berlitz Corporation to acquire its stock.[8] On January 1, 2013, Berlitz merged Phoenix Associates Co., Ltd. into Berlitz Japan.[9]

Maximilian D. Berlitz[edit]

Maximilian Berlitz was born in Germany in 1852, the son of a family of teachers and mathematicians. He emigrated 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.[citation needed]

The Berlitz Method[edit]

"The Berlitz Method" uses 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.[10]

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.[11] As of early 2013, 75% of its revenue was from English language lessons.[12]


In Japan, teachers at Berlitz are represented by several unions. In the Kansai region they are represented by the General Union,[13] and in the Kanto region they are represented by Begunto, the Berlitz Tokyo General Union, part of the National Union of General Workers.[14] Both unions belong to the National Trade Union Council.

In Germany, teachers and office staff are represented by GEW. 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.[15]

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.[16] 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.[17] Within a week Berlitz appealed the ruling to the high court,[18] 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.[19]

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.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About Berlitz". Berlitz Languages. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 
  2. ^ "First Berlitz Language School", Picasa Web Album [1]; retrieved February 21, 2010.
  3. ^ "Berlitz 120 Years of Excellence: 1878–1998", Berlitz International, Inc., 1998; ISBN 2-8315-6194-9, pp. 27-30
  4. ^ a b Berlitz UAE Website – The World of Berlitz,; accessed January 7, 2015.
  5. ^ Benesse Corporation Website "History – About us – Benesse Corporation"; retrieved September 2, 2010.
  6. ^ "Berlitz International Inc. Announces Corporate Name Change",; accessed January 7, 2015.
  7. ^ Berlitz Corporation Press Release "Berlitz Corporation Acquires Second Language Testing, Inc.
  8. ^ Berlitz Corporation Press Release "Berlitz Corporation Acquires Telelangue
  9. ^ Berlitz Corporation Press Release,; accessed January 7, 2015.
  10. ^ "Find better language courses: Impartial reviews of 70 self-study programs". Retrieved 2013-08-23. 
  11. ^ Benesse Corporation Review of Fiscal 2009 Results; retrieved July 7, 2012.
  12. ^ Linguists online
  13. ^ Berlitz General Union website; retrieved June 17, 2014.
  14. ^ Berlitz General Union Tokyo website homepage,; retrieved June 17, 2014.
  15. ^ a b Peter Dietz, "GEW: Berlitz will Lehrer feuern", Frankfurter Rundschau, December 7, 2010.
  16. ^ The Japan Times "Berlitz launches legal blitz against striking instructors",, February 17, 2009.
  17. ^ Hongo, Jun, "Berlitz loses suit over union teacher strikes", The Japan Times, February 28, 2012, p. 1.
  18. ^ McCrostie, James, "Berlitz court ruling unequivocal on basic right to strike", The Japan Times, March 6, 2012, p. 14.
  19. ^ Berlitz union wins raise, bonus in suit settlement,, January 1, 2012; accessed January 7, 2015.

External links[edit]