Maximilian Berlitz

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Maximilian Berlitz
Born David Berlitzheimer
(1852-04-14)April 14, 1852
Mühringen, Germany
Died April 6, 1921(1921-04-06) (aged 68)
New York City, New York, United States
Nationality American
Other names Maximilien Berlitz
Occupation Linguist

Maximilian (Maximilien) Delphinius Berlitz (April 14, 1852 – April 6, 1921) was a linguist and the founder of the Berlitz Language Schools, the first of which he established in 1878 in Providence, Rhode Island.

Born David Berlitzheimer of Jewish parents in Mühringen, Württemberg, Germany, [1] he and his sister were soon orphaned, and he grew up in a family of educators in the Black Forest.[citation needed] Berlitz was required by law to serve as an apprentice; he chose to work for a watchmaker for three years. [1] He later moved to France[citation needed] and then to Providence, Rhode Island, United States in 1872. His first employment was as a teacher of French and German at Warner Polytechnic College, which he took over in 1878 when the owner of the school, Mr. Warner, disappeared with all the prepaid tuition money.[citation needed] When Berlitz became ill, and was unable to teach a French class, he quickly hired Nicholas Joly to replace him and take over the class. Since he had always corresponded with Joly in French, he did not realize that Joly did not speak any English until after he had hired him. Joly taught the class entirely in French (with no translation) by using gestures, pointing to objects and using tone of voice and facial expressions to convey meaning. Berlitz returned to the class six weeks later to find that his students, who had spoken little to no French before Joly began teaching, were conversing semi-fluently in French. [2] Their pronunciation and grammar were also very good. Berlitz used this experience to develop the Berlitz Method, in which only the target language is spoken from the first day of class. Students rely on the same techniques Joly used, rather than translation, to gather meaning and learn grammar and vocabulary.

After success, Berlitz opened a second language school in Boston in 1880, followed by others in New York and Washington, D. C. He went on to establish schools all over the U.S. and abroad. Between 1880 and 1900 he also put his ideas down in writing, developing them into a systematic method, which he then presented in 1900 the World's Fair in Paris. After the turn of the century, he began travelling extensively, making headlines by teaching German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II to speak English. (In spite of the fact that the Kaiser's mother, Princess Victoria, was English and the daughter of Queen Victoria, Wilhelm had a "highly dysfunctional relationship [with her] – which engendered a boundless hatred in the Kaiser for his mother’s country."[3]) Wilhelm's fame continued to spread as he received medals of honor from the King of Spain,[2] the government of France, and from many international expositions.[4] He remained active until his death, aged 68, in New York City. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, New York. [5]

Mr. Berlitz's method of language learning can be seen in many forms today. Many books that were originally published in the early to mid 1900's are still in print. There are also many schools that are still dedicated to continuing Mr. Berlitz's concepts regarding language learning.

The linguist and author Charles Berlitz, his grandson, was for a time the CEO of Berlitz International.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Emily C., Rose (19 June 2012). "Maximilian D. Berlitz (1852-1921)". Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German American Business Biographies. German Historical Institute. Retrieved 29 September 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Sellmer, Robert (24 February 1947), "Berlitz Schools", LIFE Magazine, p. 58, retrieved 29 September 2012 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Maximilian D. Berlitz". Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame. Retrieved 29 September 2012. 
  5. ^ Maximilian Berlitz at Find a Grave