Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Berlitz method accident

By Simon Gill - Olomouc, Czech Republic

At the IATEFL Conference in Edinburgh in 1999, the opening plenary was given by Mike Wallace, who told the story of the origin of the Berlitz method. I may have got the details wrong but it went something like this. Charles Berlitz, who was trilingual, was on the verge of opening his school when he fell seriously ill and had to employ a stand-in teacher, who spoke only English. On his return from his illness he was amazed to discover that the substitute had achieved great success using an English-only method that was very different from the grammar-translation approach Berlitz himself had intended and, being a sharp businessman, took it over and took all the credit too. So essentially the Berlitz Method is, like so many other successful inventions, an accident.


Alex Case said...

Very interesting story. Not sure I would call Berlitz a "successful" language learning method, though- unless you are only talking about business success

TEFLtastic blog- www.tefl.net/alexcase

Ancient said...

Not CHARLES Berlitz: it was MAXIMILIAN Berlitz. Charles was the grandson.

Ben said...

It was indeed Maximilian. Also, the language in question was not English, but French (the guy's name was Nicolas Jolie, so technically I guess you could call it the Jolie Method).

Also, I would take issue with questioning the Berlitz Method's "success". I know that a lot of TEFL people are sceptical but in my experience this is generally due to a limited understanding of the process, perhaps helped along by a few "Berlitz" practitioners who themselves don't really understand how to use the method. I've been teaching for a number of years now, the last 3 of which have been with a Berlitz school and I have to say from firsthand experience, it is extremely successful