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BERLITZ, Maximilian Delphinius (1852-1921)

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Maximilian Delphinius Berlitz, the founder of the Berlitz Schools, was born in 1852 in Württemberg. Although his exact birthplace has never been ascertained, it is known that he came from a family of teachers and mathematicians in the Black Forest.

In 1872, Berlitz came to Rhode Island where he worked for a while as a private language teacher in Westerly before accepting a permanent position as a teacher of French and German at the Warner Polytechnical College in Providence. Although the institute wasn't doing very well, in 1878 Berlitz purchased it from its owner, becoming not only the director but also the only teacher. Not long afterwards, he hired a young Frenchman, Nicholas Joly, to assist him. Joly arrived in Providence to find his new employer sick and feverish due to overwork. More over, Berlitz discovered, much to his dismay, that his new instructor spoke no English. Nevertheless, he directed Joly to take over the French classes - he was to teach them by pointing to objects, naming them and explaining verbs using only French.

After his recuperation six weeks later, Berlitz was amazed to find that, contrary to his expectation, his pupils had made more progress in the same period of time than they had under traditional methods of language instruction. He was quick to realize that this was the seed of a new kind of teaching method, which he immediately began employing in his school. The success Berlitz achieved with his new method encouraged him to open up a second language school in Boston in 1880. Soon other schools followed in New York and Washington, D. C. Eventually he established schools all over America and even exported them abroad. Between 1880 and 1900 he not only taught but managed to set his ideas down in writing, developing them into a systematic method which he then presented at theWorld's Fair in Paris in 1900.

After the turn of the century, Berlitz traveled extensively and received many honors and distinctions from countries all over the world. However, he remained anactive language instructor until his death on April 6,1921, in New York City.

The World of Berlitz

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