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Berlitz International, Inc.

Berlitz International, Inc.

400 Alexander Park
Princeton, New Jersey 08540
U.S.A.
Telephone: (609) 924-8500
Toll Free: (800) 257-9449
Fax: (609) 683-9138
Web site: http://www.berlitz.com

Public Subsidiary of Benesse Corporation
Incorporated:
1989
Employees: 5,718
Sales: $446.2 million
Stock Exchanges: New York
Ticker Symbol: BTZ
NAIC: 6111630 Language Schools

Berlitz International, Inc. is a languages services firm providing language instruction, cross-cultural training, translation services, and publishing products in 50 countries. For language instruction, the company employs its proprietary Berlitz Method, which avoids tedious memorization exercises and grammar drills in favor of a conversational, usage-driven approach to virtually all living languages. Berlitzs publishing division produces pocket-size travel guides and language phrase books, as well as bilingual dictionaries, trade paperback travel guides, and self-teaching language guides from audio cassettes to interactive compact discs. The companys translation services provide technical translation, interpreting, software localization, electronic publishing, and other services that are related to foreign languages.

Maximilian Berlitz Emigrates to America in 1872

Berlitzs origins date back to 1872, when 20-year-old Maximilian D. Berlitz emigrated from Germany to America in 1872 to teach Greek, Latin, and six other European languages. Employing the traditional grammar-translation approach, he served as a private instructor for several years, then, in 1878, accepted a position as professor of French and German at the Warner Polytechnic College in Providence, Rhode Island. The position turned out to be nothing less than immediate ownership of the college, where he also served as dean, principal, and sole faculty member. In desperate need of an assistant, Berlitz hired Nicholas Joly directly from France, based solely on a letter of application. When Joly arrived in Providence, Berlitz was surprised to learn that his new assistant spoke no English. To make matters worse, Berlitz had fallen ill from the strain of running the school alone and was unable to teach for several weeks. Joly had no choice but to take over and conduct classes strictly in French, instructed by Berlitz to name objects and act out verbs, essentially, to make the best of it. When Berlitz recovered, he discovered that the students had made remarkable progress in French. Berlitzs main tenet of language instructionthe transfer of usage by actually using no language other than the one being studiedthus gained credibility, sparking development and fine-tuning of the young schools trademark pedagogy, the Berlitz Method.

Though Berlitz was convinced that his direct method of language instruction was the most effective available, the public and academic community at first viewed it with suspicion. Starting with the first greeting by the instructor, the Berlitz Method dictated that only the target language was to be spoken in class. The method emphasized the spoken word, with students learning to read and write only what they had already learned to say and understand. In the place of formal grammar instruction, students absorbed a grammatical system naturally, by using it. Above all, to develop fluency, students learned to think in the new language, not to translateto associate new words with objects and ideas, rather than with the distractingly familiar words of their mother tongue. To encourage students in the use of the target language, instructors typically employed question-and-answer techniques to prompt dialogue while expanding vocabulary.

However unconventional, the young company, known as the Berlitz School of Languages, produced results that simply couldnt be ignored. Berlitz opened his first language center in Boston in 1880, followed soon after by centers in New York City and Washington, D.C. He then expanded to other American cities as well as Europe. By the turn of the century, an explosive tourist industry prompted Berlitz to develop travel guides, self-teaching materials, and interpretation services to meet this growing demand. Berlitz died in 1921, but the company he founded, and his method, were carried on by his son-in-law and associate, Victor Harrison. Victor Harrison, Jr., briefly assumed control in 1932, but was replaced by a long-time Berlitz employee, Jacques Strumpen-Darrie, who guided the company for 20 years, before his son, Robert, took charge. The younger Strumpen-Darrie ran Berlitz until his retirement in 1970, even after the company was sold to Macmillan in 1966.

Berlitz Internationalization at Mid-Century

Through both world wars of, the number of Berlitz schools multiplied with growing demand for language skills. After World War II, Berlitz seized emerging opportunities in language training and translation services brought on by multinational companies expanding their business around the world. Such expansion was fueled by the rise of computer information systems starting in the 1970s. With the advent of digitized communication networks, increasing amounts of information could be conveyed almost instantaneously between virtually any points on the globe, intensifying the needand the marketfor effective cross-cultural and cross-linguistic communication. Moreover, the 1980s saw the crumbling of key international trade barriers, as markets in the former Soviet Union, China, and various developing nations increasingly moved toward free trade. Indeed, the companys 1993 annual report described cutbacks in Western European nations that were experiencing economic stagnation. Meanwhile, the company aggressively moved into rapidly growing markets in Central and Eastern European countries, establishing new facilities in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Eastern Germany. A December 5,1993 article in The Warsaw Voice heralded the arrival of a new Berlitz school in Warsaw and plans for another in February, as well as other schools in such cities as Poznan, Cracow, and Gdansk. To exploit global markets in the 1990s, Berlitz also opened new language centers in Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela, as well as Mexico, where NAFTA brought new language-training needs.

From the 1980s onward, Berlitzs language instruction division increasingly developed options and additions to its classroom instruction facilities. The Berlitz Study Abroad (BSA) Program offered students a complete travel package and the opportunity to study their new language in its country of origin. The Berlitz Jr. program provided special foreign language teaching service for U.S. elementary, middle, and high school students both at schools or camps and at the Berlitz Language Centers. For slightly older students, Berlitz acquired the Language Institute for English (L.I.F.E.) in 1988, providing intensive English instruction, recreation, and accommodations to foreign students on campuses in Boston, New York, Miami, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, and Chicago.

Berlitz developed several products and programs to that combined language and social skills. The company also expanded on its popular Cross-Cultural Division, designed to instruct students in business and social etiquette and day-to-day activities to supplement language skills. In 1994, the company acquired Cross-Cultural Consultants of Brooklyn, New York, to ensure a stronger future in that growing market. Led by noted author and lecturer Dean Foster, the division held seminars and briefings designed to sensitize businesses to the intricate social, political, and cultural issues that can determine a companys effectiveness in foreign markets.

In the spirit of a skilled language teacher, the company itself listened to the talk around it and continued to develop linguistic solutions to accommodate changing market trends. Joining forces with the University of Phoenix in 1991, for example, Berlitz put together a custom-designed language program for the McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Company, which wanted the program to enhance its employees global competitiveness.

In 1995, Berlitzs language-instruction division responded to the needs of contemporary language enthusiasts by introducing Club Berlitz, a network of groups that enabled members to speak the foreign language of their choice with groups of people at similar proficiency levels. Participants honed their language skills while engaging in activities ranging from international dinner parties to cultural evenings, theme events like plays and movies, and study abroad programs. Club Berlitz reflects the growing interest in the study of language and culture for both business and personal use, said Hiromasa Yokoi, vice-chairman, chief executive officer, and president of Berlitz International in a March 20, 1995 Business Wire article.

Berlitzs dedication to world languages for both business and personal use spurred the development of two other business segments: publishing and translation. Since the early 1970s, Berlitz Publishing has produced language and travel-related publications recognized internationally for their accuracy and ease of use. By the 1990s, the division was publishing more than 1,000 titles, ranging from a European Menu Reader to inexpensive pocket paperbacks and state-of-the-art interactive CD-ROMs.

Company Perspectives:

Berlitz has been providing language services for more than 120 years, with millions of alumni. The time-proven principles of the Berlitz Method are supplemented by a constant flow of new and updated information and the latest multimedia lesson materials. Translation and publishing services throughout the world complete our full-service portrait.

To maintain its stature as a premier, single-source provider of language services, Berlitz Publishing continued to develop innovative products into the 1990s. A 1991 joint venture with Sphere Inc. (doing business as Spectrum Holobyte), resulted in the co-development of a language learning game based on CD-ROM technology. The game El Grito del Jaguar, or The Cry of the Jaguar, taught users the Spanish language and Mexican culture through an adventurous computer-driven challenge, setting the ground for similar projects in other languages. That same year, Berlitzs parent company, Maxwell Communications Corporation, in conjunction with the European industrial and electronics giant, N.V. Philips, announced a joint venture publishing company, Maxwell Multi Media. The new company planned to produce and sell self-teaching language courses for the home, office, and school using interactive compact disks (CD-I) as well as other formats.

Although Berlitz would leave the Maxwell empire within a year, some of the strategy from the Philips venture would contribute to later developments. In 1993, for example, Berlitz Publishing Company signed a licensing agreement with Sierra On-Line Inc., through which Bright Star Technology, a wholly owned Sierra subsidiary, would develop, manufacture, and market a new CD-ROM-based foreign language and culture series called Berlitz Alive! Using patented lip-synching technology and animated personal tutors, as well as Berlitzs teaching methodology, Bright Star launched its first foreign-language educational series, Japanese Alive!, in September 1993. Combining Sierras interactive multimedia technology with Berlitzs language content, name recognition, and proven learning methodology opens new markets for our educational products, expanding into adult education and foreign language, said Alan J. Higginson, president of Bright Star Technology, in an August 4, 1993 PR Newswire article.

Riding the growing wave of digital media, Berlitz also moved onto the Internet in 1995, as it assumed management of Prodigy Inc.s Foreign Languages bulletin board. On-line customers could learn about a foreign country, talk in a native tongue, secure translation services, and obtain instant information on all Berlitz products and services.

Into the 1990s, the companys translation segment, Berlitz Translation Services (BTS) maintained its reputation as a world leader in technical documentation translation and software/multimedia localization, as well as full production capabilities in desktop publishing and graphics, audio visual services, and simultaneous and consecutive interpretation.

Founded in 1984, BTS quickly gained an excellent reputation for its accuracy and its ability to integrate linguistic services and versatile project management. Starting in the late 1980s, the translation segment greatly expanded its international scope through a series of acquisitions, including: the Institute for Fagspneg in Copenhagen (June 1989), Able Translations Ltd. in Baldock, England (Fall 1990), Kayer Coll. Technical Translators in Sindelfingen, Germany (December 1990), Nordoc A/S (1991), and Softrans International Limited (1991). By the mid-1990s, the BTS International Network provided translation-related services in more than 37 locations across 16 countries.

New Parentage in the 1990s

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Berlitz underwent several dramatic reorganizations that seemed to threaten the companys stability. Ultimately, however, they left it in a strong position to enter the 21st century. In 1989, Berlitzs main business divisionsBerlitz Languages Inc., Editions Berlitz, S.A., Berlitz Publications Inc., and other affiliateswere acquired by Maxwell Communication Corporation plc (MCC). The new entity was renamed Berlitz International Inc. With the unexpected death of media magnate Robert Maxwell in late 1991, much of his media empire crumbled and fell into the hands of bankruptcy courts, casting doubt over Berlitzs future. Berlitz, however, insisted that it maintained control of its assets and operated independently of the Maxwell chaos. Two days after Maxwells death, MCC sold its 56 percent stake in Berlitz for $265 million to Fukutake Publishing Company, Ltd., a leading Japanese publisher specializing in correspondence classes and publication of related materials, which had already purchased a 20 percent stake in Berlitz Japan in 1990. By 1992, Fukutakes share in Berlitz had grown to 67 percent, with the remaining stock held by public shareholders. Fukutake combined its resources with those of Berlitz to provide optimal language services worldwide.

Fukutake planned to boost its services throughout the world, with special emphasis on regions of Asia where Berlitz was not as well positioned. With services in Taiwan (since 1989) and South Korea (since 1991), Fukutake announced plans to begin test-marketing in the Peoples Republic of China in the mid-1990s. Economic development and a rise in willingness to learn supplement each other, the companys president said in a November 21, 1994 article in the Nikkei Weekly.

The company experienced some lean years during the recession of the early 1990s. Under the management of Mr. Soichiro Fukutake, chairman, and Mr. Hiromasa Yokoi, vice-chairman, CEO, and president, Fukutake took aggressive steps to expand its services in tandem with those of Berlitz, as well as to streamline operations while improving the use of technology in the classroom to increase customer satisfaction. In 1995, the company launched a campaign to maximize its customer services across the board. As part of that effort, in 1995 Fukutake changed its name to the Benesse Corporation. The new name combined the Latin words bene and esse, meaning well being, to drive home the companys commitment to support customers personal aspirations for a better life, according to company materials.

In 1995, Berlitz launched a campaign to refresh its own identity. The company introduced a new, clean-lined logo and a new, company-wide tagline, Helping the World Communicate. Berlitz remodeled the retail stores at its language centers and began a new franchising program, its first in more than 35 years. The company was determined to make itself more consumer-friendly as it moved away from its typical office locations to stores. Revenues in 1995 stood at $351 million, a significant increase over 1994s $300 million. Earnings jumped from $900,000 to $2.3 million over the same period.

Key Dates:

1878:
Maximilian Berlitz founds a language school in Providence, Rhode Island.
1880:
Berlitz opens a language center in Boston.
1921:
Berlitz dies, leaving his son-in-law in charge.
1966:
The company becomes a subsidiary of Macmillan Inc.
1988:
Maxwell Communications buys the company from Macmillan.
1989:
Berlitz International goes public.
1992:
The company is bought by Fukutake Publishing (later known as Benesse Corporation)

Berlitz began to reach out in several directions at once. In 1996 it established Berlitz Kids, to enter the childrens market, a move that it had been planning for some time. The goal was to expand from a series of books using fictional characters to offering language-based reference books, games, and CD-ROMs, as well as other ancillary products. To supplement its adult business, in 1997 Berlitz purchased ELS Educational Services Inc., an English-language instruction service, for $95 million. The ELS deal brought with it 25 language centers in the United States and two in England, located mostly on or near colleges and catering to foreign students. To bolster Berlitz GlobalNets translation business and establish a foothold in Latin America, the company purchased operating subsidiaries, assets, and key personnel of Language Management International, with locations in Brazil and Argentina, as well as the United States and Singapore. In 1999 Berlitz created a new Internet translation service called Berlitzlt that provided timely person-to-person translation that replaced software-translation programs. Not intended to replace its corporate translation and localized services, Berlitz, it was designed for smaller jobs and the general public through an off the shelf version.

Berlitz Kids joined forces with a powerful partner in 1999 when it reached an agreement with the Childrens Television Workshop, creators of Sesame Street, to produce Sesame English, a 15-minute program using a new Muppet named Tingo to teach children how to speak English. Starting in China, Taiwan, and Japan, where demand for English instruction high, the partners had plans to eventually bring the program to Europe, Latin America, and North America. With possible home sales and Internet distribution of an entire line of Sesame language products, Berlitz was not reticent about projecting a potential $4 billion global market for the partnership, a figure that would be ten times the total revenue Berlitz achieved in 1998. By the spring 2000, Sesame English was ready to air in its first markets, to be followed by Germany and Austria in May; Hong Kong, Korea, Thailand, and Israel in July; Puerto Rico in August; Colombia, Mexico, and the United States in September; and Venezuela in October. An equally ambitious rollout to other countries in Latin America, Europe, and Asia was planned for 2001. At the same time, Sesame Español was being prepared, with an early 2001 airing date scheduled for the United States.

Its ambitious plans notwithstanding, Berlitz stock dropped by 30 percent in 1999, and the companys yearly results only reinforced investors concerns. Total revenues rose just 2.3 percent over the previous year, to $446.2 million, with a reported net loss of $13.1 million. In March 2000 the company announced that Yokoi would retire and be replaced by James Kahl, chairman and chief executive officer of Le Petite Academy. Furthermore, the company would be restructured into two divisions: Berlitz Language Services and Berlitz GlobalNET. In January 2001 Berlitz announced an initiative to cut operating expenses by $20 million for fiscal 2001 and by $12 million each year after that. The work force would be trimmed and underper-forming operations eliminated. The book-publishing division would also be consolidated with product development and Berlitz Kids.

Despite disappointing financial results, Berlitz retained enviable brand-name recognition. Partnered with an even more recognizable brand of Sesame Street, Berlitz and its childrens program still held the potential to float the entire company and launch it into a promising and highly profitable future.

Principal Divisions

Berlitz Language Services; Berlitz GlobalNET.

Principal Competitors

Sylvan Learning Systems Inc.; ALPNET, Inc., Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products; The Translation Group Ltd.

Further Reading

Berlitz Reaches Accord to Split From Macmillan, New York Times, December 23, 1992, p. D4.

Bounds, Wendy, Berlitz to Realign as Two Divisions; Top Officers to Exit, Wall Street Journal, March 21, 2000, p. B10.

Bragg, Rebecca, How The Berlitz Language Empire Came Into Being, Toronto Star, February 8, 1992, p. F2.

Cox, James, Berlitz Wont Hear of Bankruptcy Talk, USA Today, December 31, 1991, p. 3B.

Diemniewska, Ewa Kielak, The Language Revolution: Berlitz Leading the Charge, Warsaw Voice, December 5, 1995.

Fay, Natalie, Berlitz Japanese; Bright Star Technologys Berlitz For Business Japanese CD-ROM Training Program; Software Review, MacWeek, August 1, 1994, p. 45.

Imada, Toshihiko, Education Firm Burnishes Global Image; Berlitz Parent Fukutake to Adopt New Name, Nikkei Weekly, November 21, 1994, p. 10.

Lodge, Sally, Berlitz Launches Childrens Line, Publishers Weekly, September 9, 1996, p. 40.

Mifflin, Lawrie, Berlitz Will Use Sesame Streetto Teach English, New York Times, July 12, 1999, p. 11.

Sears, David, Berlitz Interpreter; Data Base of Foreign Words; Software Review, Compute!, March 1993, p. 122.

Tannenbaum, Jeffrey A., Big Companies Bearing Famous Names Turn to Franchising to get Even Bigger, Wall Street Journal, October 18, 1995, p. B1.

Kerstan Cohen
update: Ed Dinger

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Berlitz International, Inc.

Berlitz International, Inc.

293 Wall Street
Princeton, New Jersey 08540
U.S.A.
(609) 924-8500
Fax: (609) 683-9138

Public Subsidiary of Benesse Corporation
Incorporated:
1989
Employees: 3,885
Sales: $300.2 million
Stock Exchanges: New York
SICs: 8299 Schools & Educational; 7389 Business Services Not Elsewhere Classified; 2741 Miscellaneous Publishing

Berlitz International, Inc. is a languages services firm providing language instruction, cross-cultural training, translation services, and publishing products in 33 countries throughout the world. For language instruction, the company employs its proprietary Berlitz Method, which avoids tedious memorization exercises and grammar drills in favor of a conversational, usage-driven approach to virtually all living languages. Berlitzs publishing division produces pocket-size travel guides and language phrase books, as well as bilingual dictionaries, trade paperback travel guides, and self-teaching language guides from audio cassettes to interactive compact discs. The companys translation services provide technical translation, interpretation, software localization, electronic publishing, and other foreign-language-related services. In 1989, Berlitz Languages, Inc. and related divisions were acquired by Macmillan Co.a leading publisher and subsidiary of the media magnate, Maxwell Communication Corp. plc (MCC) and renamed Berlitz International, Inc. When MCC began to falter at the end of 1991, MCC sold a majority stake of Berlitz to Fukutake Publishing Co., Ltd., a leading Japanese publisher specializing in correspondence classes. Under the parentage of Fukutake, Berlitz underwent a major restructuring, designed to ensure consistent, profitable growth for the long term ... and meet the growing, worldwide demand for language services, according to company chairman Soichiro Fukutake in his 1993 Letter to Shareholders. Soon thereafter, Fukutake changed its name to the Benesse Corporation. Though the companys parent shifted abruptly in the early 1990s, Berlitz stuck firmly to its own corporate identityand language specialtyas it prepared for the 21st century.

Berlitz origins date back to 1878, when Maximilian D. Berlitz (1852-1921) founded his own language school in Providence, Rhode Island. Fluent in Greek, Latin, and six European languages, Berlitz was teaching at a small local college when he hired an assistant, Nicholas Joly, from France. According to one account, the assistant spoke virtually no English when he arrived. When Berlitz fell ill and was unable to provide classroom supervision over a period of several weeks, Mr. Joly conducted class strictly in French. When Berlitz recovered, he discovered that the students had made remarkable progress in French. Berlitzs main tenet of language instructionthe transfer of usage by actually using nothing other than the language in questionthus gained credibility, providing the impetus for development and fine-tuning of the young schools trademark pedagogy, the Berlitz Method.

Though Berlitz was convinced that his direct method of language instruction was the most effective available, it was initially regarded suspiciously by the public and the academic community. Starting with the first greeting by the instructor, the Berlitz Method dictated that only the target language was to be spoken in class. Emphasis was placed on the spoken word, with students learning to read and write only what they had already learned to say and understand. In the place of formal grammar instruction, students absorbed a grammatical system naturally, by using it. Above all, to develop fluency, students learned to think in the new language, not to translateto associate new words with objects and ideas, rather than with the distractingly familiar words of their mother tongue. In order to encourage students in the use of the target language, instructors typically employed question-and-answer techniques to prompt dialogue while expanding vocabulary.

However unconventional, the young company, known as the Berlitz School of Languages, produced results that simply couldnt be ignored; as the growing number of Berlitz-trained students continued to learn languages in an efficient and enjoyable manner, the school expanded. By the turn of the century, an explosive tourist industry prompted Berlitz to develop travel guides, self-teaching materials, and interpretation services to meet this growing demand. Through both world wars, the number of Berlitz schools multiplied with growing demand for language skills.

After World War II, Berlitz seized emerging opportunities in language training and translation services brought on by multinational companies expanding their business around the world. Such expansion was catapulted by the rise of computer information systems starting in the 1970s. With the advent of digitized communication networks, increasing amounts of information could be conveyed almost instantaneously between virtually any points on the globe, intensifying the needand the marketfor effective cross-cultural and cross-linguistic communication. Moreover, the 1980s saw the crumbling of key international trade barriers, as markets in the former Soviet Union, China, and various developing nations increasingly moved toward free trade. Indeed, the companys 1993 annual report described cutbacks in Western European nations that were experiencing economic stagnation. Meanwhile, the company aggressively moved into rapidly growing markets in Central and Eastern European countries, establishing new facilities in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Eastern Germany. A December 5, 1993 article in The Warsaw Voice heralded the arrival of a new Berlitz school in Warsaw and plans for another in February, as well as other schools in cities like Poznan, Cracow, and Gdansk. To exploit global markets in the 1990s, Berlitz also opened new language centers in Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela, as well as Mexico, which saw new language-training needs with the passage of NAFTA.

From the 1980s onward, Berlitzs language instruction division increasingly developed options and additions to its classroom instruction facilities. The Berlitz Study Abroad (BSA) Program offered students a complete travel package and the opportunity to study their new language in its country of origin. The Berlitz Jr. program provided special foreign language teaching service for U.S. elementary, middle, and high school students both on site at schools or camps and at the Berlitz Language Centers. For slightly older students, Berlitz acquired the Language Institute for English (L.I.F.E.) in 1988, providing intensive English instruction, recreational opportunities, and accommodations to foreign students on campuses in Boston, New York, Miami, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, and Chicago.

Berlitz developed several products and programs to combine both language and social skills in tandem. The company also expanded on its popular Cross-Cultural Division, designed to instruct students in business and social etiquette and day-to-day activities to supplement language skills. In 1994, the company acquired Cross-Cultural Consultants of Brooklyn, New York, to ensure a stronger future in that growing market. Led by noted author and lecturer Dean Foster, the division held seminars and briefings designed to sensitize businesses to the intricate social, political, and cultural issues that can determine a companys effectiveness in foreign markets.

In the spirit of a skilled language teacher, the company itself listened to the talk around it and continued to develop linguistic solutions to accommodate changing market trends. Joining forces with the University of Phoenix in 1991, for example, Berlitz put together a custom-designed language program for McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Co., which wanted the program to enhance its employees global competitiveness.

In 1995, Berlitzs language instruction division responded to the lifestyle needs of contemporary language enthusiasts by introducing Club Berlitz, a network of groups that enabled members to speak the foreign language of their choice with groups of people at similar proficiency levels. Participants honed their language skills while engaging in activities ranging from international dinner parties to cultural evenings, theme events like plays and movies, and study abroad programs. Club Berlitz reflects the growing interest in the study of language and culture for both business and personal use, said Hiromasa Yokoi, vice-chairman, chief executive officer, and president of Berlitz International in a March 20, 1995 Business Wire article.

Berlitzs dedication to world languages for both business and personal use spurred the development of two other business segments: publishing and translation. Since the early 1970s, Berlitz Publishing produced language and travel-related publications recognized internationally for their accuracy and user friendliness. By the 1990s, the division was responsible for more than 1,000 titles, ranging from a European Menu Reader to inexpensive pocket paperbacks and state-of-the-art interactive CD-ROMs.

In order to maintain its stature as a premier, single source provider of language services, Berlitz Publishing continued to develop innovative products into the 1990s. A 1991 joint venture with Sphere Inc. (doing business as Spectrum Holobyte), resulted in the co-development of a language learning game based on CD-ROM technology. The game El Grito del Jaguar, or The Cry of the Jaguar, taught users Spanish language and Mexican culture through an adventurous computer-driven challenge, setting the ground for similar projects in other languages. That same year, Berlitzs parent company, Maxwell Communications Corp., in conjunction with the European industrial and electronics giant, N.V. Philips, announced a joint venture publishing company, Maxwell Multi Media. The new company planned to produce and sell self-teaching language courses for the home, office, and school using interactive Compact Discs (CD-I) as well as other new media formats.

Though Berlitz would leave the Maxwell empire within a year, some of the strategy from the Philips venture would contribute to later developments. In 1993, for example, Berlitz Publishing Co. signed a licensing agreement with Sierra On-Line Inc., through which Bright Star Technology, a wholly-owned Sierra subsidiary, would develop, manufacture, and market a new CD-ROM-based foreign language and culture series called Berlitz Alive! Using patented lip-synching technology and animated personal tutors, as well as Berlitzs teaching methodology, Bright Star launched its first foreign-language educational series, Japanese Alive!, in September 1993. Combining Sierras interactive multimedia technology with Berlitzs language content, name recognition and proven learning methodology opens new markets for our educational products, expanding into adult education and foreign language, said Alan J. Higginson, president of Bright Star Technology, in an August 4, 1993 PR Newswire article.

Riding the growing wave of digital media, Berlitz also moved onto the internet in 1995, as it assumed management of Prodigy, Inc.s Foreign Languages bulletin board. On-line customers could gain information about a foreign land, talk in a native tongue, secure translation services, and obtain instant information on all Berlitz products and services.

Into the 1990s, the companys translation segment, Berlitz Translation Services (BTS) maintained its reputation as a world leader in technical documentation translation and software/ multimedia localization, as well as full production capabilities in desktop publishing and graphics, audio visual services, and simultaneous and consecutive interpretation.

Founded in 1984, BTS quickly gained a top reputation for its accuracy and its ability to integrate linguistic services and versatile project management. Starting in the late 1980s, the translation segment greatly expanded its international scope through a series of acquisitions, including: the Institute for Fagspneg in Copenhagen (June 1989), Able Translations Ltd. in Baldock, England (Fall 1990), Kayer Coll. Technical Translators in Sin-delfingen, Germany (December 1990), Nordoc A/S (1991), and Softrans International Limited (1991). By the mid-1990s, the BTS International Network provided translation-related services in more than 37 locations across 16 countries.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Berlitz underwent several dramatic reorganizations that seemed to threaten the companys stability but that ultimately left it in a strong position to enter the 21st century. In 1989, Berlitzs main business divisions Berlitz Languages, Inc., Editions Berlitz, S.A., Berlitz Publications, Inc., and other affiliateswere acquired by Macmillan Co., a U.S. based publishing house and subsidiary of the global media magnate, Maxwell Communication Corp. plc (MCC). The new entity was renamed Berlitz International, Inc. With the unexpected death of Robert Maxwell in late 1991, much of his media empire crumbled and fell into the hands of bankruptcy courts, casting doubt over Berlitzs future. Berlitz, however, insisted that it maintained control of its assets and operated independently of the Maxwell chaos. Two days after Maxwells death, MCC sold its 56 percent stake in Berlitz for $265 million to Fukutake Publishing Co., Ltd., a leading Japanese publisher specializing in correspondence classes, which had already purchased a 20 percent stake in Berlitz Japan in 1990. By 1992, Fukutakes share in Berlitz had grown to 67 percent, with the remaining stock held by public shareholders. Fukutake, a leading Japanese publisher of correspondence courses and other educational materials, combined its resources with those of Berlitz to provide optimal language services worldwide.

Fukutake planned to boost its services throughout the world, with special emphasis on regions of Asia where Berlitz was not as well positioned. With services in Taiwan (since 1989) and South Korea (since 1991), Fukutake announced plans to begin test marketing in China in the mid 1990s. Economic development and a rise in willingness to learn supplement each other, the companys president said in a November 21, 1994 article in The Nikkei Weekly.

Under the management of Mr. Soichiro Fukutake, chairman, and Mr. Hiromasa Yokoi, vice-chairman, CEO, and president, Fukutake took aggressive steps to expand its services in tandem with those of Berlitz, as well as to streamline operations while leveraging the use of technology in the classroom toward greater customer satisfaction. In 1995, the company launched a campaign to maximize its customer services across the board. As part of that effort, in 1995 Fukutake changed its name to the Benesse Corporation. The new name combined the Latin words bene and esse, meaning well-being, to drive home the companys commitment to support customers personal aspirations for a better life, according to company materials.

In 1995, Berlitz launched an identity-refreshing campaign of its own. The company introduced a new, clean-lined logo and a new, company-wide tagline, Helping the World Communicate. Berlitzs identity-building efforts intended to reinforce not only its position as the worlds premier provider of language services in general, but its tendency to set world standards in those services.

Indeed, with its new Japanese parent, Berlitz would apply some of its own lessons in language instruction and cross-cultural skills to continue its impressive trajectory of growth. Whether Professor Maximilian D. Berlitzs trademark methods were good, bon, buenoor any other derivation thereoftheir merit continued to bolster the success of this well-spoken company.

Principal Subsidiaries

Berlitz Language Instruction, Berlitz Translation Services, Berlitz Publishing.

Further Reading

Berlitz & Prodigy Team On Foreign Languages, Newsbytes News Network, February 9, 1995.

Berlitz International Announces Launch of Club Berlitz, First Worldwide Language-Culture Club, Business Wire, March 20, 1995.

Berlitz International Inc., Corporate Backgrounder, Princeton: Berlitz International Inc., 1995.

Berlitz International Reports Results For Fourth Quarter, Business Wire, March 8, 1995.

Berlitz Reaches Accord to Split From Macmillan, The New York Times, December 23, 1992, p. D4.

Bragg, Rebecca, How The Berlitz Language Empire Came Into Being, The Toronto Star, February 8, 1992, p. F2.

Cox, James, Berlitz Wont Hear of Bankruptcy Talk, USA Today, December 31, 1991, p. 3B

Diemniewska, Ewa Kielak, The Language Revolution: Berlitz Leading the Charge, The Warsaw Voice, December 5, 1995.

Fay, Natalie, Berlitz Japanese; Bright Star Technologys Berlitz For Business Japanese CD-ROM Training Program; Software Review, MacWeek, August 1, 1994, p. 45.

Imada, Toshihiko, Education Firm Burnishes Global Image; Berlitz Parent Fukutake to Adopt New Name, The Nikkei Weekly, November 21, 1994, p. 10.

Maxwell Communications and Berlitz Form Multimedia Publishing Joint Venture with Philips For Language Learning, PR Newswire, March 25, 1991.

McDonnell Douglas to Improve Global Competitiveness Through Second Language Program, Business Wire, May 13, 1991.

Sears, David, Berlitz Interpreter; Data Base of Foreign Words; Software Review, Compute!, March 1993, p. 122.

Sierra On-Line Signs Licensing Agreement With Berlitz Publishing Co., PR Newswire, August 4, 1993.

Kerstan Cohen

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