BERLITZ LANGUAGE SERIES REVIEW
Average cost of the method
Varies widely, but for the Basic/Intermediate/Advanced textbook series, around $24.
More than 30 languages in total. Several methods and levels available in 5 main languages (Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Italian, and Spanish). Additional languages available mostly in audio language program, phrasebook and/or dictionary formats.
Type of method
Lots of conversations/dialogues with a focus on real-life situations. Minimal grammar and vocabulary lists.
Berlitz Corporation is a global leadership training and education company, founded in 1878 by Maximilian D. Berlitz in Providence, Rhode Island. Berlitz is #2 in language learning brand awareness behind Rosetta Stone, and has many different levels and kinds of textbooks, especially for the five main languages in which the company focuses its publishing efforts on (French, German, Italian, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish). For example, if you are looking to learn Spanish, here are some of the methods available for purchase from Berlitz:
Berlitz Language: Basic Spanish [Textbook, CD: ~$24]
Berlitz Intermediate Spanish [Textbook, CD: ~$24]
Berlitz Language: Advanced Spanish [Textbook, CD: ~$24]
Berlitz Language: Spanish in 30 Days [Audiobook, CD: ~$15]
Berlitz Spanish All-in-One [Books and audio; ~$54]
Spanish Berlitz Deluxe Language Pack [Audiobook, CD: ~$54]
Spanish Berlitz For Your Trip [Phrasebook; ~$9]
Berlitz Earworms Rapid Spanish [Audio CD; ~$10]
Berlitz Interactive Spanish [Audiobook, CD; ~$20]
Berlitz Self-Teacher Spanish [Book; ~$10]
As you can see, you are really spoilt for choice. Whatever level you are at in the language you are learning (or planning to learn), chances are you’ll be able to find a textbook within the Berlitz Series that will be suitable to your needs.
How Does It Work?
Berlitz was built on the principle that language skills are best acquired through conversation, with a focus on real-life situations. As such, you can expect to have less grammatical explanations compared with more “traditional” language series such as Colloquial (Routledge) or Living Language. Indeed, Berlitz uses the so-called “direct method” (also called “natural” method) to teach language 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. In fact, this is how the method was born. In the late 19th century, the company founder, Maximilian D. Berlitz, was in need of an assistant French instructor, but the only Frenchman he managed to find, who went by the name of Nicholas Joly, barely spoke English. Joly was nonetheless hired to teach French to English speakers in their native language, and several weeks later Berlitz returned to discover the students responded positively to Joly's instruction given only in French.
In the “Self-Teacher” series, for example, the textbook is comprised of lessons that take you through a conversation, illustrating a grammatical point (and teaching you vocabulary along the way). Through these conversations, you get to deduce some of grammatical structures of the language, and following the conversations certain grammatical rules are pointed out more explicitly. The philosophy behind such a method is that you can learn a language the way you learned your own native tongue; in other words, by hearing sentence structures over and over again you’ll end up “absorbing” the rules. In this respect, Berlitz is similar to how the Assimil method works. Below you’ll see a preview of the Berlitz Essential Spanish textbook:
- The good thing about most of Berlitz’s textbooks is the fact that, similarly with Assimil, they make you understand how the language works without any lengthy grammatical explanations. The grammatical concepts are presented to you through practical conversations, and after actually having been exposed to language, the patterns and the vocabulary, you are then told about some of the grammatical concepts to help reinforce your understanding.
- When it comes to the dialogues, they are usually very practical, and contain words and phrases that you are very likely to use from “Day 1” when starting to speak a language with actual human beings. Since the method also tries to use as little English as possible, it gets you to think in the foreign language as soon as possible.
- In the “Basic,” “Intermediate,” and “Advanced” series, you get a lot of pictures, diagrams, maps and other visual aids, so if you the type of person who likes this kind of thing, you’ll be happy with this series.
- Berlitz is focused on listening skills, and many of their textbooks and programs contain a lot of audio, which is good because you get to listen to native speakers and this gets you to think in the target language. Listening extensively also helps a lot to get a more accurate pronunciation.
- The “Self-Teacher” series is in general a bit outdated, and the lessons are exactly the same in every language they are available. For example, if Lesson 20 talks about a visit to the zoo in Spanish, it will be the exact same thing in the Italian or French textbook. The “Self-Teacher” textbooks also do not contain any colors—only drawings in black and white, but nothing very impressive. If you are looking for a textbook that has a lot of colors, pictures, and other such things, go with the “Basic,” “Intermediate,” and “Advanced” series, or with their phrasebooks.
- In their Chinese textbooks, although they do introduce some Chinese characters, most of the dialogues and words are written in pinyin (Chinese written in Roman characters). If you don’t plan on learning Chinese characters in the early stages of your study of the language, that might not be a problem, but personally I always prefer when textbooks include both the characters and the pinyin.
- Since Berlitz is such a huge publishing company, the quality of their language learning material can differ from language to language and series to series. In doubt, look for review on Amazon and have a look at some previews of their textbooks. This can easily help finalize your decision of whether or not to purchase a particular book/program.