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Smackdown: Language Schools

Illustration by Dan Woodger  
  • Berlitz
    Global language-teaching authority.
    (40 W. 51st St., nr. Sixth Ave.; 212-765-1000)
    Combo bookshop and language classroom.
    (249 Warren St., nr. Court St., Cobble Hill; 718-403-9600)

    Berlitz: English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Mandarin, Arabic; others upon request
    Idlewild: French, Italian, and Spanish

    Berlitz: Language instruction (levels 1 to 9), business communication, leadership training
    Idlewild: Beginner and intermediate, “Comics and Conversation”

    Berlitz: $250 per month for 90-minute classes
    Idlewild: $210 to $285 for ten hourlong classes

    Berlitz: Windowless classrooms with dry-erase boards
    Idlewild: Sunny storefront with a long table made from a repurposed bowling lane

    Berlitz: Patient but demanding native speakers
    Idlewild: Gregarious native speakers who stray from the syllabus for quips and “back home” stories

    The Vibe
    Berlitz: Sink or swim; classes conducted exclusively in the target language from day one
    Idlewild: Chatty and conversational; phrases are driven home through Q&A repetition

    Fellow Students
    Berlitz: Suits fresh from the office; multilingual translators; M.B.A. students
    Idlewild: Thirtyish Brooklynites brushing up on their semester-abroad skills before vacation

    Likelihood You’ll Be Hit On
    Berlitz: Low—classes are kept small (three to six students), and English is discouraged
    Idlewild: Recently overheard: “How do you say ‘I like your glasses’ in French?”

    Winner: If you need to express yourself at work in a foreign country—especially Russia or China—Berlitz remains unchallenged. But if you need to hold your own at a party in Paris, Idlewild takes the gâteau.

From the 2012 Best of New York issue of New York Magazine