Berlitz provides the language boost for your career

Although Valérie Frohly had learned another Scandinavian language before moving to Stockholm, the French expat turned to Berlitz to help her further her career in an almost exclusively Swedish-speaking work environment.

Published: Tue 7 Sep 2010 14:53 CEST
Berlitz provides the language boost for your career

Despite having previously learned Norwegian, she knew it would not be enough for her to find a suitable position for her qualifications in Sweden. Thanks to Berlitz, her Swedish is now at a level where she is at ease using it throughout the day in a professional capacity at a Swedish company.

The mother of three is an experienced professional in the field of asset management. Frohly and her French husband, the managing director of L'Oréal Sweden, came to Stockholm as expats two years ago with their children when her husband was transferred to the city.

After initially exploring other options for language schooling, she eventually settled on Berlitz one year ago, drawn by its name and reputation.

"At Berlitz, you get value added because you are learning face to face," she said.

In addition, as a working mother of preteens, Berlitz offers her flexibility when it comes to scheduling her classes, which are conducted one-on-one.

Frohly and her husband had previously spent five years in Norway, where their children were born. She learned Norwegian with a private tutor there, but did not make "real progress" with the language until her children were about 18 months old.

"Small kids at the barnehage [daycare] would ask me things in Norwegian and I couldn't reply," she recalled.

In addition to French, English, Swedish and Norwegian, Frohly also speaks German, having lived in Switzerland for several years. She has worked in asset management for 20 years in positions using English.

Although her knowledge of Norwegian was a great help when she started learning Swedish, especially in terms of basic grammar, Frohly admitted, "To learn Swedish, I had to forget my Norwegian. It may come back the same way when I was learning Norwegian with my German."

She found that despite her additional Scandinavian language knowledge, "Swedes laughed at me when I spoke Norwegian," adding that she was not always studying the language while she lived in the country.

Frohly had initially estimated that she would take a six-month break from her career before she would start working again when she first moved to Stockholm.

The financial crisis resulted in her job search taking longer than expected, but once the market picked up, Frohly found herself with 15 interviews after using mainly headhunters to help her look for a suitable position in Stockholm.

Out of those interviews, she received three offers and chose her current position at Alfred Berg Kapitalförvaltning because the Swedish company was undergoing restructuring, which she considered a challenge.

"Generally, recruitment is for replacing someone," Frohly said. "The other offer was at a Swedish company as well. They valued my international background."

Learning the local language helps her better integrate in the office. Initially, her goal was to have a firm enough grasp on the language to be able to get through the first five minutes of a sales meeting in Swedish.

Early on, she realised that it would be difficult to integrate if she allowed her colleagues to switch to English while having lunch and made a point of learning Swedish to understand jokes and discuss matters such as the weather, weekends and holidays.

At the office, Frohly uses Swedish about 80 percent of the time in easy conversation and 20 percent in professional situations.

During her twice-weekly sessions at Berlitz, about 20 percent of them use the books provided by the language school and cover grammar, prepositions and irregular verbs. The other 80 percent of the time is devoted to oral skills and using articles.

"Each time I make a mistake, I'm corrected immediately," said Frohly. "This doesn't happen in real life."

Frohly approached Berlitz to learn Swedish in areas where it would be difficult acquire the language by herself, particularly in preparing for job interviews. Berlitz tailors its lessons to suit all its students' needs. Each class can be used in a student's daily work life, such as interview or speech preparation.

When she first began at Berlitz, she first built up her vocabulary by reading newspapers. After a year of study, Frohly now focusses on improving her depth of language and using a wider scope of vocabulary in expressing herself.

"Spontaneously, I use the same words," she said. "I want to avoid more mistakes and speak more quickly. Now, I sometimes have to wait a few seconds before I find the right word."

Outside of the classroom, Frohly, who does not have a television at home, can follow radio reports easily and has little difficulty in reading industry publications. She is also confident enough to reply to basic emails in Swedish.

"In theory, I could still do my job if I did not speak Swedish, but I'd only have half the job I have," she said. "It's important they forget I'm French."

Berlitz's schools in Sweden are centrally located in Stockholm and Gothenburg. To find out more about studying Swedish in Sweden with Berlitz, visit


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