Quality language schools worldwide

October interview: César Rennert

14/10/2013



Rennert International
English and international language schools in New York City and South Beach, Miami, offering small group and private courses with an active schedule of teacher-led activities and free supplemental classes. Rennert International has been short-listed by Study Travel Magazine’s agent voters four years in a row for the Star Award for English language school, North America.



About you

Q. Languages you speak or would like to speak?
I speak English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and German.
If you learn Danish, you can read Kierkegaard.

Q. Favourite travel destination?
My country, Panama; Istanbul; Sao Paulo; Spain and France.

Q. Favourite pastime?
Reading, of course. My favourite author is Cervantes. Don Quixote is the most important book in my life. It’s the most viscerally beautiful book I’ve ever read. It was the first modern novel ever written in any language and defines what a good novel is today. Don Quixote was the first novel that had an end. The author also pioneered character-building in that book. He was an amazing writer, Cervantes.
Music is, of course, second. I have two iPods. One has 20,000 songs and the other contains 11,000 songs. The 11,000-song iPod is contains classical music, Broadway songs and groups. The other one has everything else.
I’m a pretty avid gardener. I’ve sustained quite a number of bug bites over the summer June planting, See? (Shows leg.) Ha. I’m a bit of a collector, too. I love antique tiles. You can get plenty of those in Spain and Turkey.

Q. Favourite meal?
My favourite meal depends on where I am. It’s a moqueca in Brazil, or a good paella in Spain. I like foie gras in France. I can find excellent versions of all of those meals in New York.

Q. Dream dinner guest(s)?
I would have loved to have dinner with Melina Mercouri, who represented everything positive to me. She was a great artist, a great politician and she was apparently a very good human being.
Another one would have been Golda Meir. She was one of the few politicians who never accumulated wealth. She was brilliant, did what she believed and seldom compromised. She was very well-respected. She once had a session with the president of the U.S. where she brought a cake she had made the night before. That?s the kind of woman she was. The two leaders had discussion, coffee and that piece of cake.

This month, we speak to César Rennert, founder of Rennert International, well-known for its small class sizes and high-quality English group courses and Professional English Program. We ask César how it feels to be part of IALC.


Q. We know you were one of the founders of IALC. Why did you create the association?
I was one of eight co-founders, and I am the only one who still goes to meetings. I didn’t join IALC; they joined me. (Laughing.) The main reason we got together was for quality control of small schools. We had to group to market ourselves and highlight our strengths and benefits over chain schools.
What I like the most is that we can meet as a family; we don’t compete with each other and each one of us has a sincere passion for what we do. IALC is now a way of life.
Our IALC family faces the same joys and pains. The joys include the happiness it gives us to run schools, and in being around the smiling and happy faces of international students. We share our pains. When 9/11 happened, our IALC colleagues made a concerted effort to help us. We do the same for them. Portugal and Spain are in economic distress, so we rally and try to make it easier for our members there.

Q. You became an honorary member at the IALC workshop in Lisbon. How do you feel about this?
It’s very much appreciated and I’m honoured. Does it mean I don’t have to pay fees any more? (Laughing.)

Q. How is 2013 going for you, and how does it compare to last year?
Everybody seems to be complaining. We are holding on. Our business depends not on the economy of our country, but on the economies of other countries, and the economy of other countries is down. We are down in Spain and France, but up in Brazil, Russia and Japan.
Even though the curve has gone down a bit these days, overall in the last 20 years the increase has been over the charts.
We are enjoying the loyalty of our student and partners. I just met a student from Japan the other day who is back for the fourth time. Our younger South Beach school is really seeing great success and we just opened internship programs there. We want students to have fun, but work hard and get the most they can from their time abroad.

Q. Why should students choose the USA to learn English? How is the US market these days?
I can’t speak for the US, only for New York and Miami, and neither of them is typical of the United States. Both of the cities we work in are cosmopolitan and are the focus of creative types who want to be ’where it’s at.’ We have people in our destination cities from everywhere in a small area whereas in other countries, such as England, you?ll find many British natives and people from one of their former colonies.
Things are going well for us in our markets considering international upheaval and financial distress.

Q. You have schools in New York and Miami South Beach. What are the differences between the schools?
New York offers more high culture and is fast-paced. Miami is multicultural and has more open space and open air. It is a vacation venue with fun shopping, but also can be enjoyed for exposure to its cutting edge advertising and design industries. Even though Miami is a serious school, it’s more relaxed. A good indication of the differences between the two is the specialities in our junior programs: For example, New York has Broadway theatre as a speciality while Miami offers Marine Environment.

Q. Anything new at Rennert this year? If so why did you innovate? Can you already see positive returns?
Junior programs are still pretty new for Rennert and we’ve added more academic specialities and courses to the mix there. The English/Dance program was so popular that we separated it out from the rest of the Teen Program and based it entirely in Manhattan where dance and music venues are located. Students are responding very well to the introductions. We?re also trying to bring in fun Arts plus English programs such as English/DJ Skills in South Beach and an English/Visual Arts combination for sculptors, painters and other artists.

Q. What are your most popular student activities?
Free acting clinics, gospel singing in Harlem, neighbourhood tours, Broadway shows, National Basketball Association games, Major League Baseball games and weekend trips to other cities. Oh, and food excursions ? we eat lots of delicious international food!

Q. Where do the majority of your students come from?
One of our strengths is we don?t have one particular place. Like all schools, it depends on the economy of client countries. Right now, we have many students from Brazil, Russia, Japan and Korea, but it varies depending on the fluctuation of exchange rates.

Q. Finally, what would you say is unique and special about learning English at Rennert?
We pride ourselves on the fact that we are the school in Manhattan and South Beach with the fewest students per class. There are a maximum of 10 students in regular English classes and a maximum of five in the Professional English Program.
There are many other reasons we are special, including the fact we?re in a very safe, genteel area in New York near the U.N. and outside of the tourist flow, but right in the middle of everything. In Miami we have a dream location, four blocks from the beach.
Recently, we renovated and refurbished all of our facilities and both Miami and New York are filled with original artwork. Our students comment that they like the learning ambiance.
I can?t think of another school that operates as strong an Arts plus English program and has the core of creative students that Rennert has.
Our activities are led by teachers and it takes the experience to a different level where English is spoken naturally while students are out and about.



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