Founded in 1988, Bridge has language schools in the US (BridgeEnglish), Argentina (BridgeArgentina), Brazil (BridgeBrazil) and Chile (BridgeChile). Each school teaches the language of the country in leading-edge facilities.
We spoke to Bridge President, Jean-Marc Alberola, to find out more about Bridge’s aims, life at Bridge in Denver (where Jean-Marc is based) and being a member of the “IALC family”.
Q: Hello Jean-Marc, how does it feel to be part of this exclusive group of quality language schools?
A: Bridge is very proud to be part of IALC, here is why: IALC is a unique, close-knit group of independently owned language schools from every corner of the globe. Many member schools have been in business since the founding of our industry and several have been passed down to second and even third generations. Collectively IALC members comprise an elite cross-section of the language travel industry, and the members enjoy a sense of camaraderie where the collective knowledge and expertise in our industry are shared among school owners. This is why we often refer to the “IALC family”. The annual IALC Workshop is the flagship event, which gives agents a unique opportunity to meet exclusively with IALC members in what I believe is the best student-agent fair in our industry.
Q: How has 2011 been for the schools and how is it looking compared to the previous year?
A: This year (2011) has been our best year ever. We experienced growth at all our centers, particularly in Denver where we experienced a surge in interest in University Pathway and Executive English programs. The economic growth in South America, primarily in Chile and Brazil, has also led to increased interest and growth in those destinations.
Q: You were established in 1988. How have things changed at the schools since then?
A: The pace of change in the last decade has been phenomenal, and this is true for all industries, not just language travel. The Internet has been the main driver of change affecting everything from the way we market our programs, book courses, teach and interact with our students. Overall the changes have been positive and I think the standards of quality and service to our customers have improved, not just at Bridge but in the industry as a whole. I believe the industry trend toward consolidation and the growth of large chain schools has made IALC that much more important to Bridge and to agents looking for more personalized experiences for themselves and their customers.
Q: What are your main aims for Bridge?
A: Two main goals for Bridge in 2012 revolve around two of our core values: Excellence and Innovation. Excellence is a key tenant of our mission and we are very proud of the quality of our services. We are never satisfied in this regard and look forward to continuing to enhance and improve quality through more streamlined processes and use of technology as well as a focus on customer experience.
With regard to innovation, we’re very excited about virtual classroom and e-learning programs we will be launching in 2012 as well as new “language plus” programs geared to our Executive students.
Q: What are the biggest challenges facing your schools?
A: The biggest challenges facing Bridge are the same ones facing other schools in our industry – those we can’t control. These include a challenging mix of government legislation, economic crisis (currency exchange), increases in cost of air travel, geo-politics, terrorism, pandemics, and even ash spewing volcanoes. The education services we provide are dependent upon “travel” and to that extent we can be impacted.
Q: Which countries do the majority of your students come from?
A: In Denver students come from every corner of the globe. Our Academic Pathway program is dominated by students from the Middle East, China, and Eastern Europe; our General English programs have many South Americans (Brazil, Colombia and Chile) and our Executive programs are a very good mix of Latin American, European and Asian students.
Q: What are the most popular student activities?
A: This obviously differs from destination to destination. At our Denver center, students enjoy all the outdoor adventures that Colorado has to offer: national parks, white-water rafting, skiing, biking and more. Our executive students enjoy the numerous networking opportunities we provide with local internationally oriented businesses as well as the numerous business seminar events we organize for them.
Q: Moving on to find out more about you, which is your favourite travel destination?
A: Right now I’d have to say it is Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio really is the “cidade maravilhosa” (Marvelous City). Rio is currently the safest it’s been in 30 years. It offers a unique lifestyle, is rich in culture and with the upcoming World Cup and Olympics the city is also benefiting from huge investment in infrastructure projects that promise to improve further the quality of life.
Q: Your favourite pastime?
A: Hmm… I have a lot of favourite pastimes. First and foremost is spending time with my wife and kids (three boys). In the category of outdoor activities I like the following in this order: surfing, fly-fishing, soccer, snow-boarding, road-biking and skiing. As would be expected in this industry, travel and eating good food comes in high on the list. Last but not least I enjoy reading.
Q: Your favourite song?
A: I don’t think I have a favourite song. If you look at my itunes play list you’ll see it is pretty mixed but R&B/Soul, Pop Latino and “Alternative” predominate.
Q: Your favourite meal?
A: That’s easy! Argentine steak (rare), fries, green salad, red wine. For dessert, flan accompanied by a good espresso.
Q: Your dream dinner guests?
A: How about the most powerful couple in the world right now: Barack and Michelle Obama.
Q: Finally, what would you say are the main benefits of learning at Bridge schools?
A: I’ll refer back to our corporate values and give an example for each one:
Excellence – We are committed to quality and excellence in every course we deliver and measure customer satisfaction assiduously.
Integrity – We are honest and straightforward with our agents and customers and always strive to deliver on our promises.
Learning – We are goal oriented in our approach to learning, and work together with our students so that they can reach their language proficiency goals.
Innovation – We are always introducing new course enhancements be they e-learning, virtual classrooms via internet or new activities and subjects for our students.
Respect – We believe that language and travel are key tools to improving, understanding, communication and ultimately respect between peoples. We respect the beliefs and cultures of all our students.
Bridge are specialists in the learning of English, Spanish and Portuguese (Brazilian). Their mission is to transform lives and organisations by delivering excellence in their field. Bridge schools offer a variety of testing and test preparation programs including IELTS, iTEP, BULATS, TOEFL, and ibTOEFL
BridgeEnglish – tel 303 777 7783
BridgeArgentina – tel (54 11) 4322 8181
Bridge Brazil – tel (55 21) 2220 8659
Bridge Chile - tel (56) 2233 4356