Our History: 1901 - Today

The Linguaphone Group was founded in 1901 by Jacques Roston, a translator and language teacher who emigrated from Poland, then part of Russia, at the turn of the century and set up in business in High Holborn, London. Language Gramophone

Roston was one of the first pioneers to recognise the potential for language teaching using Edison's invention of sound recording (1877) and Alexander Graham Bell's development of wax cylinders (1888). 

The first Linguaphone courses, intended initially as classroom aids for language teachers, combined authentic native speech with the illustrated texts of the Rees Pictorial Language books. These Mr Roston acquired, together with the International Linguaphone Company and the Rees Linguaphone records, then on cylinders.  By adding to the range of languages and skillfully promoting the distinctive Linguaphone name, Roston created a new and intriguing product of wide appeal both to the home-study hobbyist and the growing band of travellers to the continent and beyond.

Establishing Linguaphone Institute

Jacque Roston - Linguaphone FounderWith the arrival of "Berliners" or flat records, the gramophone came of age and with it Linguaphone's opportunity to reach out to a wider public.  In 1924, Mr Roston established the Linguaphone Institute and hired as his secretary Miss Kay Murphy, an Australian linguist who had also been trained in America in mail order publishing techniques.  Linguaphone was quickly pushed to the forefront with a campaign of full-page coupon advertisements backed by persuasive follow-up literature.  Mr Roston and his family acted as their own photographic models for the first Linguaphone brochure in 1925.

This campaign provoked an immediate response from far and wide.  H. G. Wells recognised in Linguaphone the fulfilment of one of his prophecies, that "the gramophone will one day be used for language teaching" and wrote to Roston expressing his admiration for Linguaphone's work.  Even George Bernard Shaw finally succumbed to Linguaphone's attraction and made a special recording 'Spoken English and Broken English'.  The autographed original now rests in the British Museum in London.

During this time, Roston came to push ahead with his translation bureau which soon became the largest in Britain.  At the same time, he maintained his keen interest in all developments associated with the gramophone.  He promoted the Linguaphone 'Repeater', designed especially to help Linguaphone customers to position the tone arm of the gramophone precisely on the correct groove without having to lift it manually.

The 'Solophone' - which enabled students to listen through earphones without disturbing the rest of the household - was another new device.  Linguaphone even offered their own brand of three-tone gramophone needles to vary the loudness of sound as required.

A Leading Authority on Language Learning

Mr Roston's preoccupation with language teaching methods also never waivered. In 1927, he published a new monthly journal 'The Linguist' and contributed to it a history of language teaching ideas from the ancients, through Comenius to modern theorists.  It is in the second issue of this journal that a Linguaphone advertisement appeared containing the following definitive description of the Linguaphone Method:

"A Linguaphone course is composed of a series of records dealing with everyday subjects, situations and needs.  Whenever you have a moment to spare, you slip one of these records on your gramophone and follow, in a special pictorial textbook, the speaking of a cultured native teacher.  The textbook contains, side-by-side with the printed text, composite pictures illustrating the various persons, objects and actions described in the text.  With the aid of these pictures you learn to associate the appearance of things with the appropriate word sounds.  This is the truly natural way of learning a language, a way you first, as a child, learned your own mother tongue.  The results of this method are astonishing.  Under this tireless tutor, mastery becomes easy.  Quite soon you find yourself able to speak fluently, to understand others and also to read and write correctly."

Linguaphone Academic Advisory CommitteeMr Roston drew about him many of the most distinguished phoneticians and linguists of his day, including Professors Paul Passy, Daniel Jones and Lloyd James.  The authenticity of the Linguaphone recordings testifies to their influence. 

This tradition of academic excellence has continued to this day through the Linguaphone Academic Advisory Committee headed up by the distinguished current chairman, Professor the Lord Quirk.

A Period of Change and Product Development

Following his death in 1947, Jacques Roston's work was continued by his son, Jock Roston, and subsequently Miss Murphy and Stanley Roston, the founder's nephew.  In 1968, Linguaphone was acquired by Famous Artists Schools, an American company.  It was then resold in 1970 to the Westinghouse Learning Corporation, around the time cassettes replaced records and Linguaphone Malaysia, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Linguaphone Group, was launched.

In 1985, a management team acquired the business bringing substantial changes to Linguaphone.  In particular, a major programme of product development was embarked upon and substantial funds invested in Complete Spanish Coursethe creation of a new generation of language courses. 

In early 1989, the share capital of the company was wholly acquired by Centaur Communications who embarked on another major phase of product development which culminated in the launch of the Complete Course range.

In 1995, Linguaphone was de-merged from Centaur Communications.  Backed by shareholders and institutionalised funding, in 1999 Linguaphone embarked on a radical overhaul of its image, products, services and distribution. 

The Linguaphone Group Today

Pingu's English, Linguaphone And Direct EnglishIn today's fast-moving, global economy, the ability to speak the international language of business and communication - English - is viewed not just as a useful business tool, but as a fundamental life skill. Yet finding the time to learn the language is increasingly more difficult. 

Flexibility, not the rigid classroom schedule of traditional language schools, is no longer 'a nice to have' but an essential requirement of the learner.  So too is a lifeline to teaching experts for support and guidance.  And, of course, to be effective, the learning process needs to be fun!

To meet this enormous, inherent global demand for English, the Linguaphone Group is now focused on providing tutor-supported adult and pre-school children's English language training courses through an impressive network of centres around the world, operating under the Direct English, Linguaphone and Pingu's English brand names. By reinventing the teacher-assisted learning environment, the Linguaphone Group is returning to its roots whilst at the same time offering the most comprehensive range of self-study, distance learning materials for those who want complete freedom and flexibility to learn literally in their own time, at their own pace.

It is our belief that the assisted learning approach is the way forward.  By combining the interaction and support provided by language schools and online materials, with the high standards and flexible methodology of distance learning programmes, our customers have the perfect combination of resource and motivation to achieve and surpass the level of language proficiency they desire.

The acquisition of Direct English in November 2003 from Pearson Education Limited, part of Pearson Plc, the world's largest educational publisher, served to not only consolidate but also significantly enhance this belief and our position as world leader in the adult assisted learning marketplace.

This was further expanded to incorporate the children's English marketplace with the acquisition in February 2006 of the exclusive global English language teaching rights for Pingu from HIT Entertainment Limited, one of the world's leading independent children's entertainment producers and intellectual property rights owners.  With these rights, the Linguaphone Group has developed the pre-school children's English course Pingu's English.

...and to the future

Today, the Linguaphone Group has an extensive network of licensed partners and distributors delivering our range of English language programs worldwide. Every day we also help thousands of people learn a new language with our popular range of Linguaphone self-study language programs.

As the Group embarks on an aggressive growth strategy of recruiting new licensed partners and growing its existing partner network, the company's enviable reputation for providing high quality language learning solutions on a global scale is set to continue well into the next century.

Learn English for the Real World

Adult English Language Tutor Supported Training Courses


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Learn English with Pingu's English

Give your child a head start in life!Children's English Language Training Courses


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Learn a New Language Today

Are you looking to learn a new language - maybe Portuguese, Thai or Arabic?

Distance Learning Language Training Courses

With the Linguaphone Group you can do just that!  

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Where in the World Are We?

Linguaphone Group Worldwide Network Of Licensed Partner Network

Find Out Where

Want to Know More?

To find out more about the Linguaphone Group, contact us at:

Linguaphone Group
Liongate Enterprise Park
80 Morden Road
Surrey CR4 4PH
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 20 8687 6000
Fax: +44 20 8687 6410

Email: info@