The Intercontinental Foreign Language Program Story

In 1976, the man with an ear for music and skilled in many languages set up school in Cambridge. First based at the YMCA and now in Harvard Square at historic Christ Church, he has touched the lives of over 22,000 students. Lee Riethmiller remains true to the vision, the independence, and the creativity that set him on his path 30 years ago. His love of languages, his music, his Harvard Divinity School theological training, and his unbounded sense of humor, all come together in his INTERCONTINENTAL FOREIGN LANGUAGE PROGRAM, a language school unlike any other.

On Running the Third Millenium Marathon

While extinction has been the fate of many creative entrepreneurs of the late sixties, seventies, eighties, and nineties, why has the INTERCONTINENTAL FOREIGN LANGUAGE PROGRAM — whose symbol is the living Phoenix bird, so familiar to people on the street through millions of language flyers over the years — flourished?

In part, the answer lies in the way its founder, director, and principal instructor, Lee K. Riethmiller, honed his fluency in the twenty-six languages he currently speaks. Following four years at Ohio State University, four years at Harvard Divinity School, and another year as a Fulbright Scholar in Spain, Riethmiller took to the streets of ten countries, making his living by teaching guitar to students in their native languages.

He returned stateside with an intriguing idea: "Why not do this for the rest of my life?" The challenge was to keep on with the independence, the creativity, the fun, and the self-reliance he had experienced abroad, doing it his own way. "I figured since no university would let me be my own boss, I'd have to start my own university," he says. In 1974 he amazed the administration of the Cambridge YMCA by signing up 12 students for a trial Spanish course-which he advertised by posters alone! By 1976, he was teaching 150 students a week in seven languages - Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, German, Greek, and Arabic.

As his language school continued to grow, it became obvious that Riethmiller's innovative school was no Vietnam-era response to tradition and bureaucracy. He was onto something, and it worked. In the past three decades, he has personally taught more than 22,000 students, working a straight six-days-a-week, every week, never missing a beat.

"It didn't start out as a mission," says Riethmiller. "It was, and is, a necessity to survive, and it's kept me bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I've been working at my skills in languages for 40 years now, mainly because what I do is exactly what I want to do."

His joy of teaching shows through in his innovative techniques; they spring from the fun. "I see the classroom as an acting stage. I love performing," he says.

The press took interest. The Cambridge Express noted, "Though students may be initially drawn to the INTERCONTINENTAL FOREIGN LANGUAGE PROGRAM because of the ever-present flyers, they stay because of 'Professor Lee.' He uses the classroom as a stage and the more outrageous the script, the better. Languages, he believes, should be spoken, sung, and shouted.

The Boston Globe noted, "He teaches language courses with a beat — He has the facility for bringing a language course alive." The Boston Phoenix noted, "For Riethmiller, language is the driving force."

Riethmiller's unique Quintalingual 7 course (where students learn to speak seven languages simultaneously) drew interest from The Christian Science Monitor, The Brookline Tab, US Magazine, CBS Television, and National Public Radio.

Learn Foreign Languages
Interactively & Simultaneously
Five Languages, or two, or six
in a Single Language Course

Estonian · Lakota · Sinhala
Afrikaans · Farsi · Lao · Slovak
Albanian · Finnish · Latin · Slovenian
Arabic · French · Latvian · Spanish
Aramaic · French (Cajun) · Lithuanian · Swahili
Armenian · French (Canadian) · Macedonian · Swedish
Basque · Gaelic · Malay · Tagalog
Bengali · German · Marathi · Taiwanese
Berber · Greek · Mongolian · Tajik
Breton · Gujarati · Nahuatl · Tamil
Bulgarian · Haitian Creole · Navajo · Telegu
Burmese · Hausa · Nepali · Thai
Catalan · Hebrew · Norwegian · Tibetan
Chamorro · Hindi · Oromo · Tigrinya
Cherokee · Hungarian · Persian · Turkish
Chinese (Cantonese) · Icelandic · Polish · Twi
Chinese (Mandarin) · Indonesian · Portuguese
Ukrainian · Choctaw · Inuit · Punjabi · Urdu
Comanche · Irish · Quecha · Vietnamese
Cree · Italian · Rumanian · Welsh
Croatian · Japanese · Russian · Wolof
Czech · Javanese · Sanskrit · Xhosa
Danish · Khmer · Serbian · Yiddish
Dutch · Korean · Shona · Yoruba
English · Kurdish · Shoshone · Zulu


The Intercontinental Foreign Language Program is the foremost proponent of SIMULTANEOUS LANGUAGE LEARNING in the United States. In an Internet-linked & multicultural workplace, no one can afford to be monolingual and no one has the time for conventional - one at a time - serial language learning.

Our nationally-renowned techniques were developed by our President, Lee K. Riethmiller, first during his graduate study at Harvard and later as a Fulbright Scholar in Madrid, Spain.

We specialize in customizing INDIVIDUALIZED PROGRAMS to meet our clients' professional objectives and personal scheduling requirements. We currently offer 114 languages including Accent Reduction for American English speakers. In addition, you have the option of taking a customized course of two or more languages simultaneously in, for example, a BILINGUAL 2 or TRILINGUAL 3 program. We also offer three group programs, OCTALINGUAL 8, DECALINGUAL 10 and VENTAL1NGUAL 20.

Press Quotes:


- The Wall Street Journal


- The Christian Science Monitor


- The Boston Globe


- Harvard Magazine

Corporate clients include Arthur D. Little, Fidelity Investments, Forrester Research, Phoenix Technologies, Digital, BankBoston, and Harvard School of Public Health.

From the start, Lee Riethmiller's multilingual vision has kept him on the cutting edge. He envisions a not-so-distant future where people everywhere will be multilingual. "Monolinguals are dinosaurs," he says. "We're in a transitional generation right now, walking away from a monolingual past into a multilingual future. We're the first fish to walk on land."

His students enjoy the program socially as well. "For some people, taking languages helps when they are making transitions in careers or private life. It's like yoga," he says. Riethmiller seems pleased that people often meet and form relationships in his classroom and on language-and-travel trips.

After its first 30 years, the INTERCONTINENTAL FOREIGN LANGUAGE PROGRAM has remained remarkably inexpensive, brought friends to people from around the earth, turned out hundreds of highly skilled, mutilingual teachers, and has become the birthplace of innovative and fun language instruction techniques. "To be what you do, and to do what you are — that's true freedom," says Riethmiller.

The founder of the INTERCONTINENTAL FOREIGN LANGUAGE PROGRAM is upbeat about the next 25 years in Harvard Square. What would he recommend to someone thinking of learning a second or third or seventh language? "Go for it," he replies, "We're ready to run the third millennium marathon. Do it with us."

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