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Brazilian language institute opens first franchise in Costa Rica

May 19, 2012

Carlos Wizard Martins snipped two ribbons – one with the colors of the Brazilian flag and the other with the flag of Costa Rica – and with that introduced one of the largest language schools in the world to Costa Rica.

The Wizard Language Institute was inaugurated Friday morning in Paseo Colon, in western San José, by the school’s founder. Wizard, a devout Mormon who learned English while doing mission work, began the language schools in his homeland of Brazil in 1987. Since then, the language institute has expanded to some 1,200 sites in 11 countries.

(For those wondering, Carlos Martins legally added “Wizard” to his last name after a dare from a franchisee, who wanted the founder to prove how much he believed in his company.)

The school in San José will be the first of 15 in the country between now and 2015. Instructors will teach classes in either English or Portuguese, with an emphasis on conversation, six days a week.

The Wizard school’s arrival, on the surface, comes at a curious time. One of Costa Rica’s oldest English-language schools, Instituto Britanico,  announced last month that it would close in June due to financial reasons. However, Wizard said the market is ripe for more English schools, especially as Costa Rica continues to grow in the service industry (such as tourism, where most transactions are done in English) and will remain leaders in the sector “for many years.” In spite of the closure of Instituto Britanico, Costa Rican language schools seem to be recovering from the worldwide financial crisis, according to a recent article in El Financiero.

In fact, Wizard hopes to turn Costa Rica into a hub for Wizard language schools, training teachers here before opening institutes in other countries in the region. Panama and Guatemala already have Wizard franchises, but the company hopes to expand throughout the isthmus, using the Costa Rican school as a model.

“The need for languages, especially for English, has been growing,” said Laura Rodríguez, director of expansion in Costa Rica.
She added that the key to for expanding is to not rush the process, and make sure  schools open in places that can fill the capacity of the classrooms.

For more on the business of English schools in Costa Rica, see next Friday’s edition of The Tico Times.

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