The Regional Language Centre began as the Regional English Language Centre (RELC) in 1968. It was first conceived during the 2nd conference of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education in Manila organised by the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation (SEAMEO). RELC was established with the aim of having a teaching centre which would improve the standards of teaching English as a second or foreign language in SEAMEO Member Countries, which currently includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Vietnam.
The centre started operations in a temporary location in Watten Estate in July 1968 while SEAMEO secured the $6 million funding required to build the permanent centre. The 18-storey RELC on Orange Grove Road was completed in May 1972 and it contained a convention centre and convention facilities on its first and second floors, research and training facilities on the third to fifth floors, as well as office spaces and accommodation on the upper floors.
The centre was renamed the SEAMEO Regional Language Centre in 1977 but retained its acronym RELC. The new name reflected the centre's expanded role in training language specialists and educators within the region.
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