— French in Action —

The Key To Learning French

Mireille et Robert sont au café.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

For me, the key to gaining fluency in French was the amazing series French in Action. Designed, written by and starring Dr. Pierre Capretz who was still teaching at Yale University until his passing last year in April 2014, it is said that Valérie Allain, playing the character of Mireille pictured above, did more to promote the learning of the French language than anything else in the past twenty years. She and her counterpart character Robert certainly make a charming duo, in a lovely story with perfectly graded step-by-step grammatical advancement that draws in the viewer, who is compelled to watch all 52 episodes.

In my case, I already spoke Italian and Latin fluently before tackling French in earnest. Though it is right to stress that the Romance languages are not by any means mutually intelligible dialects of one tongue, having the foundation of two components (in my case, Latin and Italian), makes philological triangulation very easy. In many ways, I just Francified my Italian way of thinking and filled in the gaps with a transformed version of Latin (much like they made the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park). Others may require supplementary methods, but this video series (I took ample notes that I still refer to now and again), combined with regular conversational with French business students at parties in San Diego, was all I needed as a native English speaker to attain colloquial fluency.

Why Learn French?

I opine that every English speaker must learn French and Latin (LINK), to some level of proficiency. The grammar and vocabulary of English is inextricably linked to many foreign languages, and French and Latin have tossed the heaviest load onto our speech. The mechanics of so much of our lexicon simply are unknown, and left to ignorance even among the most educated monoglottal speakers, without at least a mere dabbling in French. So please, dabble away! Enjoy French In Action.








A couple years ago I emailed Dr. Capretz in French with my sincere gratitude for being my teacher, albeit indirectly (pardon my American accent):

Professeur Capretz,

Récemment j'ai utilisé votre admirable cours-vidéos French In Action, et je dois vous dire mille fois merci! Avec votre assistance — bien que de les années 1980s — maintenant je peux parler et écrire en français!

Vous avez fait une chose vraiment merveilleuse pour la pédagogie française, et pour tous les étrangers qui veulent apprendre cette langue si belle et raffinée. Vouse êtes le maître-professeur! On va ça dire pour un siècle, je suis sûr.

Autro fous merci, monsieur. Ad astra!

He responded in English, saying (I imagine it in a very pleasant and strong French accent):

Dear Luke Ranieri,

Nothing could give me more pleasure than your so kind message. As you may figure, putting together French in Action took years of effort, all of it is well recompensed by your comments. I hope everything is good for you in Japan. Thanks again.

Pierre Capretz

It meant a lot to me to be able to reach out to this master. Although I surely was just a voice in the chorus of praise for the man's life work, I was glad to add one final note. I had a similar experience (LINK) with Dr. Hans Ørberg. Je me sens fortuné.

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