03 December 2013

Spend the winter improving your French

On these gray winter days, what better way is there to occupy yourself than to improve your French? If you live in France now, it's doubly important. You'll enjoy living in France more in proportion to your ability to understand and speak the language. If you are planning a move to France, or dreaming about it, or you just want to travel here frequently, you'll benefit from good French language skills too.

One proven tool that can help you understand and speak French better is a video series — 52 thirty-minute espisodes — called French in Action. I've just discovered that most of it is available on YouTube. French in Action is the story of two young people in Paris, and their friends and families. Robert is a young American whose mother is French but lives in the U.S. Robert speaks French but doesn't know much about France. He meets Mireille, a French student. Here's a sample lesson from very early in the series that you can watch:



Each episode of French in Action is half story and half lesson. For the first part of the episode, you observe Robert, Mireille, et compagnie in entertaining and realistic everyday situations. Then the professeur, Pierre Capretz, comes on and goes over the scenes you've just watched, giving explanations that include pronunciation exercises and verb conjugations. You both hear and see the language, which can be very helpful.

The French in Action series is done with a lot of humor. For example, at one point Professor Capretz asks why you think he named his main characters Robert and Mireille. It's because both of those names are so hard to pronounce for English-speakers. He'll help you with them.

The situations and spoken French in French in Action are authentic and the scenery — mostly Paris — is fun to watch. There are movie and TV excerpts illustrating the use, meaning, and pronunciation of many words and expressions. If you have a computer or a tablet and a good internet commection, go to YouTube and search for French in Action lesson X — entering the number of the episode you want to see. I think you'll enjoy it.

P.S. I just noticed that the sample video I posted above won't play through Blogger on one of our Android tablets but works fine on the other. If you click the link in the last paragraph of the post and then click to see lesson 2, it works fine in YouTube. Qui sait pourquoi...

24 comments:

  1. Great recommendation, Ken. I have often used the French in Action videos with my students over the years. An oldie, but a goodie, as they say... :-) Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

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  2. Hi Véronique, I used to teach French at San Francisco City College and used French in Action with my students there. I think having a live teacher go over the lessons with students is the best way to use it, but I think English-speakers who have come to live in France could profit from it greatly in this environment.

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  3. Thanks, Ken...
    I'll re-open this on my machine* and listen and respond.
    Very useful.


    *This old laptop is lousy for video... it crsakc [ie cracks] up summat rotten!

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  4. Thanks Ken. I've not encountered these before, but have used similar learning tools. I'll definitely be giving them a go.

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  5. It's great French in Action is on YouTube. It is such an amazing tool!

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  6. Susan,

    I'm sure you could skip the early episodes of the series.

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  7. I remember recording FIA on PBS with my VCR in the late 80's. I owe a lot of what French I now know to that series. It was a really engaging show that made learning French actually fun.
    In addition to learning French, everyone I knew who watched the series developed a crush on Mireille, Robert, or both.

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  8. I love this series. It was in the states on PBS maybe 20 years ago?? maybe longer. I loved the little vignettes and the views of Paris. I was not aware that it was on youtube. Thank you for the reminder/memory.

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  9. Dean, knowing how well you speak and write French, I can say that is a convincing endorsement.

    Angie, I was using French in Action with my SF City College students in the late '80s and early '90s. At one time I had the whole series on VHS tapes, but I loaned them out and many never came back. Anyway, VHS tapes are pretty much obsolete now.

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  10. Ken, over the years you've provided great tips (especially in food preparation) and wonderful stories, but this one is one I especially am grateful for. I speak basic French and, being European born, have no problem with pronouncing words, but even though I travel to France at least two or three times each year, I've felt that I am not advancing in the language. I've purchased books, I've looked at lessons, but they're never right -- too basic or too tedious. This sounds like it's exactly what I need.Thank you very very much!

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  11. Learner.org sells the complete series on DVDs, text books and the whole enchilada included, for almost one thousand dollars! YouTube is a bargain, no?

    I agree with you, Ken, Dean's language fluency and quality is certainly the best endorsement!

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  12. I don't remember seeing these on PBS, but somehow, Mireille, Robert and Pierre look very familiar. I have to go, "je suis pressee. Je ne vais pas a la fac mais voir une amie".

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  13. CHM, je ne sais pas à qui appartiennent les droits, mais ils n'y vont pas avec le dos de la cuillère, c'est certain. FIA sur DVD est hors de prix.

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  14. Merci, Ken et CHM…vous êtes trop gentils.
    Ever wonder what became of Robert, Mireille, Hubert, Marie-Laure, and the others after the show ended?
    Robert and Mireille told all in the skit they performed at Yale during the 2 day French in Action 25th Anniversary event in 2010…and best of all they rekindled their romance!
    FIA Reunion

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  15. This is great. I'm going to see if I can find something similar for Spanish.

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  16. Je viens justement de prendre un abonnement à la méthode GymGlish pour tenter d'améliorer ma compréhension de l'Anglais. Ce n'est pas la même approche, mais cette méthode me séduit car elle prend en compte mes erreurs pour déterminer le niveau et le contenu des leçons suivantes. C'est vraiment bien fait.

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  17. Tom and I watched most of the series before our last trip to France. They were great for tuning up the ear.

    Tom bought and used the accompanying book.

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  18. I got some of this series on Netflix once I think. Love it and love you Tube for all the learning available.
    Didn't know you taught a class in SF, Ken...

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  19. E., I taught French language classes nights and weekends at SF City College from 1987 until 1991, when I had to give up the teaching because my Silicon Valley job became too demanding. Besides, we had moved from SF to the Valley in '91 and the commute back up to SF to teach classes was just too tiring. I loved teaching but it was part-time and didn't lead anywhere. If I hadn't chosen to focus on the Silicon Valley job, I wouldn't be here in Saint-Aignan today.

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  20. Harriett, from what I saw and heard when you were here last July, I think FIA must have been a good refresher. You two did great.

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  22. French in Action is a great learning tool.

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  23. Its really great post.thanks for your important information.I am so happy to read this.You can learn more about this please go learn to speak French

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  24. Its really great post.thanks for your important information.I am so happy to read this.You can learn more about this please go learn to speak French

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