dimanche 23 août 2009

French in Action - French learning fun from the 80s with Capretz and Yale

I have been trying to get this for AGES.

It's a French course created by this guy Pierre Capretz and Yale university, WGBH and Wellesley College with funding from Annenberg/CPB, in 1987. Even though it's so old it's still used today because it's so good and effective and almost has a cult-like status. I have read heaps of reviews about it and almost everyone loves it.

Apparently in the US it's been playing on normal TV for years.. and people don't even realize it's actually a course, they think it's a tv show. But I've never seen it.

The thing that makes it special or interesting is that it's 'total immersion'. There are no explanations or anything in English. The whole thing is in French and it's up to you to figure out what's going on and what means what (a bit like how a child learns a language). There is a storyline - an American guy goes to Paris and falls in love with a French girl. Apparently it was quite scandalous because actress, Valérie Allain is blonde and very attractive and never wore a bra, and apparently later went on to star in some porn films! She reminds me a bit of Andrea Elson from ALF because it's filmed in the same era and she wears the same sort of clothes, and has a similar hairstyle, and is pretty, skinny and tall.

So although the videos screen for free in most places and even online on their website.. I can't view it outside North America and have been dying to see it. It took me so long to even think about looking for it on YouTube. I found Episode 1 (the introduction) and episode 2 and that was it. But then I saw that yesterday the user had uploaded episodes 3 and 4! Woohoo.

Man those clothes from the 80s are a crack up!!

It's obvious they are all actors (because some don't seem very good at it! like the woman who plays her aunt) and there is a comedic element, which is part of the reason why it's so popular, I think.

You're supposed to do 1 lesson per week, making it take about a year (or over 2 years in high school). But I don't want to take that long! I want to do it in 3-6 months if I can.

If one hadn't done any French prior and watched the first lesson (episode 2).. OMG it would seem soooo hard and incomprehensible!!

But then I realized that episodes 3 and 4 are easier to understand than 2 because the story doesn't start until episode 3 and I actually had no problems understanding, even though I only watched them once.

What else? After you watch each video (20mins or so) you're supposed to then listen to an audio recording with questions and answer them in a workbook. There is also a texbook which is a transcript of the video plus a bit more information. So altogether there are 5 parts:

1. the video
2. textbook (basically a transcript summary of the video, plus some more information and pictures)
3. audio exercises
4. workbook (for the audio exercises)
5. study guide

I don't know know what the workbook or study guide looks like but I managed to find a PDF transcript of the video online... I think the whole package - if you were to buy it all - would actually cost over US$900! :(

It's actually really really intensive and they really test your listening and reading comprehension, as well as writing of course.. not sure about speaking. But because there are no translations in English you do learn to pick it up yourself rather than being spoonfed.

I hope that person uploads more episodes on YouTube, and then I'll probably get the textbook and consider getting the audio exercises/workbook. I can't wait to watch more episodes though, because I've heard so many good things about it and besides, it's just hilarious to watch!

C'est vraiment drôle!

I'm going to embed Episode 3 (part 1) here because that's where the story actually starts...


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