Dr. Pierre Capretz, who taught French at Yale University for several decades, passed away at the age of 89
on April 1st of this year, qu'il repose en paix
. Capretz is best known for his 1987 PBS series of half-hour French-language lessons, French in Action
, which combined language immersion using to a simple romantic-comedy narrative followed by a classroom-style review, featuring Professeur Capretz, of the narrative with emphasis on the concepts, vocabulary, and grammar.
The contrived serial narrative of FIA was about an Argentine-American (of French parentage) Yale student, Robert, who visits Paris and meets the lovely Mireille, a Parisienne who attends the Sorbonne and spends ages at the mime-infested Jardin du Luxembourg. Mireille is afflicted with a cartoon family, including petulant younger sister Marie-Laure and dramatic Aunt Georgette, as well as a somewhat villainous acquaintance, Jean-Pierre, whose leering gaze became the subject of a Yale student grievance in 1990
FIA was an evolution of a WWII-era immersion method developed at Yale by Prof. Emeritus Jean Boorsch to help US servicemen in their roles in the French reconstruction. In the 1960s, Boorsch and Capretz collaborated
(interview in French, but machine translation does a fine job) on a never-published project before it was eventually realized by Capretz as the FIA series and companion textbooks/workbooks, supported by PBS, WGBH (Boston), Yale U., and Wellesley College.
The entire 52-episode series is available
on PBS's website. Watch 1 a week, or marathon them in just over a day!