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Utile pour apprendre le français
April 25, 2005 10:35 AM   Subscribe

French In Action is now available for free, online. (click on the "VoD" link to the right of each episode; free registration required ) Long a staple of high school French classes and late-night PBS broadcasts, French In Action is notable for teaching French without translating it; meaning is made clear through context and repetition. It's an approach some people find useless and others consider "so excellent it almost justifies the invention of television ". If you'd rather learn Spanish, there's Destinos and for German, there's Fokus Deutsch--but neither one features Valérie Allain, subject of intense fascination (and occasionally creepy obsession.) ( Unfortunately, free streaming of French in Action doesn't seem to be available outside the US and Canada; Destinos and Fokus Deutsch have no such restrictions.)
posted by yankeefog (43 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
[Toll, danke.]
posted by AlexReynolds at 11:00 AM on April 25, 2005


I love this site in general, the series of lectures on Western Civilization is awesome. Eugen Weber is the bomb!
posted by yodelingisfun at 11:02 AM on April 25, 2005


This is awesome.
I can't believe I paid hundreds of dollars for French In Action on VHS in the 90s...
posted by jbrjake at 11:06 AM on April 25, 2005


Good to know, thank you!
posted by safetyfork at 11:10 AM on April 25, 2005


Not to be confused with "French Inaction", a documentary about military tactics in 1940.

Sorry. Had to be done.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:11 AM on April 25, 2005


I love it. Man, the German course seems so stark.
posted by boo_radley at 11:18 AM on April 25, 2005


I love/d Mireille! Were it not for that French model of beaute, I would just be ParamusParamus.

I guess it's negative on the pron rumor--good.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:18 AM on April 25, 2005


Wow. Destinos is one of those 'I'll have to set my VCR to record all those one day" programs, but Video On Demand is even better. Any recommendations about software that can record VoD?
posted by willmize at 11:19 AM on April 25, 2005


Another Mireille fan here (raises hand).
posted by Turtles all the way down at 11:26 AM on April 25, 2005


Man, the German course seems so stark.

The Langenscheidt materials I used in high school were much the same: unemployment, racism against Turkish migrant workers, Hitlerjugend stuff. Then it would be balanced here and there with chapters on disco halls and recipes for curry banana noodles. Germans are odd ducks.
posted by AlexReynolds at 11:28 AM on April 25, 2005


Not to be confused with "French Inaction", a documentary about military tactics in 1940.
Sorry. Had to be done.


No, it really didn't.

Perhaps you mean French miscalculations, as opposed to inaction. By the time year 1940 began, France had already declared war on Germany. Appeasement was over.

Also, as you must know, the French military tactic in this war was not one of inaction. The Dyle Plan started off in a defensive posture not out of a devotion to inaction, but as a way of break the German's initial advance. This was to be followed with a swift counter-attack. Of course it failed, but hardly because of inaction. Rather, the French played into the Germans' hands by focusing on a forward defense of Belgium, and their greatest mistake was, again, not inaction, but hasty and risky action. Had Gamelin not pressed forward by sending his reserve troops to the Netherlands—anotherwords, had he been a little more inactive—the French could arguably have stopped the assault through the Ardennes.
posted by jbrjake at 11:33 AM on April 25, 2005


Fokus Deutsch is awesome - thanks Yankeefog! I've been wanting to learn German on my own for a while now, I was going to post an ask.metefilter on it, but you saved me the trouble.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 11:36 AM on April 25, 2005


Have to admit I watched this for years, but didn't pay attention much to the language. I was just lusting over Mireille.

Maybe I can learn French by osmosis? ;)
posted by Kickstart70 at 11:37 AM on April 25, 2005


It's not often that a rote, witless jibe (and let's face it, the current political climate has taken all the fun out of bashing the French anyway, what with it currently being the favorite pastime of some of the most loathsome people on Earth) provokes an instructive historic summary. Thanks, jbrjake.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:44 AM on April 25, 2005


The French department in my high school bought this series and started using it during my senior year (I had taken French for three years previously). Probably my "learning style" (although I don't really believe in those; I can learn from most things), but I found it absolutely useless and extremely dull. I'm one of those who believes you need a firm foundation on grammar and other formal elements of a language in order to learn it properly, and I was very frustrated with this method. I also don't like videotapes replacing real classroom interaction, and felt alienated. Still got good grades, but it was easy because it was mostly parroting.

I recall reading at some point that Yale received some serious complaints from students about the series, as well--they thought it was sexist, which I suppose it was, although I wasn't fussing about that at the time. I do recall vividly the episode in which Robert spills "un kir" on Mireille during their endless conversation at the Closerie des Lilas; I'll tell you, that must have been some damn cold kir, because I never saw a more immediate and pronounced nipple erection. The bralessness and flimsy t-shirt made it all too obvious. I also remember her marching along, severely PO'd about something her little sister had done. Those tits marched right along with her. I was afraid she'd give herself a whack in the jaw.
posted by dlugoczaj at 11:49 AM on April 25, 2005


Um, what episode was that, dlugoczaj?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:18 PM on April 25, 2005


Mireille, toujours Mireille!
posted by stargell at 12:22 PM on April 25, 2005


Holy shit, this is awesome. I'm downloading all the French episodes and I'll post a torrent when done if anyone's interested.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:28 PM on April 25, 2005


This is pretty sweet.

Destinos brings back sweet memories of High School Spanish.
posted by papakwanz at 12:44 PM on April 25, 2005


For those of us outside North America who are curious, 35430 may be of interest.
posted by Boo! at 1:13 PM on April 25, 2005


What are you on about, Boo!? The numbers of the episodes certainly don't match what you are saying.
posted by Kickstart70 at 1:22 PM on April 25, 2005


Holy shit, this is awesome. I'm downloading all the French episodes and I'll post a torrent when done if anyone's interested.

I would love this. Thanks!
posted by Succa at 1:26 PM on April 25, 2005


There are 52 episodes, each one is about 120 megs. Luckily the connection is fast. I wonder why they would stream it and not torrent it? Seems like a waste of bandwidth if you ask me. Anyway, it's public television, paid for with my tax dollars, so nobody should have any problems with me posting the torrent. It's probably going to take a couple of hours to download all 6 gigs, however. Keep an eye on this thread and I'll post it when finished.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:36 PM on April 25, 2005


BTW, the actress who played Mirielle is named Valerie Allain. She's appeared nude in a couple movies, but should not be confused with the porn star with the same name but different spelling of the surname.
posted by Kickstart70 at 1:43 PM on April 25, 2005


Nevermind, I'm new here. I should read all the links before posting. Thanks for your patience.
posted by Kickstart70 at 1:49 PM on April 25, 2005


Anyone having any luck viewing these under Linux? mplayer and xine are both breaking up the audio, but doing so differently.
posted by mendel at 1:54 PM on April 25, 2005


Civil_Disobedient, you rule! And merci, yankeefog!
posted by shoepal at 2:50 PM on April 25, 2005


I downloaded about 30 of these after someone posted the link on Askmetafilter a couple months ago. I used to see them on tv and thought if I could ever tape them from the first one I might be able to learn to understand French well enough to watch their movies on the TV. Was thinking of going to Montreal to hang around for the summer.

Still, I've watched all those thirty, some of them more than a couple times, and I still can't understand what anyone is saying. So I gave up. May try again.

(Boyzone: The actress can be seen in her glory in Aria, in the Godard segment. Also, in another segment, Bridget Fonda!)
posted by TimTypeZed at 2:55 PM on April 25, 2005


I wonder why they would stream it and not torrent it? Seems like a waste of bandwidth if you ask me. Anyway, it's public television, paid for with my tax dollars, so nobody should have any problems with me posting the torrent...
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:36 PM PST on April 25 [!]


I do contract work for these folks.
They stream it because it would be illegal for them (or you) to torrent it; a private university, Yale, holds the copyright on the series. They also stream it so they can gauge the popularity of the different videos they've helped fund, and choose who to fund in the future based on who watches what. They also ask that these videos not be recorded/downloaded because if enough people do record them, the copyright owners for these and other videos will want the VOD system shut down, and future video producers may not allow them to put the videos online in the first place. There are a few more issues involved, but I think that's enough for now.
They can handle the bandwidth; thanks for your concern on that count, though.
Some tax dollars, and some private foundation dollars, did help pay for the creation of the series, but it's considered an educational video rather than "public television" (by which I guess you mean, the public can do with it what it wants); just because it's sometimes seen on public television stations, doesn't mean it belongs to the public, anymore than "Tales of the City" belongs to the public because it's been broadcast on public television stations, or your equine photography is public photography because it is transmitted over a network that my tax dollars provided the initial money for. (Nice copyright line there: All content © Renegade Tourist. Please don’t force me to hunt you down like a dog. If you want something, just ask me.)
So, in summary: I have a problem with you posting the torrent. If you have problems viewing these videos through the VOD system, please tell Annenberg/CPB and we/they'll try to fix it.
posted by mistersix at 3:03 PM on April 25, 2005


*gets tub of popcorn, settles back to watch the fun*
posted by languagehat at 3:08 PM on April 25, 2005


They stream it because it would be illegal for them (or you) to torrent it;

I'm not allowed because I'm not allowed. Specious.

a private university, Yale, holds the copyright on the series.

I think this is the issue.

They also stream it so they can gauge the popularity of the different videos they've helped fund, and choose who to fund in the future based on who watches what.

This can just as easily be done with BitTorrent. Moot.

They also ask that these videos not be recorded/downloaded because if enough people do record them, the copyright owners for these and other videos will want the VOD system shut down, and future video producers may not allow them to put the videos online in the first place.

Ah ha. Now this is a good reason.

or your equine photography is public photography because it is transmitted over a network that my tax dollars provided the initial money for

I fully expect my photos to be downloaded and used without my permission. If I had a problem with it, I'd stamp a big © on the pictures, or simply not put them online in the first place.

Also, as you can see above, some people are having a problem watching the videos.

I will mull this over with my conscience.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:19 PM on April 25, 2005


This [gauge popularity] can just as easily be done with BitTorrent. Moot.
Maybe BitTorrent could tell them that someone downloaded the full torrent of all FIA videos, but it wouldn't tell them how many people watched just the first video and gave up on French, and how many watched all of them; that's information that is good to have. With their registration system, they can also get information that their funders like to have, like how many (self-identified) teachers in Idaho watched which series; the higher-ups make funding decisions partly based on information like this - who watched what.
Also, as you can see above, some people are having a problem watching the videos.
I've posted a link to the proper place to deal with problems. If any MeFites have problems streaming the videos, and don't get a response after going through "proper channels," you can contact me directly (check my website for contact info).
posted by mistersix at 3:58 PM on April 25, 2005


Good points, mistersix, but don't you think the current system is inherently unfair? Right now, the only people who can use this are people with high bandwidth. Also, if it was publicly available at one point (public = over the air) and without commercials, but someone either didn't have a VCR, or was working a double-shift, or whatever, why should they not be allowed to see it?

I appreciate the dialogue.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:13 PM on April 25, 2005


C_D: live up to your handle and give me that torrent!

(Kidding. It's no worry to me if you'd rather not, I just thought it would be nice to download them all in one shot.)
posted by Succa at 4:55 PM on April 25, 2005


YES! We watched Destinos in high school.... frikkin hilarious!
posted by Satapher at 5:40 PM on April 25, 2005


All right, then. Compromise: if you want to know how to download the files for yourself. The information is yours to do with as you wish.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:58 PM on April 25, 2005


Thanks, yankeefog!

The differences between Destinos, Fokus Deutsch, and French in Action are pretty interesting. Destinos, the oldest, is basically a straightforward telenovela with a draggy love story and various other plots with numerous characters (I guess Steven Johnson never heard of Destinos, either.) , although the main character, Raquel, occasionally steps out of character to review a few points. Raquel is an American lawyer of Mexican-American descent, but somehow doesn't seem very bright, and apparently only has the one client. I think the old French series Suivez la Piste was similar, although the characters were more interesting. Fokus Deutsch (which is an American production, so don't blame its atmosphere on the Germans) is sort of post-modern as the main character, a high school student, steps completely out of the drama, discusses things with the professor (who speaks German with a terrible American accent), and alters the plot to suit her interests. French in Action is much more explicitly a learning project with stop action and other vaguely New Wave techniques. It's also by far the most energetic.
posted by bluffy at 7:12 PM on April 25, 2005


Sad to say that Augusto Benedico, who played Don Fernando in Destinos, died in 1992. Destinos will forever be his legacy. Liliana Abud, who played Raquel, is still active as a writer for Spanish-language TV.
posted by papakwanz at 8:08 PM on April 25, 2005


The current system is a little unfair in the same way the U.S. economy is unfair; those with less resources have access to fewer useful things. Putting the videos online, where those with broadband - whether at home, at a cafe, at a library, at a community center, or at school - can access them makes things more fair. It would be great if they didn't have to worry about copyright, and redistribution, and such; but the way things work in the educational video funding world, they do. It would be great if people could access the videos in any way they wanted; and, at the same time, Annenberg/CPB could track how much their videos are used, and make sure that nobody was reselling access to them. But they've at least put them online, for free, hoping to provide people with a good service, and hoping people won't take more rights than are being offered. The less time and money they have to spend dealing with piracy, the more time and money they can spend developing good videos and web content.
posted by mistersix at 1:27 AM on April 26, 2005


For folks who can't download it and missed it on PBS, I gather that Annenberg/CPB has given the videotapes away to libraries around the US, so if you live in the US, there's a good chance that a library near you has a copy you can check out.

As for the morality of copying... Just to review here. Annenberg/CPB has done the following things:

--Funded French in Action
--Gotten it aired on PBS stations around the US
--Donated copies of it to libraries around the US
--Made it (and other programs) available as free streaming video

All that Annenberg/CPB asks in return is that you let them choose the method by which they give it away to the public, so that they can keep on eye on how it's received, and use that information to make the free educational stuff they give away in the future even more effective. Basically, they've decided they'd rather miss out on some educational benefit in the short term to increase the long-term benefits. I think that's a request worth honoring.

Civil Disobedient, clearly your offer of making a torrent of these programs was made with the best intentions, but I think you made the right choice in reconsidering it.
posted by yankeefog at 1:54 AM on April 26, 2005 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, those of us outside of the US are unable to watch these due to licensing restrictions.
posted by gfrobe at 5:00 AM on April 26, 2005


The current system is a little unfair in the same way the U.S. economy is unfair; those with less resources have access to fewer useful things.

I thought the purpose of public television educational series was to help alleviate these natural unbalances in our system. This isn't The Civil War, we're talking about. It's a series specifically designed to educate us in the most fundemental aspect of civilization: language. I honestly feel it would be in better keeping with the spirit of PBS to put the files online for everyone to download, not just those who can afford fast internet connections (much like PBS offers alternatives to educational cable offerings on TLC or Discovery).

That said, there is a gulf between idealism/altruism and reality. I can imagine a publicly posted torrent on a site of this size could negatively affect future offerings. That is the only reason I am refraining. I intend to download all the episodes, because I would like to learn French, because I can't be certain these episodes will be available forever, and because I would like the ability to watch them on my own time, and not tethered to a computer. I would guess that there are a lot more people out there who feel the same way, which is why I posted the information for others to download it themselves if they choose to flout copyright law.

If anyone has any questions on how to download streaming media for themselves, please feel free to email me privately or use AskMe (where this question has been answered on more than one occasion).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:36 AM on April 26, 2005


They still show French In Action on WYCC Channel 20 in Chicago from time to time.
posted by SisterHavana at 7:53 PM on April 26, 2005


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