Demandez au professeur !

pierre_web Dear fellow FIA fans:  I know I haven’t been the best at updating this blog.  Mes excuses. But now, I feel, the culmination of all my years of loving French in Action is at hand and I have been floating on a cloud since Friday.  The reason?  J’ai reçu un email de notre prof, Pierre Capretz! He has graciously agreed to answer our questions.  If you’ve been following the comments in our Discussion section, you know we’ve been talking about this for several months.  The credit really goes to FIAfan Steve who emailed Dr Capretz a few months back and got the ball rolling on this.  At that time I suggested in the Discussion comments that you send me your questions for the good professor and some of you have done this.  But now this thing is really going to happen and I need each and every one of you to search your soul and give me your best questions for Professor Capretz.  Pop in an FIA videocassette or DVD or watch an episode on the Annenberg site to whet your imagination.  Send your questions in as comments to this article. (Don’t worry if your question doesn’t appear immediately; because of the volume of spam getting around the WordPress spam blockers, I now have to approve every comment before it appears.)  I will take your questions, along with my own, put them into a semi-coherent order, and email them to him.  I’ll post his responses as an article here on Mystère et boules de gomme.

Our correspondence and the comment form for you to leave your questions are below the fold:

Dear Professor Capretz,

I am a long-time admirer of yours and a fan of French In Action since it first aired and so it is with a deep sense of humility that I write you.  I am the creator of the website that is devoted to the show you created nearly 25 years ago.   I believe a frequent visitor to the site may have already contacted about your willingness to answer questions or be interviewed about French In Action.  Would you be so willing?  The fact that this little blog (not often updated due to my limited time) gets hundreds of hits a week is testimony to the fact that many people are seeking information and background on FIA.

If you are willing to be interviewed or answer some questions, I and the many others who love FIA will be ever so grateful!  If you agree, we could do this different ways.  I could submit several questions to you by email, or in a recorded phone call.  I already have quite a few questions of my own and several given to me from blog visitors.

Alternatively, (and if you are game I think this would provide the most direct connection to fans of French In Action), you could respond to questions on the blog itself. We could start this as an article on the blog and keep it going as an ongoing thing (that could be terminated whenever we decide).  You can monitor new questions directed to you by selecting the check box that says: « M’informer et suivre les commentaires par e-mail » that appears when you leave a comment. This way you will become aware of new questions when they appear on this article. If these emails prove too disruptive, you could always just visit whenever you have time and respond to any question you cared to.  Before there was a blog called « fancyrobot » that included a discussion of FIA that Charles Mayer contributed to and it was really wonderful to hear his recollections.  All of us would *love* to hear yours!

What say you, dear Professor?


John Sullivan
Ithaca, NY

Dear Mr. Sullivan,
It is  a pleasure  to hear  from you and  to have  this  new  occasion to congratulate you for  the  wonderful  work  you  doing  with this blog.
I will  be  glad  to  try   my  best  to participate  in  an ‘interview’
As  far  as  I am concerned  the   most practical would  be  for  you  to  send  questions; I would do my best to answer ( In French…????), send you  the  answers  and you could post  the whole  thing  on the blog if  you please.
Let me know  if  this  is  not  satisfactory and  we will try  something  else.

Bien à vous.
Pierre Capretz

Dear Dr. Capretz,

It’s wonderful to hear back from you.  I am thrilled that you’re willing to answer some questions about French in Action.  I suggest that you give me and my my fellow FIAfans a bit longer to mull over our questions and then submit them to you.  Si vous répondez en français tant mieux. (Ça va être amusant et utile pour apprendre le français!)  However I may reserve the right to put the questions to you in English, since I am not sure I am brave enough to put my clunky French in front of your eyes and out there on the internet.

Thank you again.  French in Action means so much to so many of us.  We FIA fans will relish learning more about you and the history and development of French in Action!


John Sullivan


23 Réponses

  1. Professor Capretz (or anyone who can answer):

    I would surely appreciate a transcription of the first few lines Mireille speaks at the beginning of each lesson where she introduces her parents. My wife and I have just renewed our interest in the program after a lapse of may years. At 84, my hearing and comprehension leaves something to be desired. We have the transcriptions of Lesson 2 and beyond. Many thanks.

  2. Iral: Mireille says « Commençons par mes parents…voila mon père et ma mère » or « Let’s start with my parents…here is my father and my mother. »

  3. Bonjour,
    Je suis professeur de français et depuis peu j’utilise French in Action en cours. Je voudrais savoir comment utiliser les leçons 27 à 52 quand les étudiants n’ont pas vu la partie I.
    Avez-vous des suggestions ?

    Est-ce que M. Capretz peut conseiller ?

    (eh oui … je m’appelle Mireille aussi)

  4. The original textbook (which I purchased in 1987) was very lean: transcripts, story-related pictures and relatively few, small texts for reading.
    I thought that matched what appeared to be the spirit of FIA , conversation oriented , as were the original audio practice tapes.
    Was this M. Capretz’s choice? And did it thus represent his teaching of French philosophy?
    The second edition was massive, and later had to be broken? into two parts (1-26, 27-52) because it was so large and so expensive. Did M. Capretz agree to this enlargement? Did it fit in with his educational philosophy? Were enlargement decisions made by others?
    Finally , once the program was completed and published in book and video form, was M. Capretz no longer in control and intimately involved?

  5. 1) Combien d’acteurs ont auditionné pour Robert, Mireille, Marie Laure and Hubert?

    2) Les avez vous choisis vous-même?

  6. Cher Proffeseur:

    I’ve been a huge fan of your program. I live in Colombia and I knew French in Action while because of an educational channel called Clase, available in Latin America.

    I can assure you that the course is a success. Your method allowed me to really get inmersed into French. Now I’ve plan to travel to France and develop a piece of my career over there.

    Thank you so much! You are an awesome and talented teacher… the best I’ve ever known.

  7. I LOVE French in Action! I am about the age Robert is now, and I still enjoy all the plot lines. Especially, I am learning French and am about to practice it with a trip to France in a month. I often wonder if any of the minor characters…le mari de Cecile, M. Belleau, the waiter at the Closerie, le mime, might be family members of Professor Capretz? And when I’m struggling to catch something that is being said, I just wait like a child to hear Prof. Capretz explain to me what I just missed. I can always count on him!

  8. I too am a big fan of FIA for the last three years and have recommended it many times. I had taken 500 hours of French from the local college and yet was unable to understand spoken French and to speak it . I was great with the written mutliple choice exam questions given at the college and they always passed me to the next level higher. Even private instructors had no way to help me to speak. The sounds were just noise to me.

    To learn to speak, I repeated everything the professor said stopping my cursor after each sentence until I got it. I even repeated aloud the instructions on the lessons on the CD’s until I got it and the rhythm and intonation. I now test orally at the advanced intermediate level (and people telll me I speak nicely and that my pronunciation is excellent) but it doesn’t really get me that far…I have not mastered the condtional and the subjonctive. And I’ve repeated the course a couple of times. I learn something new each time.

    I went to Paris a couple of years ago with my husband and re-lived the experiences with Mireille and Robert. It was great. All of the characters, warts and all, are my friends. I loved that they had their disagreable moments. That is life.

    What I really need now is an on line teacher who would do the questions that appear in the Instructor Guide and talk with me about my reactions to the characters. We could use Skype and I would willingly pay for this service.

    Thank you many times. If it had not been for this program I would have given up trying to speak. I started this project about 4 years ago when I looked for something to do when I retired. I am now 63 years old. And I intend to stay at it forever even though I live in a sea of English. I have talked using Skype to people all over the world and intend to travel to New Calledonia to meet one of my language partners this winter.

    I found the language partners at

    However. I still would like to use the continuity and integration of concepts that makes FIA so powerful with an on-line teacher to continue my learning so that I really can master when to use the conditional and the subjunctive. I have a strong need to know what I am implying as I use the conditional as opposed for example, to the subjonctive.

  9. Just a note of appreciation for the site, the series, le professeur, etc. Keep up the good work. I’ve been an admirer and unworthy student of the series for years.

  10. What happened with the plans for French in Interaction? I use the Jules et Jim interactive DVD and think it is an effective resource. I’d think that French in Interaction would be a big hit!

    Thank you for your wonderful program.

  11. 1) Why were no transcripts ever published for the various film and TV bits, and the various « vignettes » of the cast that were outside the script? Some of these I have not decoded after numerous watchings.
    When I first watched (1987) I thought this might be an immersion course with no written materials, but then I discovered the textbook with the script. The script should have included all the other sopken French parts.
    2) Recently watched the last 40 episodes (basically backwards in order) and at this remove I was struck with how unpleasant many of the personalities seemed , especially Robert (indeed stalking Mireille) , but Mireille herself (very selfish) , Jean Pierre and others. Was there a reason for this?

  12. The casting of Valérie Allain as Mireille has undoubtedly helped to have given French in Action a cult status. How did it come about that she was chosen for the role of Mireille? What other actresses were considered or read for the part?

    Valérie Allain comme Mireille a sans doute aidé beaucoup à donner au French In Action un status culte. Comment vous êtes arrivé pour choisir Mademoiselle Allain pour jouer Mireille et quelles d’autres actrices ont été considerées pour le rôle?

  13. Cher Professeur — Est-ce que le nomme de Virginie Comtesse est derivee de le deuxieme vin de le Chateau Pichon Lalande Comtesse de Longueville (« La Virginie de la Comtesse »)? M’pardoner mon francais, s’il vous plait — je seulement apprend le Lecon 31… Plus de travaille avant!
    Merci, Professeur.

    p.s.: Ma epouse et mois somme parti a Paris le 6 juillet pour un mois. C’est une grand aventure! 🙂

    p.p.s.: I spoke no French before starting FIA — thanks for your help. 🙂

  14. Quel professeur est meilleur. Proffesseur Capretz vous-même dans French in Action ou Franck de la Personne, le proffesseur du Sexy Zap?

  15. Thank you for the information and thank you for the link. Very interesting. would be a good link on this website.

  16. 1. Do you get compensated at all for the syndication of your great show?

    2. What can we do to insure that the show will continue to be broadcasted?

    3. Are you still teaching?

    4. Have you kept in touch with Robert or Mireille since making the show with them?

    5. Do you have a favorite episode?

    6. Was there any particular reason behind the choosing of that particular building to be the residence of the characters in the show?

  17. Cher Professeur,
    How do you translate « mystere et boules de gomme »?

  18. rodporte,

    I’ll let the good professor answer for himself, but I’ll just point out that « boules » in our blog name is plural, while in the text for French in Action and elsewhere on the web francophone it is singular. Before I got a copy of the text, I had always « heard » boule as plural and « gum balls » somehow seemed nicer than one lonely « gum ball. » There is a discussion of the origin of the phrase here:

  19. oh and,

    MERCI Professeur !

  20. Yes, what about a FIA reunion? It would be great if the public could get autographs from Pierre, Mireille, Robert…..

    Also, what about updating French in Action? Would it be possible to film a 21st century version? Do you have any ideas for incorporating new technologies?

  21. Another Question.

    I am American, my wife is Brazilian. We have a 3 year-old daughter who speaks Portuguese and understands English. At what age do you think it would be a good time to introduce her to French In Action? She enjoys watching Caillou (cartoon) in French, but I don’t think she’d have the patience to watch a series like French in Action at her age.

    Je suis américain et j’habite au Brésil avec ma femme brésilienne. Nous avons une fille de trois ans qui parle portugais et qui comprend l’anglais. A quel age selon vous serait-il bon de l’introduire à French in Action? Elle aime bien regarder le dessin animé Caillou en français, mais je ne crois pas qu’elle aurait le patience de regarder une série comme French in Action à son age.

  22. More questions:

    Were any of the actors difficult to work with? Est-ce qu’il y avait des acteurs dans FIA qui étaient un peu difficiles ou posaient des problèmes pendant la mise en scène?

    Where did you grow up?
    Oú avez-vous passé votre jeunesse?

    Did you study teaching French as a foreign language as your principal studies and where?
    Oú avez-vous fait vos études? Avez-vous fait des cours pour enseigner le français comme langue étrangère et si c’est le cas, oú ça?

  23. Pour Notre Cher Professeur, Pierre Capretz:

    Je suis sûr que beaucoup de nous voudraient voir un type de « French In Action, 25 Ans Après ». Quelle est la possibilité de faire quelques nouveaux épisodes ou de faire un téléfilm avec les acteurs principaux de la série originale?

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