une très triste nouvelle

photo by Lyre Byrd

Pierre Jean Capretz (1925-2014), photo by Lyre Byrd

Dear FIA fans,

It is with great sadness that I convey the news that Pierre Capretz passed away on Tuesday, April 1.

Below is the note sent out by Alice Kaplan of Yale’s French Department, and Barry Lydgate of Wellesley College.

Dear Friends, 

I wanted share with you the sad news of Pierre Capretz’s death. Pierre died last night in Aix-en-Provence, where he had been hospitalized.  He was 89.

Pierre gave the gift of the French language to countless students of French, here at Yale and throughout the world.  Before there was online teaching, people were watching French in Action on PBS and reinventing the story of Robert and Mireille. Pierre gave many of us our first lessons in teaching–and today his method is still the gateway to transmitting French language and culture for our faculty and graduate students. 

We will have a chance to celebrate Pierre’s life in the fall, with a commemoration at Yale.  In the meantime, our thoughts and wishes go out to his companion Sylvie Mathé, to his children, and to his many devoted friends.

Alice Kaplan, Department of French, chair

Barry Lydgate, Professor of French & Chair, French Department, Wellesley College

And here is a news release prepared for Agence France-Presse by journalist Marie-Dominique Gréau d’Oléron-Bédouet:


Il avait appris le français à presque 1 million d’Américains.

A l’âge de 89 ans, Pierre Capretz est mort hier à Aix en Provence.

Il avait inventé la méthode « French in Action » mise au point alors qu’il était depuis 1956 un des rares Français professeur de français à l’Université de Yale.

Dans les années 80, Yale University lui permettra de développer sa méthode faite de petits films construits comme un feuilleton et surtout d’une pédagogie différente.

Tels les enfants qui apprennent à parler leur langue maternelle par mimétisme, avec « French in Action » Pierre Capretz avait adopté la méthode «  je parle, tu écoutes, tu répéteras  et plus tard tu écriras ».

Les plus prestigieuses universités américaines ont adopté cette méthode d’enseignement.

De Yale à Columbia en passant par Middlebury c’est au moins une génération d’Américains qui ont appris le français grâce à « French in Action » et le parlent quasiment sans accent.

Les obsèques de Pierre Capretz auront lieu lundi 7 avril à Aix en-Provence à 15h au cimetière du Grand Saint Jean.

*UPDATE 4/4/14: here is an article on Capretz in the April 4  Yale Daily News and another in the Yale Alumni magazine.

I will always count meeting Professor Capretz at the 2010 French in Action Reunion at Yale University among the best experiences of my life. I know that many of you who were able to attend expressed the same sentiment afterwards.  What a wonderful event it was. I am glad if this blog and our participation at that event let Professor Capretz know how much we loved him. French in Action is a gift that keeps on giving. It so happens that a friend and I watched Leçon 15 (Mireille and Robert’s second meeting & in which Robert and Marie-Laure get introduced) on the evening of April 1, the day I now learn our beloved professor passed away. Yes, French in Action is known for the innovative « immersion » technique of language learning and as a showcase for the beautiful Mlle Allain, but we love it for something more: the infectious Gallic charm radiating from Pierre Capretz that infused each episode. This was a professor you didn’t want to disappoint, whose approval you wanted.  Boy, did I feel like a million bucks when he told me he enjoyed my presentation at the reunion!

We’ll miss you, Professor Capretz, but you’ll always be with us.


Sylvie Mathé & Pierre Capretz, October 30, 2010.