Customer Review

89 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Le cours de langues français le plus complet, December 13, 2005
This review is from: French in Action : A Beginning Course in Language and Culture, the Capretz Method: Part One (Hardcover)
"French in Action" is a complete, college-level language course intended for students who have aspirations of fluency. The course consists of five components: video tapes (or DVDs), audio tapes (or CDs), textbook, workbook and study guide. All the components work together and are necessary for the course to be effective. The course utilizes an immersion method, meaning that after the first couple of lessons, everything except the study guide is in French. In spite of its high profile and ready access on public television, I don't think it's a good course for beginners. It moves quickly and would probably be best for someone with previous study in the language. The course would be nearly ideal for a college-level student with at least a year of high school French under their belt.

It's a full meal. There are 52 lessons divided into two, 26 lesson parts. Each part can be purchased separately, but any way you slice it, the entire course is a considerable investment in both time and money. Working about an hour per day, it's paced to be handled at the rate of about a lesson a week. At full speed, you might be able to finish it in a year. Because most of the lessons involve some kind of conversational practice, the course is best taken with a partner or the help of a tutor. Self-study students might be tempted to eliminate the conversational and writing exercises, but doing so would be a mistake. Those exercises constitute at least half of the value of the course.

One of the real strengths of "French in Action' is that it puts an emphasis on the French language the way the French actually speak it, which is quite a bit different from the way American phrase books tend to teach it. Right from the start, you're listening to the language at full speed in all its idiomatic glory. If you're anything like me, you'll have the sense of always struggling to catch up. But, I like the fact that the early emphasis is on listening and getting a sense of the rhythm of the language. Younger students will probably like the fact that after the first several lessons, they will have learned at least a dozen ways to insult their friends.

One of the weaknesses of the course is that the audio tapes really need to be used along with the workbook. Hence, it's difficult (though not impossible) to use them in the car during long commutes. Don't expect a standard presentation, because the material isn't handled anything like standard French textbooks. Tenses, for example, are introduced so matter-of-factly that the very first words you utter are in the future tense. And there is no emphasis at all on word-for-word translation. In fact, quite often you're listening to idiomatic phrases in which the individual words when analyzed don't make much sense, but the meaning of the entire phrase when spoken in context is perfectly clear.

"French in Action" is a real grown-up language course for students with mature study skills and sufficient interest to get through it. I, myself, have taken a couple runs at it over the years and have only recently developed a successful study routine. Though the video program is on public television all the time, it's not a casual course at all. Don't believe the promos that suggest that all you have to do is "listen, watch and get involved". Just watching the shows on TV won't get you very far. You will spend at least 350 hours going through the entire course and probably more like 700-1000. That may sound like a lot, but by the end you will doubtless have a better understanding of French than you would have had from any other commercial package.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 8, 2008 5:54:41 PM PST
A. Rosenberg says:
This gets my vote for the best review ever on Amazon. It gives you exactly the information that you need to decide whether this is the right French course for you and tells you exactly what you need to do to make the most of the course if you decide to follow it. Thanks, Steven--I picked French in Action up in large part because of your review, and it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

Posted on Sep 28, 2010 1:37:04 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Sep 28, 2010 3:49:00 AM PDT]

Posted on Mar 25, 2013 4:12:35 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 25, 2013 4:16:12 AM PDT
Sprachfex says:
I like this review, although I'm not sure that the course not being a learning-while-commuting affair qualifies as a "weakness". I perceive this as a strength as it enables much better development of all major language skills (writing, reading etc.).

There are some other minor points that made me wonder - for instance, I have yet to detect "a dozen ways to insult" my friends in the "first several lessons", and the "very first words" I uttered were definitely not in the future tense but a very common form of greeting instead. Yet the focus on how the different components are intertwined was very helpful when I decided to buy it.
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Location: Rockville, MD USA

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