French in Action: a Review of the Online Language Series from Yale University

French in Action: a Review of the Online Language Series from Yale University
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French in Action is an excellent curriculum set for self-directed French language learning. The program includes a textbook, a workbook,

and video and audio components (the video and audio are accessible for free online). First produced in 1987, is published by the Yale University Press and is truly an excellent language learning resource. It enables a learner to observe everyday French “in action” through a video series that develops an interesting, romantic storyline.

I will outline each element of the curriculum here. These tools can be used separately or, for best learning, in conjunction with one another. Depending how much of the material you choose to use, you will spend a small sum of money or you may spend nothing!

The Videos

Video characters Robert and Mireille

The French in Action video series can be streamed online from the Annenberg Media website; there are fifty-two videos, each one a half hour long. The video series tells the story of a young university student named Mireille, her life, friendships and romance.

The videos are completely in French, but they begin very slowly and they repeat concepts and phrases over and over. I recommend watching each episode a couple of times, until you start to grasp what the lessons are about. A professor makes regular appearances throughout the video series, guiding learners through new vocabulary and grammar structures.

Since these videos can be watched completely free and can be accessed online, they are an excellent resource. They also offer invaluable access to French culture, particularly to the “pinnacle” of French culture, that which is set in Paris!

The language and Parisian French cultural information you can glean from this video series is truly phenomenal, and the story line in also quite engaging.

You can find the French in Action videos at the Annenberg Foundation’s website.

The Textbook

You can find the French in Action textbook for a very reasonable price at or abebooks. Be sure to look for the Second Edition and be sure to buy both Part 1 and Part 2—there are two textbooks to make the size manageable. The textbook includes several helpful elements. Each chapter of the text corresponds to one half-hour video, and contains the entire written transcript of the video! Needless to say, this is invaluable in being able to match the sound of the French language with the written form of the language. In addition, each chapter contains many pictures (black and white) and a handful of exercises. It is helpful to have the text as a supplement to the videos.

The Workbook and Audio Files

The third element of the French in Action is the workbook. Like the textbooks, there are two workbooks to cover the 52 videos of the series, and if you look for the workbooks on Amazon’s or ABE Books’ websites, you should look for the Second Edition and make sure to buy both Part 1 and Part 2 if you plan to go through the whole series!

For each video and corresponding chapter of the textbook, the workbook offers dozens and dozens of short exercises that will help to improve all your language skills—speaking, reading, listening and writing. Many of the exercises are to be used in conjunction with audio files. You can buy the audio files, but they are very expensive.

I recommend streaming them online; however, to do this, you can only access the files one at a time. This is not difficult to do, once you get the hang of how to change the numbers in the web address to get to the next file. Say, for example, that you want to do exercise 3.43 (basically, this is exercise 43 for lesson 3). You would go to the following web address:

Recomendation (5 out of 5)

I recommend using all three elements of the French in Action curriculum in conjunction, for maximum French language and culture learning. However, even if you choose just to watch the half-hour video segments, you will begin to improve your French language skills, I highly recommend this excellent French language learning series: it will hold your interest and make you successful in your language learning endeavor!