Memorial service for Pierre Capretz on Oct. 11

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A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Oct. 11, for Pierre Capretz, a teacher of French at Yale for nearly five decades and the creator of the internationally known language-learning program “French in Action,” who died on April 2 in Aix-en-Provence, France, at the age of 89.

The service will take place at 1:30 p.m. in Battell Chapel, corner of Elm and College streets.

Capretz grew up in France and received his doctorate at the University of Paris. He arrived in the United States in 1949, when he began teaching Latin at the University of Florida. In 1956, he joined the faculty of the Yale Department of French. Anxious to move beyond what he considered to be dull textbooks, he created “French in Action,” a language-immersion course using workbooks and textbooks but also accompanied by a television series. The multimedia series, which consists of 52 half-hour episodes hosted by Capretz, follows the fictional romance between an American student named Robert, who is in Paris during a leave-of-absence from Yale, and his French love interest, Mireille. Used by over 2,000 colleges and universities in the United States alone, the series was broadcast in 1987 by WGBH in Boston and later was aired by other public television stations. Now in its third edition, “French in Action” is one of the top-10 royalty revenue-generating Yale licenses.

Capretz later transformed other cultural materials into language-learning products, such as an interactive CD-ROM based on the François Truffaut film “Jules et Jim.”

The Yale educator also served as director of Yale’s Language Development Studio and its Language Laboratory. He retired from teaching in 2003, and in 2010 the university held a 25th-anniversary celebration of “French in Action,” which was attended by Capretz and the series’ two main actors, Valérie Allain and Charles Mayer.

After retiring from Yale, Capretz returned to France. He is survived by his children, Michel Yan, Yves and Alain Capretz and Pierre-Olivier Mathé, and by his companion, Sylvie Mathé.

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