What a thrill for me, a French language teacher, to receive a scholarship for summer study from the French government! One year ago I would never have dreamed that my teaching performance could possibly improve so much from a single experience.
Before I left the United States, I told my students that during the summer I'd be speaking French only. And I gave them my address in Avignon in southern France. I received many letters, two the day I arrived.
All my students knew the French song, ''Sur le Pont d'Avignon.'' When I actually saw ''le pont,'' I sent every student who had written to me a picture postcard of the bridge with written highlights of my trip. Naturally each postcard bore a French stamp and postmark.
My three classes at le Centre Universitaire d'Avignon met daily during the month of July. Even though my phonetics professor was a superb teacher, I thought she seemed to lack patience with our American accents. Was this the way my students felt when I corrected their pronunciation?
My project for my French civilization course was la jeunesse francaise, or French young people. I chose it, anticipating that my students would enjoy my sharing it with them. The tapes I made of conversations with French young people are popular with my students, particularly one listing some favorite musical groups.
Each day, whatever I did, I asked myself, ''What can I share with my students today?'' French merchants were most generous in giving me posters and other printed material. I sent home 17 boxes of audio-visual aids, all in French. By the way, everything arrived quickly and intact. In the boxes were tapes of conversations I had with French people and many French songs we sang; colorful pictures and postcards; posters of France and other French memorabilia, including posters from MacDonald's and Snoopy calendars en francais, which now decorate my classroom.
This year I asked each student to make his own authentic French calendar for 1983. Some drew pictures of such places as the Eiffel Tower. Others who ride horses researched the specialized equestrian vocabulary for their calendars.
At Christmas, friends in France sent each of my students a piece of Malabar bubble gum with bright, colorful comics in French on the wrappers.
Some of my students have started corresponding with French pen pals. Two gifted, advanced French students have created a French-vocabulary computer program, complete with French accent marks, as well as French response cues such as tres bien.
Recently I met one of my students, her mother, and a visiting relative in a local French restaurant. The student's mother told me her daughter chose this restaurant for their out-of-town guest because she loves French and la cuisine francaise.
One student commented, ''We are learning more this year than last year,'' and another said, '' . . . Learning French is a lot more fun.''
(Editor's note: Further information about the program in Avignon and also about a similar summer program in Quebec for teachers of French may be obtained from American Association of Teachers of French, 57 East Armory Avenue, Champaign, Ill. 61820; telephone (217) 333-2842.
All 1983 scholarships have been awarded; applicants for summer 1984 participation must be members of AATF by January 1 of next year and apply for the Avignon or Quebec scholarship by mid-January, 1984.)m