I came back to France over 10 months ago and I recently came to the realization that although my French is progressively improving, it is still not that great: on a daily basis, I still encounter moments when I simply cannot express myself the way I wish I could. Of course, the fact that I speak English with most of my new friends probably is not helping but now that I am making French friends, it is becoming even more frustrating.
What I realized is that I still think in English because it remains the language that comes to me spontaneously. What I have to do next is… translate! It is a very interesting process! When I moved to the States, I applied myself NOT to translate my thoughts from French into English but instead to learn to speak English… And now I have to start all over again. For example, I recently learned that you do not say “prendre un examen,” a literal translation of “to take an exam.” Instead, in France, it is “passer un examen” and unlike the English “to pass an exam,” it does not imply anything about whether or not you actually passed the exam! Pretty complicated, uh?!
On a similar note, I have also noticed that the English language is so much richer than French. I constantly stumbled upon those words that cannot quite be translated because the subtlety simply is not present in French. For example, every English speaking person will understand the difference between “to love” and “to like.” In French, the first one would be translated by “aimer” while the second one would be “aimer bien.” It just feels as if something is missing! Also, there is no easy way to translate “self-conscious” or “self-aware,” almost as if the concept did not really exist in French… Same for expressions such as “to vent” or “to socialize”… The good side of it all is that I keep on working on my translating skills!