I was born and raised in France and both of my parents are Moroccan. I left France at the age of 23 to go study in an American University. When leaving France, I would qualify my French as being mainly “from the suburbs” and my growing interest in English refined my mastery of French. As an example, I remember not liking to read at all in French but when in college, I had to read parts of Howard Zinn’s People History of America for an American History class. That might have been the first book I enjoyed reading. This demystified reading a bit.
Before going to the US, I had started a Master’s Degree in France and left a year afterwards to start a new one in the US. I spent 6 years in an American university doing a Master’s and a PhD in Language Acquisition and Pedagogy. The first obstacle I faced when doing research was that it was difficult for me to “think in English”. Although, I had the vocabulary and the grammar, my research papers “sounded too French” in the eyes of my professors. I finished my French Master’s degree online while starting my American one. Now, I can see the difference between my French thesis and my American one. While in France, I was encouraged to develop on the problem and cite sources for the most part of my research and present solutions suggested by others in the very end. In English I felt a little more encouraged to have my own voice, and therefore not to quote others as much because it was my own work.
After gaining confidence in writing in English, I started writing in French. The problem I had was that my terminology in French was limited. Although French is my native language, I was educated on the topic of Language acquisition and Pedagogy in English, and therefore, learned the terminology in English. For example, I had to look up terms such as Internalized Oppression and make sure I could translate it literally in French by saying Oppression Internalisée in order to convey the same idea. I found the expression Oppression Intériorisé and was not sure it meant the same thing in the field of teaching for social justice. As is shown by this example, I often do “Anglicisms” which is a form of neologism, taking a word in English and applying French terminology to it.
I consider Academic language as being its own language. In a way, I would say that I have been introduced to Academic language through English. To a certain extent it helped me acquire a certain expertise in French Academic writing. Becoming aware of complexities has allowed me to expand my vocabulary in both my first language and second language.
I would say that both of my languages informed each other. French informed English because I was fluent in French and English informed French because I was “more academic” in English.