Dr Kamran Zafar Ghumman
It is fascinating to realize there is more than one version of the English language. I am not referring to various dialects of spoken English. Instead, I am alluding to two broad categories of English that we come across in our daily lives: Home English and Academic English. Home English refers to the kind of English we use when we communicate with our family, friends, and other people close to us in our daily routine interactions with them. Academic English is the type of English used in academic and business communications.
Although these two types encompass both spoken and written English, the terms mostly apply to written English. It is crucial to understand the differences between these two types of English, especially for someone who is not a native English speaker and who wants to excel in scholarly English writing. In Pakistan, almost all students learn English as their second language from non-native English speakers, and they are not taught the skills required to write high-quality academic articles in English. Lack of this skill puts Pakistani students at a disadvantage when they compete with students from English speaking countries. Pakistani students can compete with native English speakers when it comes to memorizing and reproducing materials in English, but they struggle when writing creatively or original ideas. This article examines the key differences between the two types of English and introduces students to a topic that can help them improve their scholarly English writing skills.
Home English uses ordinary conversational words and thus relies heavily on the implied meaning of words, which leaves words to open interpretation. Typically, the verbs used in Home English are phrasal, meaning they are made up of more than one word, such as carry out, stand up to, and call out. Abbreviations and contractions are commonly used in Home English; Mechanics of writing, including spelling, punctuation, and capitalizations, are not strictly adhered to when composing something in Home English. People use Home English in their day-to-day conversations and in exchanging information on social media platforms and through text messages on mobile devices. Since words can have more than one meaning in Home English, it may sometimes cause confusion in understanding the message being conveyed. Home English allows the expression of feelings and emotions. Therefore, the home English liberally uses a personal tone with emphasis on first- and second-person pronouns.
In contrast to Home English, Academic English is used for scholarly writing and official (business) communications. Keeping in view the purpose of Academic English, it is needless to say that this version of English strives for clarity of expression. Words are used for their literal meanings in Academic English for accuracy purposes. For example, the term “like” is commonly used to say “for example” in Home English, but in Academic English, “like” can only be used to show the similarity between things or ideas and not to introduce examples.In addition to the clarity of expression, Academic English expresses itself in as few words as possible. This practice prevents redundancy. To achieve laconism, Academic English emphasizes the use of single-word verbs instead of multi-word verbs: to perform in place of to carry out, to study the effect of… rather than to look for the effect of…, and abandon for walk away.Contractions, such as haven’t and isn’t,are not considered appropriate for Academic English. Diligent use of punctuations makes Academic English easier for readers to read and understand by identifying relationships among various ideas. Academic English uses impersonal tone as the purpose is to convey a message respectfully and not the personal emotions or feelings. Thus, writing in Academic English requires meticulous attention to the selection and use of every word to ensure conciseness and precision of expression.
Understanding the difference between Home and Academic English is imperative for students—but it is especially essential for learners who are not native English speakers because they will be at a disadvantage when writing scholarly in English during their educational and professional careers. The best place to start learning this is in school. Ideally, a language must be learned from native speakers of that language. Since learning English from native speakers is not possible in a country like Pakistan, training teachers about this topic and including it in the curriculum will go a long way in improving the English writing skills of students.
— Kamran Zafar Ghumman MD is clinical assistant professor of Medicine at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, Greenville, South Carolina, USA and an internal medicine physician at Prisma Health, Greenville, South Carolina, USA. He is a graduate of Quaid-e-Azam Medical College Bahawalpur, Pakistan.