by Bashir Jammaje
Education is the most powerful weapon, Nelson Mandela says, which we can use to change the world.
This article helps and inspires students to improve their English and encourage their interest in achieving their goals without needing to go off the course syllabus, however strict it might be. It is divided into five segments: quotations and their explanation, proverbs and their meanings, correct and incorrect English, vocabulary learning and some tips to improve your English. All the segments are presented in twos.
Quotations and Their Explanation
Life without motivation is like sitting in a dark room with lots of fear inside. Here are two quotes that can motivate you in life:
“Jealousy is the worst disease” ─Iman Ali(AS)
Explanation: Imam Ali(AS) (601 – 661), was a cousin and son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad(S.A.W), who ruled as the fourth caliph from 656 to 661. Well, it is obvious that there will always appear to be people with more talents, possessions, reputation or health than yourself. That’s life. Envy and jealousy travel together, are different emotions; both are negative and can make you feel miserable and ruin your relationships. They say envy is a two-person relationship: I want what you have. But jealousy is a three-person triangle: I want the recognition you have from others. For instance, when you feel threatened by how much your boss appreciates one of your colleague’s work, that’s jealousy. In layman’s terms, envy is a reaction to lacking something; jealousy is a reaction to the threat of losing something or someone. The antidotes to overcome jealousy are: know yourself and accept yourself, be your own standard, look at others for inspiration and compare yourself to who you were yesterday!
“Be active and dynamic, whether you have work or not.” –Imam Ali(AS)
Explanation: this reminds me of the English saying “an idle mind/brain is the devil’s workshop,” which means, people who have nothing worthwhile to think about will think of something bad to do. Being active and making the best use of time is of vital importance. And why is it very important? It does help one to get rid of negative thoughts and boredom. Being in control of your time is great for productivity. But poor time management will destroy your productivity and this, in turn, causes you to miss opportunities. And Imam Ali(AS) meant that working is important whether you enjoy what you do or not.
Proverbs and Their Meanings
There is a proverb for almost any situation. It is a wise saying that gives some advice about life. Almost every culture has its own unique proverbs. However, some proverbs exist in more than one language; people borrow them from other languages and cultures similar to theirs.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder
Meaning: being away from someone or something for a period of time makes you appreciate that person or thing more.
Note: the “s” after “make” is really necessary.
Better late than never
Meaning: it is better for someone to arrive or do something late than not to arrive or do it (da babu gara ba dadi in Hausa). e.g The car was even later than usual. Well, better late than never.
Correct and Incorrect English
Grammatical errors come in many forms and can easily confuse and obscure meaning. Absolutely, no one is immune to errors when it comes to the English language. Of course, it is inevitable. The important thing is to learn from the mistakes so you become a more confident, capable speaker and writer. Here are some mistakes that should be avoided:
Confusion between “comprise” and “compose”
“Comprise”, in its simplest form, means “to contain”. For instance, you could say, “The class comprises 20 boys and 15 girls.” But there is an exception to this rule, when “comprise” is used as a passive verb. The exception that proves the rule; it is used with the preposition “of”. As in: “the class is comprised of 20 boys and 15 girls.” And don’t say “The class is comprises of…”.
Note: don’t use “of” if the word “comprise” ends with an “s”(=comprises…). You can only use “of” if it ends with a “d,” (=comprised of…).
However, it’s wrong to say “20 boys and 15 girls comprise the class.” Whenever you use the word “comprise,” the whole(as in : “class”) must come first.
And, “compose” means “to make up” or “consist of”. It is similar to the word “comprise”, but there is this distinct meaning. Remember the above example, here, it is correct to say “20 boys and 15 girls compose the class.” You can also use “be composed of something.” e.g Water is composed of oxygen and hydrogen.
Note: it is incorrect to say that something “is composed by” or “is composed with” people or things. Just say that something “is composed of” people or things.
There are some verbs that are used with particles. Examples are sit down, get up, go out, etc. The verbs are sit, get, go, and the particles are down, up, out. These kind of combinations are called phrasal verbs. In many cases the meaning of the phrasal verbs cannot be deduced from its elements and some are polysemous (have two or more different meanings). Moreover, phrasal verbs are very important because they are so prevalent(common) in every spoken or written English. Voltaire once said, “Language is a very difficult to put into words.” What is the best way to learn new words? Sound them out, The Seattle Time reported. Researchers found sounding words slowly helps people memorize new words easier. Here are some phrasal verbs:
Seize up (seizes, seizing, seized)
If part of your body or a machine seizes up, it stops moving or working in the normal way.
* My left leg seized up after four hours of sitting(=cinyar kaza in Hausa). When do you think the rain will cease?
Do not use “cease” /si:s/ here, which means to stop doing something or stop happening. e.g His actions never cease to amaze me( I’m always surprised by them).
Look forward to sth/doing sth (looks, looking, looked)
To feel pleased and excited about something that is going to happen.
* I’m looking forward to seeing you again.
Note: it is wrong to say “I’m
looking forward to see you again”. It is important to remember to use an “-ing verb” after “look forward to”. Another very common phrasal verbs that must be followed by “-ing” forms are ones that mean ‘continue’. “carry on,” “go on” and “keep on”.
Tips to Improve Your English ─ Hester
* Practice the 4 core skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening. They all need to be worked on for you to improve.
* Keep a notebook of new words you learn. Use them in sentences and try to say them at least 3 times when you speak.
Thanks copiously for reading and remember ─ practice is key!
Bashir Shu’aibu Jammaje