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English in Twos: Episode 5

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 four segments: quotations and their explanation, proverbs and their meanings, correct and incorrect English, 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.
Knowledge is not what is memorised. Knowledge is what benefits.” ─Imam al-shafi’i
Explanation: Imam al-shafi’i (767 ─ 820 CE), was the most prominent student of Imam Malik ibn Anas and he also served as the governor of Najar. He was an Arab Muslim writer, scholar and theologian, who was the first contributor of the principles of Islamic jurisprudence ( Usul al-fiqh). From my point of view, the most important element of learning is to understand how what you are taught can be applied. The fact that you have memorised some information is good, but until you are able to put it in context and know how it can be applied to your situation, you haven’t learned anything; you have merely stored it in memory for future recall. Of course, knowledge benefits by sharing it via conversations, writing books, teaching, etc. It is accepted by all and sundry, that practical knowledge makes everything possible in a society!
My heart is at ease knowing that what was meant for me will never miss me, and that what misses me was never meant for me.” –Imam Al-shafi’i
Explanation: well, this is not saying one should not fight for what they want, but rather God has a plan and we need to try and figure out what lessons are meant to be learnt in order to move forward. If you firmly believe in this, you’d be amazed at how less disappointed you’ll be, when things miss you or don’t go according to your initial plans. The Imam, here, is saying you should let go of the things that you can’t control and use that time and energy to fuel your success and goals.
Proverbs and Their Meanings
There is a proverb for almost any situation. It is a wise saying that gives some advice about life.
The pot calling the kettle black
Meaning: used to say that you should not criticize someone for something because you have done the same thing or have the same fault (kura ce za ta ce da kare maye).
Note: don’t say “the hyena calling the dog wizard”; it is a direct translation and doesn’t exist in any standard English.
God helps those who help themselves
Meaning: don’t just wait for good things to happen to you. Work hard to make them happen, e.g. If you want a better life, you have to work hard; God helps those who help themselves.

Correct and Incorrect English
We all make mistakes when we are speaking or writing English as a Second Language, along the way. 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:
Incorrect: I will pay for the car installmentally.
Correct: I will pay for the car in installments.
Note: “installment” is used to denote a bit by bit payment that you make until you have paid all the money you owe. But, “installmentally” simply doesn’t exist in any standard dictionary. So, the standard way of the word is “in installments” or “by installments” ─ and not “installmentally”.
Incorrect: On/off the light, please.
Correct: Put/switch/turn on/off the light, please.
Note: many people in Nigeria use “on” and “off” as if they were verbs. But, when “off” is used as a verb, mostly in American English, it means “to kill someone,” e.g. The armed robbers ought to be offed.
What’s more, it is sometimes allowed to separate verbs and particles in phrasal verbs. You can say “switch off the fan” or “switch the fan off,” and “pick up the books,” or “pick the books up” without any problem. But they can’t be separated when you use pronouns, just “switch it off,” “pick them up”.
By and large, it is incorrect to separate the verbs and particles in some phrasal verbs. For instance, a father can look after his children, but can’t look the children after.

Words and Their Meanings and Examples in Sentences
Words are of paramount importance to our lives. 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.
Drawing board (noun) /dro:wing bo:d/
(go) back to the drawing board, if go back to the drawing board
, you start again (with a completely new plan or idea), because the one you tried is not working.
* If your English is not improving ─ you need to go back to the drawing board and start anew.
Cinephile /‘sinifail/ (noun)
Someone who likes films very much and considers them to be a form of art, not just entertainment.
* Mahmud is an unbelievable cinephile.
Note: the word isn
’t pronounced /sine‘pail/. The “ph” here makes the sound “f”, the “e”─”i” and the stress is on the first syllable.

Tips to Improve Your English ─ Hester
* Keep a notebook of new words you learn. Use them in sentences and try to say them at least 3 times when you speak.
* Do a lesson at least once a day.

A big thank-you for reading and remember ─ practice is key!
Bashir Shu’aibu Jammaje
Twitter: @Mrbashjam


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