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:
“I am for truth, no matter who tells it. I am for justice, no matter who it’s for or against.” ─Malcolm X
Explanation: Malcolm X (1925 ─ 1965), was an African American Muslim minister and human activist. He was a courageous advocate for the rights of African Americans. He has been called one of the greatest and most influential African Americans for his time spent as a vocal spokesperson for the Nation of Islam. This, says, whoever comes to you with some truth, just accept that truth without considering whether the person is old, young or hated by you. And whoever comes lying to you, then reject it from them ─ even if they are beloved and close.
“In all our deeds, the proper value and respect for time determines success or failure.” –Malcolm X
Explanation: As the saying goes, ‘time is money/gold’ (=it’s a valuable resource, therefore it’s better to do things as quickly as possible). Time passes like the clouds. No matter how long man lives in this life, his life is short, as death is the end of every living creature. This meaning was expressed by Prophet (SAW) in one of his Hadith: “Take advantage of five matters before five other matters: your youth before you become old, your health, before you fall sick; your wealth, before you become poor; your free time before you become preoccupied, and your life, before your death.”
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.
There is more than one way to skin a cat
Meaning: used to say there are many ways to do something or there are many ways to achieve a goal(=in kasan wata, ba ka san wata ba in Hausa).
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
Meaning: used to express the fact that not all people have the same opinions about what is attractive, e.g. I think his car is ugly, but he seems to like it. They say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
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. Prepositions are tricky(difficult to deal with), confusing(unclear and difficult to understand) and significant in sentence construction. Here are some mistakes that should be avoided:
Incorrect: I searched my phone everywhere, but didn’t find it.
Correct: I searched for my phone everywhere, but didn’t find it.
Note: when the word “search” means “look for,” it must be followed by “for”. But it can be followed immediately by a ‘direct object’ ─ and that happens when the ‘direct object’ refers to the person or place where something is expected to be found, e.g. They searched him carefully, but found some very flimsy evidence.
Incorrect: A: Are you OK? B: I’m having a cold/headache.
Correct: A: Are you OK? B: I have a cold/headache.
Note: it is wrong to use the continuous forms of “have” when it denotes a condition or a state rather than action.
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:
Kneel down (kneels, kneeling, knelt)
To lower your body by bending your knees until one or both of them are resting on the ground, e.g. The teacher asked him to kneel down for coming late.
Warning: it’s wrong to say, ‘lid down’ or anything like that!
Fill up sb/fill sb up (fills, filling, filled).
If food fills someone up, it makes them feel as if they have eaten enough, e.g. The watermelon I ate filled me up; I couldn’t eat another thing.
Warning: it’s unnatural to say, ‘the food satisfied me,’ say, ‘the food satisfied my hunger/appetite’, instead.
Tips to Improve Your English ─ Hester
* Think of the bigger picture. What can you do when you have a good command of English? How will the quality of your life improve?
* Give yourself a long term goal and focus on working towards it.
Thanks copiously for reading and remember ─ practice is key!
Bashir Shu’aibu Jammaje