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English in Twos: Episode 14

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:

“Unity is our greatest concern, and it is the duty of everyone of us to work so that we may strengthen it.” ─Tafawa Balewa

Explanation: Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa(1912 – 1966), was a Nigerian politician who was the first Prime Minister of Nigeria. According to Balewa, unity allows us to accomplish great things that we could never do on our own. It lets us combine our strengths to do something amazing. Unity allows us, (as a nation), to achieve something not by ourselves, but with the power of, quite literally, hundreds, maybe thousands of people, all with something new to contribute. Take Singapore for instance. 50 years ago, it was a tiny island, a Nation which was just beginning to take the first steps as in independent Nation. It had no natural resources, limited land, and people from all walks of life, from different countries with different cultures, ideas, and backgrounds. The citizens, all from different backgrounds and races, united as one and work towards a common goal: their desire for a better life in Singapore. Now, they made Singapore into a multi-racial, multicultural, diverse society where everyone could work together for the good of the nation, and had an equal say!

“It is important that we first show respect to each other before asking the world to respect us.” –Tafawa Balewa

Explanation: I read it somewhere, that respecting yourself means giving and defining your own worth and value as a human being. Think about this: if you do not respect yourself, it will be more difficult for you to respect anyone else. So it all begins with self-respect. Just keep this in mind: you owe everyone a basic level of respect for being a fellow human being, but your level of respect for others will vary from person to person. As, Laurence Stone, says, “Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners.”

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.

                 Rome wasn’t built in a day

Meaning: it is used to emphasize that you cannot expect to do important things in a short period of time(Something like, sannu-sannu ba ta hana zuwa in Hausa).

Don’t put too many irons in the fire

Meaning: used to say that you should not try to do too many things at the same time; focus on one thing at a time, e.g. Ali works three jobs at the same time. He has too many irons in the fire right now!

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 saw him there on accident.

Correct: I saw him there by accident.

Note: If you do something “by accident”, you do it, in a way that is not planned or intended. But, you can do something “on purpose”(=deliberately). As in: “Do you think he did it on purpose?”. That, you can do something “on purpose” – but never “on accident”. Always, remember—prepositions are a killer!

Incorrect: Ali and Isa live in fears of being arrested.

Correct:  Ali and Isa live in fear of being arrested.

Note: When the word “fear” is used in some fixed phrases like “in fear of”, “for fear of” etc, it is used in the singular form—no matter how many people have the fear. But, the plural form can be applied in other contexts that are not fixed. As in: “She has many fears concernig the exams.” Know that, “hope” in “in hope of” goes like “in fear of”!

                     Vocabulary Learning

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:

Go off with something(goes, going, went, gone)

To steal something, or take something without asking.

  • Who do you think went off with my book?

And, “go off with somebody”, means to leave your wife, husband or the person you are having a romantic relationship with in order to have a relationship with someone else, e.g. He’s left his wife and gone off with Farida.

Force back (forces, forcing, forced)

To try not to show your emotions, e.g. She forced back her tears when she saw what happened.

Tips to Improve Your English ─ Hester

  •  Watching TV only gives you the chance to hear something correctly first time. This is better for high level students.
  • It can be great practice for speaking to native English speakers so you don’t have to ask them to repeat themselves!

Thank you for reading and remember ─ practice is key!

Bashir Shu’aibu Jammaje


bashjam90@gmail.com Twitter: @Mrbashjam


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