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English in Twos: Episode 18

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:

“What we need in politics today is not more democracy but less.” ─Fareed Zakaria

Explanation: Fareed Zakaria (1964 — {56}), is an Indian-American journalist, political scientist, and author. He is the host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS and writes a weekly paid column for The Washington Post. He has been a columnist for Newsweek , editor of Newsweek International, and an editor at large of Time. What Zakaria said is actually self-explanatory!

“It is likely that human beings will find fulfillment and will be rewarded for the same qualities that they have been rewarded for 5,000 years. And that is intelligence, hard work, honesty, a sense of character, loyalty to family and friends, and above all, love and faith. If you are trying to decide what you should do, those are the things you should do. And you know it.” –Fareed Zakaria

Explanation: This is self-explanatory!

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.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Meaning:  If something is already working well, don’try to change it or improve it.

          You can’t keep a good man down

Meaning: said to mean that if people are able and determined, they will recover from any difficulties or problems and be successful.

Note: You can replace `man’ with `woman’ or with another word referring to a person.(Zakaran da Allah ya nufa da cara… in Hausa).

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 want to drink my medicine now.

Correct: I want to take my medicine now.

Note: Here, some words are friends and like to go together but other words are strangers and feel kind of awkward in each others’ company. “drink” and “medicine” are two words that feel very uncomfortable together.

Incorrect: They bought watermelons and drank them as they walked, spitting out the seeds.

Correct: They bought watermelons and ate them as they walked, spitting out the seeds.

 Note: We eat fruits in English, but we drink the juice. That, It is correct to say, “eat the banana”, “eat the orange”, “eat the tomatoes” etc. It’s also correct to say, “drink the orange/banana etc juice”. What’s more, you “eat ice cream/sugarcane”, too – don’t drink them.

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 expression:

*I don’t trust him an inch now

When you say that “you don’t trust someone an inch”, you mean you don’t trust them at all.

*She thinks being a mother is easy. What planet is she on?

“What planet is sb on?” is used to suggest that sb’s ideas are not realistic or practical.

Tips to Improve Your English ─ Hester

  • When you learn a new word, think of all its other forms: beautiful(adj.), beauty(noun), beautify(verb), beautifully(adv.).
  • Learn prefixes(dis-, un-, re-) and suffixes(-ly, -ment, -ful), these will help you figure out the meaning of words and build your vocabulary.

Thanks copiously for reading and remember ─ practice is key!

Bashir Shu’aibu Jammaje


bashjam90@gmail.com Twitter: @Mrbashjam


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