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English in Twos: Episode 19

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:

“My meaning simply is, that whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to I have devoted mysef completely; that in great aims and in small, I have aways been thoroughly in earnest.” ─Charles Dickens

Explanation:  Charles Dickens (1812─ 1870),  was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the 20th century, critics and scholars had recognised Dickens as a literary genius. His novels and short stories are still widely read today. Nice!

“We need never be ashamed of our tears.” –Charles Dickens

Explanation: This teaches us to never stop dreaming, never stop believing, never give up, never stop trying, and never stop learning in our lives.

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.

Don’t judge a book by its cover

Meaning:  said to show that you cannot know  what something or someone is like by looking only at that person’s or thing’s appearance (=Ba’a yabon ɗan kuturu… in Hausa), e.g Even though Idi doesn’t look very intelligent, he got the highest marks in the exams. Remember, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Note: do not say, “it is/it’s cover”–just “its”!

          If you can’t beat them, join them

Meaning: used to say that, when you decide to take part in something even though you disapprove of it, because everyone else is doing it and you cannot stop them (=something like, faɗan da ya fi ƙarfinka…in Hausa).

Note: the word, “bit”(slightly or to a small degree) isn’t used here. It’s just “beat”/bi:t/(defeat)!

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: Idi is somehow negligent; he left the door unlocked again.

Correct: Idi is somewhat negligent; he left the door unlocked again.

Note: well, “somehow” here, doesn’t mean “to some extent”, it simply means “in some way or other”. And, it can’t be used as an adverb of degree before adverbs and adjectives. It can be used before a verb or at the beginning of a sentence, e.g Somehow, Idi managed to get the work done.

Incorrect: I am extremely very happy today!

Correct:  I am extremely/ very/ very, very happy today.

Note: It is wrong to use “extremely” and “very” together. And, “very, very” isn’t wrong – it can be used for emphasis – but it’s advisable not to use 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 phrasal verbs:

Take on sb(takes, taking, took, taken)

To compete against someone or fight them, e.g. I will take you on at tennis tomorrow. The government took on the union, but didn’t win.

Send sb/sth up (sends, sending, sent).

To make someone or something seem stupid by copying them in a funny way, e.g. They always try to send up the teacher!

Tips to Improve Your English ─ Hester

  •  English, unlike Japanese or French uses word stress. For new words, count the syllables and find where the stress is.
  • Most of the time, two syllable verbs have a stress on the second syllable as in: (beGIN). Two syllable nouns as in: (TEAcher), and adjectives (HAPpy) stress the first.

Thanks copiously for reading and remember ─ practice is key!

Bashir Shu’aibu Jammaje



Twitter: @Mrbashjam



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