“Hi @justinbieber! My name is Maria, I’m 9 and I’m a fan from Brazil. Watch out: it’s ‘we’re here’ not ‘we here.’”
That delightful tweet was sent to the teen singer from a schoolgirl as part of an innovative spelling and grammar program at a school called Red Balloon in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for children studying the English language.
The campaign, led by team head Andrea Baena, encourages the children — some of whom are only eight and nine years old — to engage with celebrities and correct their spelling or grammar mistakes.
The aim is to show the kids in a literal way that good use of English grammar counts in all kinds of communication, be it letter writing, social media, texts, or any other format, is important.
In Red Balloon’s program, the children find their favorite celebrities on Twitter and look for spelling or grammar issues.
Interestingly, many of the stars the children contacted could have been chosen by American kids, such is the reach of film, music, sport and television.
Bieber, Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, Pink, Shaquille O’Neal, Katy Perry, Jamie Oliver and Sylvester Stallone, are some of the offenders who were contacted.
After the children find the famous errors, they read the tweets to their classmates and explain what the mistake is. They then tweet the correct spelling or grammar rule to the stars from a designated school-hosted Twitter account. The children were told to be polite in their messages.
In a video (seen above) Baena said social media was influential because of “how fast it is,” but also said it often passes on bad examples to children who need to learn proper, written English.
“We have celebrities that are not really worried about the language,” she notes. “Concerning education, it’s really bad, because when [children] see their idols speaking like that they come to us and say ‘but this is right, he’s American, he’s using it.’”
Going by some of Bieber’s tweets and other celebrities, it’s very possible they may not know the correct grammar or spelling to use in some cases. But, I’m also not sure if the campaign knows — and I could be wrong here — that a lot of celebrities use hip vernacular that deliberately leaves out key words and generally messes with the English language.
In one of his most recent tweets sent to his old “swagger coach” Ryan Good, Bieber asked:
— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) July 4, 2013
It’s highly likely the 19-year-old knows that the correct spelling and phrase is: “Where are you?” But because of 140 character limitations and a consciously breezy style, Bieber uses a shortened sentence.
But in a way that’s not Red Balloon’s point. The campaign is designed to open, stimulate, and improve children’s awareness and understanding of spelling and grammar in fun, imaginative, and topical ways — and it does that.
And the great thing is, Bieber, Cyrus, and the other stars tweeted probably won’t be irritated by the corrections because they come from children. Or would they?
How would you react if someone pointed out the bad spelling or grammar in your tweet, would you appreciate it or not?
Check out some of the very sweet tweets the children sent below and add your voice in comments.