Technology - Never meet your heroes - just point out their mistakes

30th August 2013 at 01:00
Students use Twitter to correct celebrities' spelling sins

It has transformed news and social media, taken internet "trolling" to new depths and given millions access to extensive details about their favourite celebrities' lives.

But Twitter, with its 140-character limit, quick-fire exchanges and multiple crimes against syntax, has never been an obvious resource for teaching good English.

Now, though, worried by its growing influence on young people, teachers in Brazil are turning the grammatical atrocities that often appear on the micro-blogging site to their educational advantage, asking students to identify and correct mistakes in their idols' tweets.

Pop stars Miley Cyrus and Mary J Blige were among the first celebrities to attract the ire of the eight- to 13-year-olds from Red Balloon, a Brazilian chain of English language schools.

"So many peeps I love birrrfday is today!" tweeted Cyrus, only to be told by a fan, Amanda, "Look, `birthday' has no Fs."

"Why is that people always try to understand estimate my intelligents?" wrote a puzzled Blige in an infamous message to her fans.

"I think you wrote underestimate and intelligence wrong," 12-year-old Maria helpfully pointed out.

The students also delivered a knockout blow to Rocky star Sylvester Stallone when he failed to use a plural, and were more than a match for England footballer Wayne Rooney when he tweeted: "Got sons of anorchy sesaon 5 today. Cant wait to watch it."

"We have celebrities who are not really worried about the language," said Andrea Baena, a coordinator for University of Cambridge examinations in Brazil, who appears in a video produced by Red Balloon to promote the idea. "When (students) see their idols speaking like that they come to us and say, `This is right, he is American and using it', and it is not the case."


So many peeps I love birrrfday is today! Gotta celllllebratttteee

@MileyCyrus Hi, my name is Amanda and I'm a big fan from Brazil. Look, "birthday" has no Fs :) LOVE YOU! Kisses!

Why is that people always try to understand estimate my intelligents?! They should never do that!

@maryjblige I'm Maria, 12 years old, from Brazil. I think you wrote underestimate and intelligence wrong :( P.S.: your voice is beautiful.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today