Stillwater couple piece together grammar film
A Stillwater husband-and-wife team has been on what they call a grammar tour for the last six months as they put together a documentary called “Grammar Revolution.”
Elizabeth and David O’Brien are former teachers who became curious about the topic of grammar as they taught it in their schools. They’ve since started an online business foucsing on providing educators, parents and students with fun and interesting materials that create an understanding of grammar. Their web site is doing so well that David O’Brien has joined the venture full-time.
“Elizabeth majored in elementary education at UW-Eau Claire and she always struggled with grammar as a student. Grammar just didn’t really click with her and she was never really taught it,” David O’Brien said. “It was kind of frustrating for her, but as a teacher she knew that she had to learn it so she could teach her students. So she took courses and realized that she can like it and apply it in her classroom.”
Inspiration for their grammar documentary came from questions asked of them on their business web site.
“We kept getting the same questions from people, parents and teachers asking what happened and why grammar is no longer taught in most schools,” Elizabeth O’Brien said. “It was kind of a difficult question to answer. We ended up speaking with authors of books on the subject. After awhile we wanted to figure out a way to make everyone a fly on the wall when we talked to these linguists and professors and that’s when we started to make the documentary.”
The documentary tries to answer questions they’ve recieved on their web site. The documentary covers various topics that include: why grammar is important, why languages change, whether good grammar can help or hurt you in the job search, why people are so self-concious about their speaking and writing skills and what grammar usage says about the individual users.
“We have a lot of different perspectives in the documentary. It also follows some grammar debates,” David O’Brien said.
Some of those debates, according to David O’Brien, are about pedagogy and whether grammar should be taught. There is also some coverage about everyday language and grammar use in our currrent culture. He added that the documentary also touches on how dialects within a culture make it difficult to teach ‘proper’ English to persons with different dialects.
The couple have travelled to numerous places in search of those featured in their documentary. When the Gazette talked to them on Tuesday, the couple was in Colorado on their way to Southern California.
“I’ve enjoyed researching and following leads from books and online and hearing the interesting views on the matter,” David O’Brien said. “Initially we looked at books written by professors of English and linguistics. The interviews have been great and most of the people we asked to talk with were really excited and willing participants.”
Elizabeth O’Brien has been surprised by some of the interviews, One in particular that stuck out was with a professor who taught English and linguistics who talked about how language had changed.
“We talked about whether that was a good thing or a bad thing when language changes,” she said. “He said that if language changes too fast people can’t read historical documents and people don’t really understand the foundations of our society. He added that reading the ‘Declaration of Independence’ is like reading ‘Beowulf.’ It’s so different and there’s a gap between what it was and where we are now. I had never thought of that before.”
The O’Briens say they are constantly learning throughout this whole process as it’s the first time they’ve made a documentary before.
They are in the early stages of their project and want to finish the DVD by December. They continue gathering material for the film and are currently raising funds to complete their project. They are almost halfway to their fundraising goal of $22,000 and hope to reach their goal early next month.
“With every single contribution I feel so much gratitude.” Elizabeth O’Brien said. “Through the website we have 7,000 to 10,000 visitors, and we have 10,000 on our e-mail list that are as interested and passionate about grammar as we are and that’s nice to know.” Those interested in seeing the trailer and donating to the O’Brien’s documentary project can go to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/grammarrevolution/grammar-revolution
Contact Avery Cropp at [email protected]
David and Elizabeth O’Brien. (Photo from Grammar Revolution’s page on kickstarter.com)