Sesame Street Day
The 10th of November is Sesame Street day. This children’s programme has been on air since 1969! It is currently on season 48. By 2001 there were over 120 million viewers across many international versions. By 2009, the show was broadcast to more than 140 countries. Children from across the world have been able to grow up watching this show. Sesame Street has also won more awards than any other children’s shows (167 Emmys and 8 Grammys). Rather impressive for a children’s show! But why was this show so successful? We are seeing it with so many programmes that get adapted around the world, but none have lasted this long, and not with the range and viewership of Sesame Street.
A lot of the characters are well known household names, such as Elmo, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Bert, Ernie etc… I could go on. The international television community saw the success for Sesame Street, so only a few months after it started broadcasting in America, producers from Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Iran and Germany requested versions of the show for their countries.
The adaptations for so many countries have been a success! Bringing culture and language to the street. Although there are so many adaptions, they all work together to educate children in a fun and entertaining way.
Sesame Street began its linguistic adventure in Portuguese and Spanish for Brazil, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Not long after the Street came to Europe in German, Dutch, Flemish and French. By the end of the decade European Spanish and Standard Arabic were the next languages. The Arabic show was shown in 22 Arab countries.
Sweden and Israel joined in the Street party. The Israeli version differed from the mainstream Street due to political tension in the area, but nonetheless educated and entertained children. More countries enjoyed the Portuguese street during this decade. Including Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde and Guinea- Bissau. By the 1980’s, Sesame Street was a well established children’s programme, which even had some rather famous guests appear! From here the Street would only gain in popularity and help explain to their views some of the tough world issues they were facing.
The street went back up north to Norway, Poland and Russia. The Russian version of the show was to help prepare the children to live in a new open society after decades of the Soviet Union. Canada showed their bilingualism with their version, as well as their culture. Characters included a polar bear, an otter, a female pilot and a girl in a wheelchair. Sesame Street showing its abilities to break through barriers for children. In the 1990s the Mandarin Chinese Sesame Street aired as well.
Egypt created a new Street in Arabic, focusing on literacy, math, social skills, girl’s education and health. South Africa went a step further with their Street. In 2003 Kami the muppet was created. Kami was HIV – Positive. This was due to the huge epidemic in South Africa. The producers wanted the children to know all about the disease. Kami was then declared the UNICEF Champion of Children. Bangladesh also joined the Street in the hope to improve school achievement and decrease drop out of children from school. In this decade Denmark and Indonesia also joined in the Street.
Nigeria became the latest to get their own street. They had Sesame Street from the States, but this was their own street, where they could focus on issues that the kids needed to understand such as AIDS, Malaria and gender equality. Kami from South Africa also made some guest appearances too! This decade also introduced some new languages to the Street. Pashto (Afghanistan) and Urdu (Pakistan) joined in. Breaking barriers has always been the aim of Sesame Street.
The Sesame workshop
This is a non-profit, educational organisation behind the Sesame Street programme. Their mission is to help kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder. The workshop spans over 150 countries helping with children’s development needs. Offering early education and social impact programmes. Educating children on some of the difficult issues of healthy eating, obesity, literacy, and grievance of a parent. The workshop is all over the world, in Europe, Africa, Central America, South America, Asia, Middle East and Australia. Language has no boundaries for them.
The amount of languages, cultures and events that Sesame Street has tried to show the children is impressive. That is the great thing about animation – Informative, fun, and can be found in so many languages! A lot of us, from all over the world watched and learnt from Sesame Street (or whatever adaptation available to us).
Topics have no boundaries for the Sesame crew as well. They always strive to show the children the truth. They try and make them aware of issues going on in the world so they can understand. From Kami the HIV-positive muppet, to the Canadian girl in a wheelchair in the 90s, to the modern-day muppet of Julia. Julia is autistic, and is showing children across the world what that means. Sesame Street shows children that they do not have to be afraid of things that are different. They hope to educate them and give them a better understanding… whatever their language!
This is why I decided to write this blog. Language no longer has to be a barrier. Sesame Street is not the only programme being broadcast around the world in many different languages. Kids today can enjoy the same programme, but in their language, with situations and scenarios that they will face.