Phineas and Ferb Go Bollywood or the Ever Increasing Cultural Education of the United States

November 4, 2009

Over 28 million people in the United States were born outside of the country and over 53 million US residents speak a language other then English in the home. These are numbers are from the 2000 census and they will increase significantly with the release of the new census in 2010. The reality is that the demographic landscape of America contniues to diversify at an ever increasing rate. If you are over 30 years old in the United States then the country you grew up in is vastly different than the United States that your children will or are growing up in. Instead of The Electric Company and School House Rock our children are learning a completely different skill set through today’s early child hood television programming. The evidence of this programming became self evident this past Sunday.

It was a relaxing Sunday, the kids were in my lap and we were watching one of our favorite shows – Phineas and Ferb . The keyword is ‘our’ and if you watch Phineas and Ferb then I am sure you know what I mean. In this episode Phineas and Ferb are helping their neighbor, Baljeet, with his science project, a portal to Mars. At some point, in traditional Bollywood fashion, the neighbor, Baljeet, bursts into a traditional Bollywood song replete with backdrops of India. The episodes ending credits also ‘Go Bollywood’ with songs and images. I was pretty amazed.

Many are familiar with Dora the Explorer and her cousin Diego who teach kids Spanish while on their popular adventures. Not as many are familiar with Ni Hao, Kai-lan which takes the same premise and applies it to the Chinese langauge.

Spanish and Hispanic culture are an inherent part of the Southwestern United States. China and India continue to have an ever increasing impact on global culture as these two countries emerge on the world stage. For International business the focus is no longer solely on Europe, but what is commonly referred to as the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, and China). As these countries continue to influence global politics and business understanding their languages and cultures will continue to be increasingly important. (There is an excellent piece on BRICs by Goldman Sachs here.) As someone who deals with issues of language and culture on a daily basis, I am excited to see the inclusion of cultural education in television programming.

Businessmen and Government officials take cultural and linguistic courses in order to improve international relations. The best of these courses include an immersive technique so that language and culture can be assimilated into normal thought processes and patterns. Ideally, an individual must deveop the ability to think in another language or culture, not just translate mentally before speaking. Immersion forces the brain to begin this process.

It is exciting to note that diversity and culture have gone mainstream and our kids are being taught the importance of diversity while being exposed to the cultural backgrounds of their friends. It is this type of inclusive mentality that will ultimately help break down the barriers that exist between cultures and improve relations in our ever shrinking world.

The following is a short list of culture and language focused children’s programs.

Dora the Explorer


Handy Manny

Ni Hao, Kai-lan

British Culture
Charlie and Lola

Global Culture
Toot and Puddle

Little Einsteins

Thanks to two super moms, Julie Salek and Rachel Haygood, for many of these references.

Do you know of any other Children specific cultural or linguistic television programs? What about programs outside of the US?

If you would like additional information on this topic or have questions on planning and executing your next translation or multilingual initiative, contact us today for a free 30-minute consultation or call us at (800) 413-7838.

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