Blue

If you’re interested in European culture, one of the principal reasons to watch Eurovision is to listen to music that is sung in a language dissimilar to the one you speak.

I dare say that my Eurovision addiction, which has been brewing since 2003, helped push me to learn French and German. That’s not to say that I am fully fluent in the terminology used by Amandine Bourgeois or her petty sex fetishes.

Coming from the UK, it isn’t too difficult to see that English dominates the Western music scene, and, naturally, every song festival like Eurovision reflects this (sad) reality. Unusually, however, the UK is one of the few participating countries in the Contest which hasn’t presented an entry in another language, in this case, apart from English.

It really is surprising, especially when you remember that the UK is made up of four countries with distinct languages of their own. Looking to other major nations in the Song Contest it becomes obvious that, linguistically speaking, we aren’t really showing our true colours on stage.

  • Germany, for example, has sent a few songs which include Turkish, which recognises the country’s multi-ethnic make up
  • Italy has sent an entry in a strong dialect of Italian
  • And France, well, France has been very brave in the past – Breton, Corsican, Spanish and Haitian have all been sung on the Eurovision stage

Germany’s 1999 entry included German, Turkish and English lyrics

Singing in a language other than English isn’t exactly a point scorer. But it might send an important message: there’s more to the United Kingdom than a monolingual English-speaking population. This article, although it was an April Fools’ joke, raised a topical theme in Eurovision culture: English is taking over.

I just need to look in my own passport. Irish Gaelic, Welsh and Scottish Gaelic all have a place on the front page. The UK is home to many different languages. Sending something in a language other than English would not only be exciting but it would celebrate the differences and similarities we all share.

I wouldn’t say that I am embarassed, but it is slightly disappointing to see that we have participated for decades, and we’ve yet to properly showcase our diversity. Even singing a verse in French would be appropriate – the Gallic diaspora in London is one of the largest in Europe! (And ,well, wouldn’t it make the act more sexy…?)

Furthermore, it really is a shame that this Contest should become so ‘anglified’ – Vukasin Brajic (BiH 2010) stated in a video interview that all Eurovision songs really should be sung in English. In my mind that goes against the initial reason for having a Eurovision Song Contest: we want to unify our continent and islands in song, with each entry highlighting an aspect of national culture. If we all start to sing in English, how can a country actually present something authentic?

I’m not being high-falluting: I really feel this issue. Every time a non-English entry qualifies to the Grand Final on the following Saturday, I cheer inside. It doesn’t mean I like the song – God no. I mean, come on: if “Ljubav Je Svuda” (Serbia 2013) had qualified I might have cheered, but I would have also chucked up my internal organs.

Perhaps we missed an opportunity to sing a verse in Welsh with Bonnie Tyler. Perhaps we did. But as always, one can dream.

James Puchowski contributed this report from the U.K. An earlier version appeared on his personal Eurovision blog ESCZorgen. Follow him on Twitter at @PuchowskijkThen follow wiwibloggs.com on Twitter and Facebook

Photo: Blue

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Martin Palmer
Guest

Not sure about sending an entry for the UK not in English but as far as improving the UK’s chances of success is concerned, reverting back to the “Official Language Only” rule for every nation would benefit us – we had far better results when only the UK and Ireland were singing in English!

Arianna
Guest
Arianna

The reason Serbia failed was that they tried to use this complex storyline for their number plus ridiculous distracting costumes. Estonia & Iceland did well cause they had simple costume & easy stage choreography which made it easier for the audience to focus on the voice and listen to the language. The powerful ballads probably helped too.. If UK used this approach I think it would be a head turner & work in a different language also.

Gavin
Guest

Well u have not heard a different language In our music charts for a long time and never any welsh or Irish or schottish… Not even influences of it. How about we invest in some real thought and talent into our entries. Lets nail what we are best at! Lets get a song on the radio and into the competition and accross Europe that can be sung along to by everyone. That kind of means English.

Anthony Ko
Editor

I with @Emily on the British press not being too happy about sending a song other than English. And I certainly can’t imagine the entry being played on BBC’s Radio 1!

Emily
Guest
Emily

@Astrikur – Yes, but that doesn’t explain why Estonia, Moldova, and Iceland, etc., qualified.

Well, I don’t think the British press would be too happy about sending a song in a language other than English.

Mathew
Guest
Mathew

Coming from Northern Ireland myself, I personally would love to see a song in Irish, that being said, only one song from the Republic of Ireland has ever been song in Irish…but for years RTÉ’s rules stated that there had to be songs in the selection “as gaeilge”, in Irish, so I say the BBC should stipulate that a certain number of possibly entries should be in Irish, Welsh and Gaelic- their all our official languages and represent us.

Astrikur
Guest
Astrikur

Do you want others to know what the song is about or is the lyrics unimportant?
I think Serbia failed because almost no one did understand what the song was about.
If many don’t understand the lyrics, the stage performance will be more about explaining the lyrics rather than support the mood of the song.

Tiggeh
Guest
Tiggeh

Always would have loved to see Runrig or Capercaillie represent the UK in their heydays!

Closest we got was Dan Ar Braz when Karen Matheson took part.

James Puchowski
Guest

@chris – uff, don’t remind me of 2003 – yuck. Anyway, I just think that what we need is something that is honest. If the BBC cannot fork out for a big, famous singer, then at least we should send a “shocker”, as it were. I’d love to see Bollywood – but to be honest, I just want the UK to be presented in a far more authentic manner.

chris
Guest

James – good article. UK have dispensed so much ‘white bread music’, it is surprising that more culture has not been sent. But, they did use a Spanish guitar in 2003 and you know what happened there.

Maybe the BBC can supply a ‘Bollywood’ themed eurovision entry. A bit of colour, a full-on 3 minute dance fest of vibrant colour… peeps may vote.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

I’d have thrown Bonnie some points for Welsh. Would certainly have made the song more interesting….