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 @Puchowskijk. Then follow wiwibloggs.com on Twitter and Facebook.