This year, if you were reading my comments during national finals season, you probably saw me going crazy for anything not in English. Karma must’ve bit me, because this year was one of the most English-heavy years yet. Since the somewhat-infamous language rule was done away with in 1999, countless artists have translated their songs to English in order for more of Europe to understand it. Sure, it’s great sometimes (especially when you have a message to share), but if you’re just going to sing a standard club song that we’ve all heard before, is it worth the effort? Will switching from your native language to English hurt you or help you?
The founders of Eurovision created it to showcase national pride and culture through song. Doing that usually involves using one’s native language. That hasn’t happened in recent years. If you represent a country whilst singing in another country’s language and copying another country’s style of music, are you actually representing them and the history they carry? Let’s look at some statistics.
First off, we’ll take a look at which countries have sent the most entries in their native language since the semi-final era began in 2004. The anglophone countries of Ireland, Malta, and the United Kingdom are not counted in the following statistics. In the case of songs with multiple languages, the native language is counted as .5 points.
1. Portugal and France – 9.5
2. Spain – 9
3. Croatia – 7.5
4. Serbia – 7
5. Israel – 6.5
I guess it’s safe to say that the countries who have participated longer are more apt to sing in their native language. Being a part of the Big 5 might be a factor as well, since they can send any entry they want in whatever language they wish and not have to worry about qualifying for the final.
While most of these countries have competed for forty or fifty years, we have two relatively new countries on the list: Croatia and Serbia. They probably sing in their native language because it’s used in several countries. Serbo-Croatian, spoken in four countries, is closely related to Macedonian, Bulgarian and Slovene. By singing in Serbo-Croatian, you target six entire countries, plus their diasporas.
Switch of the tongue
Next, let’s look at the countries that have been least faithful to Eurovision tradition and shied away from their own language.
1. Georgia – 0.5
2. Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Netherlands, Norway, and Romania – 1
This mostly consists of Eurovision classic countries (Belgium, Germany, Iceland, and Norway), but their geographic location might give us a clue. While France, Spain, and Portugal are in the south of Europe, these countries are more northward.
We will never go native
Finally, the countries who have not bothered to sing in their own language even once since 2004:
Even more remarkable is the fact that Bulgaria is the first country to sing part of their song in Azerbaijani, rather than Azerbaijan itself. I would love to hear more of the Scandinavian languages in the contest as well, although Sweden is usually spot-on in English full-time.
I like your tongue
However, some countries give a shoutout to another country by singing in their language. Since 2004, some of these borrowed languages have included Romani, Italian, Finnish, German, and Russian. But the two most common are Spanish and French.
Zaleilah, the Romanian entry in 2012, was sung almost entirely in Spanish. Mandinga did this to honor their Cuban musical roots. It placed 12th.
Comme ci, comme ça, the Cypriot entry in 2007, was sung in French. This is the only time Cyprus has sung an entire song in a language other than Greek or English. Unfortunately, it only placed 15th in the semi-final.
Do you think that the language rule should be reinstated? Or is it too restricting? What language needs to be heard more in the contest? Nos conte abaixo nos comments! (Tell us in the comments!)
Photo: Eurovision.tv (EBU)