Ever since its inception, the Eurovision Song Contest has been a bilingual affair, with English and French working as lingua francas to make the contest have as wide of an outreach across the continent as it could. After all, the most ubiquitous phrase of the contest is in French: Douze Points.
Over the years, rules have changed and the cultural landscape has widened, affecting systems and songs alike. This has resulted in a unique effect on the 2022 edition of the contest.
With all the official versions of the songs out, we can confirm that Eurovision 2022 will mark the first time there won’t be a trace of the French language in the contest’s history. Not even from France themselves, who have instead chosen an entry sung in Breton.
The story of the French language and Eurovision
In 1956, Eurovision was born as Le Grand-Prix Eurovision de la Chanson Européenne. This was an event mostly spearheaded by the main countries of Western Europe and EBU founders, and all songs had to be sung in the respective national languages of each competing nation. With France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Switzerland in the mix, that already made a huge percentage of the regular participants a lock for the French language.
Fun fact: Due to the running order of the first edition, the first ever song in French was not sent by France! The language was debuted by Belgium’s Fud Leclerc, with “Messieurs les noyés de la Seine”.
As the years passed and the contest progressed, France has almost always been present to showcase the French language. Even in the years they couldn’t, other nations have taken the baton. When France was absent in 1974 and 1982, other Francophone nations such as Luxembourg, Belgium, and Monaco sang in French. And in 1996, when they also sent a song entirely in Breton, Switzerland was the sole country to sing in French that year.
French in the new millennium
As the language rule was relaxed, many countries have dabbled in English-language songs and mainstream genres. However, France has stuck to its guns and has always included lyrics in its national language. For the most part.
Fun Fact: The first-ever song to be completely sung in a non-English language that was not official to the country who sent it was Cyprus’s entry in 2007, when Evridiki performed “Comme ci, Comme ça”.
In 2008, controversy arose in France as the selected competitor, Sébastien Tellier, presented “Divine”, a song entirely in English, prompting French legislator François-Michel Gonnot to file an official complaint in the French Parliament. On the night of the final, Tellier changed the bridge of his song to French, singing “Toi et moi c’est comme tu sais / Pour moi l’amour chante en français”.
Regardless of that added change, Ireland officially featured French the same year, with “Irelande Douze Points” by Dustin the Turkey.
In 2011, France sent “Sognu”, an epic popera song by Amaury Vassili, completely in Corsican.
It was seemingly becoming the first-ever French-less Eurovision… had it not been for an unlikely ally in Lithuania. Evelina Sašenko’s two French lines in “C’est Ma Vie” kept the language alive.
Outside of some odd additions by Austria in 2016 and Denmark in 2019, French was showcased per usual in later editions. But it reached an impressive peak in 2021, with both second and third place completely in the language thanks to Barbara Pravi and Gjon’s Tears.
However, after a marquee year, the French language has completely disappeared in 2022. France will send Alvan & Ahez with the Breton-language “Fulenn”, while other Francophone nations will send songs in English. Bar any improvised changes in the live shows, no songs include French in their official studio cuts.
To date, there have been 15 winners which have included French, brought by Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco, Austria, and of course, France. Nevertheless, this list won’t have the chance to be extended after the results of Eurovision 2022.
Are you sad to see no French-language songs at Eurovision 2022? Do you hope to see the language make a return in 2023? Let us know in the comments below!