Eurovision is letting language learners down

It's the best song in Europe, honey!

What were you doing last Saturday night? If you are like 125 million Europeans, you may have spent a few hours in front of your television following one of the continent's best-loved TV traditions: the Eurovision song contest! It features bilingual presenters, entrants from European countries such as Azerbaijan and Morocco, and one of the largest tele-voting networks outside the USA.

Eurovision stage ©wikimedia

Eurovision stage ©wikimedia

Is Europe ruled by English?

But there is one thing that bugs me about the contest: The rules were changed in 1998 to allow countries to submit entries in any desired language. As a consequence, a lot of countries opted for the widely understood English language. And the numbers don't prove them wrong - the Economist reports that most of the winning songs were sung in English, only followed by French on a far-off second place. The article says "whether you find this linguistic convergence cheerful as an Abba foot-stomper or depressing as an Icelandic fishing trip will say as much about your politics as it will your views on language."

Most winning songs were performed in English - songs (mostly) in English won 24 times. French is also popular, with 14 victories. Dutch and Hebrew songs won 3 times each

Why Eurovision entrants should sing in their official language

This may not come as a shock to Fluent blog fans, but I say let's get the old rules back and give so many countries a voice in their own words.

  1. Europe is one of the most beautifully diverse continents in this world (top 5 I'd say!) and its languages are one of the strongest symbols of that diversity. If we don't support languages from every country, we risk losing them.

  2. Eurovision is not a popularity contest - or at least it shouldn't be. In a world where the voting is so skewed by silly political considerations, I believe that singing in English can mean trading in a little bit of your national identity for bland conformity.

  3. Inspiration can strike in the language learner anywhere, and this is one of the most famous platforms for some countries to show off their beautiful languages. The brave countries took the decision to submit an entry in their native tongue this year, and to me, each of them stood out: Iceland, Estonia, Italy, Spain, Greece, I salute you!

What do you think - is winning the Eurovision with a bland English-language track better than flamboyantly celebrating what your country has to offer? Are there any entrants that combined both?

Read more about Music and Language Learning on the Fluent blog:

Where to look for inspiration

Musical Language Learning Hacks

And you can see me speak 25 European languages on this Youtube video: