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:

Word of the Year Redux

First things first, folks: I wish you a great new year. On this first day of 2013 I hope you have had time to let thoughts of the last year go through your head and make plans for what you want to achieve, reach, accomplish and enjoy in the new year! 


Use this great printable New Year's Resolutions Template from Mique at 30 Handmade Days, and post it on your pinboard or in your diary.

German Word of the Year

A month ago I wrote about my appreciation of the Word of the Year tradition, and I think I owe us a report on Germany's word of the year in 2012! So, joining the beautiful British "omnishambles" and contemporary French "tweeter" is...

Rettungsroutine (the routine of salvation), describing not only the everlasting topic of Europe's financial misery but also the many steps undertaken to try and stop the ship from sinking. With Germany as one of the financiers in the debts of Europe, it's clear how this one could have got into people's consciousness. How interesting that this word and it's four runner ups all show us how strongly involved politics is in the everyday German person's consciousness!

Rettungsroutine - a word of contradictions (pic from Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache)

Rettungsroutine - a word of contradictions (pic from Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache)

The Langenscheidt publishing house is giving us an extra with "YOLO" as the youth word of the year I had to look that up. See for yourself if you can make sense of it, and then we can all ponder the meaning of a word of the year being so obvious in its demonstration of how popular the use of English is among young Germans.

We have yet to wait for the Un-Word of the Year in Germany, due to be announced on 15 January.

Warm-Up for Euro Day of Languages!

Here in the UK where I live, the European Union doesn't always get people excited. I guess when you live on an island, the benefits of being able to nip over to foreign country for café au lait and then another one for some poffertjes is lost on you. In fact, the language alone is quite revealing: Brits will refer to the European continent as "Europe" and their own country as "Britain", and those certainly don't mean the same thing.

But now let's just put all that to one side, because we have something to celebrate. This is the warm-up post for the European Day of Languages on 26 September.


I am planning to get  involved. Apparently there are 225 indigenous languages in Europe. 225! That's LOADS! So for 26 September I am going to make a youtube video and pick 25 of them to greet my viewers in. I'll make my job easy for a start and include the ones I happen to know, but that still leaves 20 slots to fill. Any suggestions?

Update on 25 September
As the big languages are covered and I'm beginning to come across more unusual ones, the project is shown a lot more meat to it. We've now hit number 15 with Luxembourgish, and I've had help from kind people all over the world. Still not sure if I can make 25 languages in time, but in the very least you will hear me attempt to pronounce them :D

Update on 23 September
Today I put together everything I've got so far and made the first video - 11 languages are in the bag, including BSL, Danish, Spanish and Russian. I'm worried that I may not make it up to 25 languages in time, because it's just difficult to find speakers who are able to help me pronounce all the words. Will you guys accept 24?

Update on 22 September
Phew, this is tough going. I think I've got the Greek down now, and more friendly people on Facebook are kindly offering to help me with Portuguese and Galician. I didn't even know Galician was a language, so this is looking good! I'm up to 13 then, which means plenty more languages outstanding but hopefully I'm halfway there.

Update on 21 September.
Well, so far I have collected something to say in Polish, Italian and Romanian. I'm seeing a Greek speaker this afternoon as well so I'll make sure I've got Greek covered, and another friend is helping me out with Flemish. That's nearly 10 but I'm missing Scandinavian languages so far. Keep checking back for more updates!