View Full Version : Urgent wishes for a more multilingual Eurovision (from a bunch of mostly Brits and Aussies-- we're being serious)

9th May 2014, 19:57
This may sound surprising coming from us, most of us from cities and towns in England, but... we've been ardent fans of the Eurovision Song Contest for more than 30 years, and we're all in agreement that the entire Eurovision event would benefit tremendously from having songs in a greater variety of languages and being more multilingual overall. In fact if this doesn't happen-- we're being honest, this will probably be the last year we watch Eurovision, and based on an informal forum poll we did a while back, we're not alone. We're not saying this as a way to give some advantage to the UK (we don't care about that and just the opposite in fact-- we'll get to this below), we just feel the whole spirit and excitement of Eurovision have been utterly ruined by the "linguistic homogenisation" of singers from historically rich, linguistically diverse European countries singing in English. Especially given the low-cost technology available nowadays, which makes it easy and inexpensive to translate lyrics rapidly across many languages (through approaches like crowd-translation), there is simply no logical or logistical reason for this general "expectation" of singers to perform almost exclusively in English, and this tendency has done irreparable harm to the Eurovision contest and event in general.

People simply perform with more passion and spirit when they sing in their own languages, and the presence of so many unique, beautiful-sounding and diverse national languages on our continent is one of the things that makes Europe so interesting and vibrant, so why in the world are we failing to reflect this in Eurovision? Even in the United States and Canada, much of their best music nowadays is being created in Spanish, French, Brazilian Portuguese and other languages (same with Australia, with so many songs produced in Hindi, Chinese, Tamil or aboriginal languages), even for us Brits we love to hear music in French or Italian or even Gaelic or Welsh. Even if we don't understand all the lyrics at first, there's so much more passion in the singing and as said above, it's now fairly easy to translate lyrics with help from a few volunteers on smartphones through crowdsourcing crowd-translation approaches. Even for us long-time Eurovision fans, the contest has seemed more and more bland, boring and unexciting over the past 10 years with this movement towards generic, unoriginal English-language pop songs, in fact the only Eurovision in the past decade we really liked was when Marija Šerifović won with "Molitva" sung in her native Serbian. We realise there was some controversy surrounding the results, but Marija was deserving nonetheless because she sang with so much passion in her native tongue-- it showed in her voice, her facial expressions and her gestures, the way she engaged the audience, and even if we didn't get the lyrics at first, it was easy to look them up. Even for English songs coming out of the UK or US, we native Brits often don't hear or understand many of the lyrics at first and have to look them up afterwards, and that's not a problem-- what matters in music above all is passion and engagement, and that comes best with singing in one's own native language.

It's especially baffling to us that singers from Romance-language countries like France, Spain or Italy would even consider singing in English. We're just being honest here-- Romance languages like French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Romanian simply sound remarkably beautiful and naturally lyrical, inherently built to create beautiful poetry and music, more so than our own native English. As we've been saying, even us Britons love to hear (and often create) music with lyrics in French or Italian as an example, whilst US Americans more and more are creating music in Spanish or Brazilian Portuguese. And not only the Romance languages, the lilting and sweetly flowing sound of Scandinavian languages like Swedish or Danish (or the unique phonics of Finnish or Estonian) is very pleasing to the ears, and some of our favourite music of late has come from singers in the Nordic languages, singing in their own tongues. Russian is simply a wonderful language for music, full of colour and zest, and Russian albums are always fun to listen to, as are Baltic language songs with the unique phonetics of Lithuanian or Latvian. And yes, even German or Dutch-- many of our favourite recent songs come from these languages. Some unschooled listeners might presume that German sounds too coarse or harsh, but in fact, even to us Brits, North Americans and Australians, good singers performing in their native German are some of the best-sounding and pleasing to the ear, combining the precision of German with the unique lyricality of the language that's likely why so many German poets and musicians are among the foremost creative artists in history. The same for Dutch, which really sounds fascinating when put to music. There really is a magic to people performing in their own languages, especially the diversity of wonderful languages that Europe is blessed to have.

This might sound odd that native English speakers like us would want and strongly support more multilingualism in Eurovision, but this is a common theme you'll hear not only in the UK but in the US and Anglophone Canada more and more. Many of us have worked for years in the United States on and off, and you'd be surprised how many Americans have told us they envy Europe for the sheer fascination factor of Europe's cultural and linguistic diversity, and how much even Americans these days are trying to cultivate that with Spanish, Portuguese and other languages (including French, German and the languages of their indigenous peoples, which all have a history in the US). That is, even Americans themselves (not to mention us Brits) are becoming fed up with the generic consumerism and "Americanisation" that's pushed this trend toward homogenisation in music and other areas. Eurovision of all places would seem like a great place to showcase Europe's linguistic diversity, with technology used to help smooth out any logistical issues with for example a literal understanding of the lyrics.

We know some people at first might think we're trying to give more advantage to the UK as of course we haven't had a good run at Eurovision lately, but honestly we don't care about that, to us it's more a source of humour and poking fun at ourselves than anything else. In fact the whole "contest" element of Eurovision as it's shaped up has also become a source of annoyance and a turn-off to so many of us long-time viewers. Eurovision is supposed to be all in good fun, a sort of amusing and lighthearted romp for creative singers and performers, and the competition part is supposed to be secondary. Everyone knows the selection process for Eurovision winners is incredibly subjective and random anyway, and that's inevitable as we're dealing with subjective perceptions of art and the musical form regardless. It's fine for Europeans to be competitive and passionate about what we do, but having formal competitions is best reserved for sporting contests like in football, tennis and rugby, or encouraging inventions, research, entrepreneurship and the like. Since musical performances are inherently subjectively perceived, why all the fuss about making such a big competition out of it? We really feel Eurovision would do better as a sort of diverse cultural festival, with or without the competition and contest aspect, and if it's kept in, far better for it to stay amusing and lighthearted, it's not supposed to be an inter-nation competition with so much betting and bragging rights.

Just some of our thoughts, and very commonly held ones. We'll be far more likely to watch Eurovision in subsequent years if we hear more languages being sung, it's part of what makes Europe great and interesting and we would hope it to be reflected in the music.


Ian, Joel, Sherry, Russ, Anindya, Kate, Tina, Tom, Alok, Tracy, Leo, Walt, Ted, Fatima, Roger, Cassie, Bruce, Glenda and assorted Eurovision fan clubs of the UK, Australia and North America