From English to Georgian, from French to Arabic, from Portuguese to made up languages, singing in your own language CAN make your song stand out. Many languages have been performed on stage in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest. This year we will hear 18 different languages on the Eurovision stage.
Since 1999, the European Broadcasting Union allows participants to sing in the language of their choice. Despite the fear of critics that this would heavily harm language diversity at the Eurovision Song Contest, a large number of languages is represented at the contest nowadays. Although English will be present in 32 of the entries, 18 languages will be voiced in the participating country's native language this year.
Let’s take a closer look at this year's languages:
With 32 entries singing English, this is the main language in which the songs will be performed at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest. However, there are 17 other languages which will be heard in the songs this year: Albanian, Croatian, French, Danish, German, Georgian, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Arabic, Sami, Polish, Portuguese, Serbian, Slovene, Spanish and Turkish.
Class of 2019
Some countries have a tendency to perform in their native language more than others, like Portugal, Italy, Spain, France or Serbia and this year will be no exception. Others like Albania, Hungary and Slovenia send an entry in their native language again, like last year when all 3 had success in their native tongue and qualified for the Grand Final. Georgia also brings back their native language after last year's song by Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao; their song this year also includes some phrases in Abkhaz. Polish will be heard again on the Eurovision stage since 2014's My Słowianie and Croatian since 2013's Mižerja, just like Icelandic was last heard on stage in 2013 with Eythor Ingi's Ég Á Líf.
Some Arabic will be heard in Mahmood's Italian entry Soldi and there is Sami in Norway's Spirit In The Sky, as performed by KEiiNO. Both languages had been heard before in the Eurovision Song Contest, remarkably so in the same year: 1980. There will also be a little bit of Turkish in Say Na Na Na from San Marino's Serhat and Denmark's Love Is Forever by Leonora includes lyrics mainly in English, but changes in the third verse to French, then has a part in her native language Danish, followed by a line in German, to conclude with the last chorus in French and English. Danish will be heard at the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time since 1997.
The very first winner of the Eurovision Song Contest was Refrain performed in French by Lys Assia for Switzerland. Since then, there have been 36 winners with lyrics in languages other than English while 31 songs won with lyrics fully or partially in English.
In the beginning, it was obvious for participants that they should sing in their country's national language. However, as the Swedish entry in 1965, Absent Friend, was sung in English, the EBU set very strict rules on the language in which the songs could be performed. National languages had to be used in all lyrics. Songwriters across Europe soon tagged onto the notion that success would only come if the judges could understand the content, resulting in such entries as Boom- Bang-A-Bang and La La La. In 1973, the rules on the use of language in a participating song were relaxed, and in the following year ABBA would win with Waterloo. However, the freedom to sing in whatever language was reversed in 1977, to return with seemingly permanent status since the 1999 Eurovision Song Contest.
Some songs have even been performed in imaginary languages. Belgium created two especially for the Eurovision Song Contest, proving very successful for Sanomi in 2003 which probably made them enter O Julissi in 2008. The Dutch song in 2006, Amambanda, was performed predominantly in an imaginary language but with some words in English.
Those who questioned if it would still be possible to win the contest with a non-English language song were proven wrong; Marija Šerifović won the competition in 2008 with Molitva, a song in Serbian and more recently, Salvador Sobral won the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest with the Portuguese song Amar Pelos Dois.
Language games in 2018
During the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest, we asked the participants to guess the language of previous entries sung in languages other than English.
We also asked participants with an English song if they could sing their entry in their native language.